- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer announced Tuesday a tentative framework for a $3.5 trillion party-line social welfare package, although it remains to be seen whether Democrats can unite behind the measure.

Mr. Schumer announced the deal after meeting with all 11 Democrats on the Senate Budget Committee. The panel will be responsible for shepherding the deal through the budget reconciliation process, which allows spending bills to pass via a simple majority of 51 votes in the evenly split Senate.

“The budget resolution with instructions will be $3.5 trillion,” said Mr. Schumer, New York Democrat. “Every major program that President Biden has asked us for is funded in a robust way.”

While details remain sparse, the outline presented by Senate Democrats appears to go further than even Mr. Biden has proposed. Mr. Biden initially floated spending upwards of $1.9 trillion on “human infrastructure,” including universal pre-kindergarten, job training for felons and free community college.

Senate Democrats widened the package with $400 billion to provide home care for the elderly, climate change initiatives and funding for racial justice programs. Sen. Bernard Sanders, Vermont independent and Senate Budget Committee chairman, also secured a last-minute addition that expands Medicare benefits to include vision, hearing and dental coverage.

“This is, in our view, a pivotal moment in American history,” said Mr. Sanders, a self-described socialist. “What this legislation does, it says we’re going to create millions of good-paying union jobs rebuilding this country not only from a physical infrastructure, but [also] dealing with the human beings.”

It is unclear exactly how extensive the $3.5 trillion framework will be or whether everything in it abides by the narrow rules governing the reconciliation process.

Furthermore, there are questions on whether Mr. Schumer can get all 50 Democrats on board with the deal. Moderate Democrats, in particular, have balked at the figure and the scope of the package during earlier discussions.

Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, a key moderate swing vote, has pledged to oppose a reconciliation bill unless it is paid for by repealing the Trump-era tax cuts.

“We need to pay for it,” said Mr. Manchin. “I’d like to pay for all of it. I don’t think we need more debt.”

Mr. Schumer, himself, cautioned when announcing the framework that nothing was yet final.

“We are very proud of this plan. We know we have a long road to go,” he said. “We’re going to get this done for the sake of making average Americans’ lives a whole lot better.”

• Haris Alic can be reached at halic@washingtontimes.com.

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