While bipartisanship ruled the day Tuesday in the U.S. Senate for a $1.2 trillion package of traditional infrastructure projects, a vote on a budget resolution that begins the process for a bill that could cost as much as $4.2 trillion.
The U.S. Senate, in a 50-49 party-line vote, approved a budget resolution at 4 a.m. Wednesday. The vote came after a nearly 14-hour marathon of amendments — sometimes called a “vote-o-rama” — that took place nearly immediately after the Senate voted 69-30 for the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act with 19 Republican senators in favor.
The 92-page budget resolution is the first step in the budget reconciliation process, which only requires a simple majority in the Senate, unlike the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that required at least 60 votes to avoid a filibuster.
The $3.5 trillion framework is based on President Joe Biden’s American Families Plan and parts of the American Jobs Plan that didn’t make it into the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs. It includes plans to expand Medicare coverage for dental, vision, and hearing, as well as expand coverage in states that have not opted in for increased Medicare coverage. It includes funding for universal pre-kindergarten, child care subsidies, paid family and leave, child tax credits, increases in Pell grants.
The bill is also expected to include other items on progressive Democrats’ wish lists, such as immigration reform, the PRO Act, which would provide increased protections for unions and undo state Right-to-Work laws, and require the use of clean energy for 80% of the U.S. power needs by 2030 and other clean energy initiatives. Pay-fors would come from tax increases on corporate and international rates.
U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., voted with his Democratic colleagues to move forward with the budget reconciliation process. But as the framework has come together over the last several months, Manchin has raised concerns about the final price tag of the plan and the specific rate that fellow Democrats and the White House would like to increase corporate taxes.
“Early this morning, I voted ‘YES’ on a procedural vote to move forward on the budget reconciliation process because I believe it is important to discuss the fiscal policy future of this country,” Manchin said in a statement Wednesday morning. “However, I have serious concerns about the grave consequences facing West Virginians and every American family if Congress decides to spend another $3.5 trillion.”
Manchin cited the more than $5 trillion that Congress has already spent on COVID-19 relief packages since March 2020, the number of unfilled jobs in the economy, and the increased inflation rates. According to an August report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of job openings at the end of June increased to a series high of 10 million, with job openings increasing to 6.5%. Inflation remained at 5.4%, the highest in 13 years.
“These are not indications of an economy that requires trillions in additional spending,” Manchin said. “Every elected leader is chosen to make difficult decisions. Adding trillions of dollars more to nearly $29 trillion of national debt, without any consideration of the negative effects on our children and grandchildren, is one of those decisions that has become far too easy in Washington.”
U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., joined her Republican colleagues in voting against the budget resolution and has been outspoken against the $3.5 trillion human infrastructure plan. In a statement Wednesday morning, Capito also raised concerns about inflation and spending, which said could reach $4.2 trillion.
“It’s baffling that Democrats see Americans experiencing record inflation under the Biden economy, leading to increased prices on everyday goods and services, and then decide the best course of action is to throw gasoline on the fire with a $4.2 trillion dollar reckless tax and spending spree,” Capito said. “Even worse, they want the cost of their new social programs, expanded safety nets, and economically-damaging proposals to rest solely on the backs of working families, small businesses, and consumers.”
According to a handout from U.S. Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., the ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, the new $4.2 trillion price tag includes the $3.5 trillion in new mandatory spending, $263 billion in new discretionary spending, and $390 billion in increased interest on the debt.
Capito, who laid the groundwork for the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act with her early negotiations with the White House, said the budget resolution is a bad way of making public policy.
“The partisan budget that passed along party lines today is remarkably irresponsible, and further exposes the divide between Democrats in Washington, D.C., and the hardworking West Virginians they want to endlessly tax,” Capito said.