Even before President Joe Biden had a chance to celebrate passage of the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill on Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell fired a warning shot that the next part of his vast spending plans would not be so easy to pass.
He accused Democrats of planning a ‘reckless taxing and spending spree’ with their $3.5 trillion budget unveiled a day earlier.
Minutes before McConnell voted with Democrats to pass the infrastructure bill he made clear that any bipartisan feelings were temporary.
‘The basic math of their taxing and spending is toxic enough,’ he said on the Senate floor.
‘But the radicalism that we’ll be debating on this floor goes beyond the dollars and cents.
‘The policies they want to put behind this budget resolution read like somebody walked across the rotunda to the House and handed “the Squad” a pen and a piece of paper.’
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Democrats’ budget resolution looked as if it had been written by ‘the Squad’ of its most radical members
President Biden said passage of the infrastructure bill showed, ‘We can still come together to do big things, important things, for the American people.’ But Democrats may face stiffer challenges as they turn their attention to a $3.5 billion budget
Democrats can use Senate rules to pass their budget without Republican support, but will have to balance progressive and moderate demands to hold together their wafer-thin majority
Democrats’ budget framework allocates billions of dollars to Senate committees to begin drafting proposals for final bill
Agriculture: $135 billion for conservation, drought, and forestry programs to reduce carbon emissions and prevent wildfires; clean energy investments; agricultural climate research; Civilian Climate Corps funding, child nutrition and debt relief
Banking: $332 billion for housing programs, including down payment and rental assistance and community investment
Commerce: $83 billion for technology and transportation; coastal resilience and oceans; funding for the National Science Foundation.
Energy: $198 billion for clean electricity; rebates to weatherize and electrify homes; financing for domestic manufacturing of clean energy and auto supply chain technologies; federal procurement of energy efficient materials; climate research
Environment and Public Works: $67 billion for low-income solar and climate-friendly technologies; clean water affordability and access; EPA climate and research programs; federal investments in energy efficient buildings and green materials
Finance: At least $1 billion in deficit reduction. ‘This will provide the Committee with flexibility to make investment, revenue and offset decisions consistent with the policy recommendations,’ the instructions state. Offsets to include: Corporate and international tax reform; taxing high-income individuals; IRS tax enforcement
Health, Education, Labor and Pensions: $726 billion for universal pre-K for 3 and 4-year olds; child care; tuition-free community college; investments in HBCUs, MSIs, HSIs, TCUs, and ANNHIs; increase the maximum Pell grant award; School infrastructure, student success grants, and educator investments; Investments in primary care; pandemic preparedness
Homeland Security: $37 billion for electrifying the federal vehicle fleet; electrifying federal buildings; improving cybersecurity infrastructure; border management investments; investments in green materials and resilience
Judiciary: $107 billion for lawful permanent status for qualified immigrants and border security
Indian Affairs: $20.5 billion for native health, education, housing, energy and climate programs and facilities
Small Business: $25 billion for small business access to credit, investment, and markets
Veterans Affairs: $18 billion for upgrades to VA facilities
The so-called Squad includes six of the most radical Democrats, including Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib.
The progressive wing of the Democratic Party is already flexing its muscles.
It has tied the fate of the popular, bipartisan infrastructure bill to the more radical domestic policy blueprint, which includes a passage to citizenship for illegal immigrants and a boost welfare spending by taxing the wealthy and corporations.
Members of the Progressive Caucus say they will not allow the infrastructure bill to pass the House until the Senate has passed the budget.
‘Our Caucus is clear: the bipartisan bill will only be passed if a package of social, human, and climate infrastructure – reflecting long-standing Democratic priorities – is passed simultaneously through budget reconciliation,’ said its chair, Rep. Pramila Jayapal.
With such a threat in the air, the result was a string of Republicans saying they would vote against the first bill for fear of opening the door to a much more expansive set of spending priorities.
McConnell said Senate Republicans would bring forward a string of amendments in line with what Americans wanted.
‘Our colleagues can look forward to votes on national security and funding our Armed Forces. Votes to remove backdoor tax cuts for wealthy liberals,’ he said.
‘Votes to protect family-owned small businesses and family farms from crushing tax hikes. Votes to encourage schools to finally re-open in person.
‘To stop the catch-and-release of COVID-positive illegal immigrants coming into our country.
‘To protect taxpayers from being forced to fund the horrors of abortion. And that’s just a sampling.’
Some 19 Republicans voted with Democrats to pass the infrastructure bill.
Biden thanked them during public remarks at the White House before saying he was ready to move on with the rest of his domestic policy plan.
‘We have to get to work on the next critical piece of my agenda: My Build Back better Plan, making housing more affordable – it’s so unaffordable to so many Americans – providing clean energy tax cuts, including homeowners to make energy efficient improvements in their homes, bringing down the cost of prescription drugs, making eldercare more affordable and continue to give middle class families and children a tax break, a tax cut,’ he said.
Those plans are laid out in a 92-page budget measure, published on Monday, that would pour mountains of cash into Democrats’ key priorities.
The resolution calls for creating free pre-Kindergarten for three- and four-year-olds and two years of free community college; extending tax breaks for children and some low-income workers; and establishing paid family and sick leave.
It also paves the way to giving legal status to millions of undocumented immigrants but, in a measure designed to placate moderate Democrats, allocates money to strengthen border security.
To succeed, they will have to overcome ferocious Republican opposition and find the sweet spot between the demands of their own progressive and moderate factions.
In a letter to colleagues setting out the plan, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he would move immediately to the budget resolution once the infrastructure bill was passed.
McConnell said the radical policies in the budget made it look as if it had been written by ‘the Squad – the group of radical Democrats that include Reps. Ilhan Omar (left) and Rashida Tlaib
The Progressive Caucus of House Democrats said it would not back the infrastructure package unless it came at the same time as the huge budget program of social spending
‘At its core, this legislation is about restoring the middle class in the 21st Century and giving more Americans the opportunity to get there,’ he said.
‘By making education, health care, child care, and housing more affordable, we can give tens of millions of families a leg up.’
A separate memo claims the costs can be met in full by tax increases, savings from federal health care programs and long-term economic growth.
Democrats plan to use special budget rules that will allow them to avoid the threat of a Republican filibuster to pass the bill.
But it omits raising the debt limit, setting up a showdown with Republicans who have made clear they will not support such a move.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, who chairs the Senate Budget Committee, outlined the progressive case for the measures. He said it represented the most consequential piece of legislation for working people since the New Deal
‘For too many decades, Congress has ignored the needs of the working class, the elderly, the children, the sick and the poor,’ he said.
‘Now is the time for bold action. Now is the time to restore faith in ordinary Americans that their government can work for them, and not just wealthy campaign contributors.’