Democrats Unveil $3.5 Trillion Social Safety Net and Climate Change Spending Blueprint

By Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek
Reporter
Tom Ozimek has a broad background in journalism, deposit insurance, marketing and communications, and adult education. The best writing advice he's ever heard is from Roy Peter Clark: 'Hit your target' and 'leave the best for last.'
August 9, 2021 Updated: August 9, 2021

Senate Democrats have unveiled a draft budget resolution that maps $3.5 trillion in spending, including for paid medical leave, two years of tuition-free community college, and a bevy of climate change fighting initiatives.

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) released the budget plan on Aug. 9 (pdf), saying in a statement that Democrats plan to advance the legislation via the budget reconciliation process, allowing them to avoid having to get any Republican support.

“Yes, we will pass this budget with 51 votes, not 60, by passing it under the rules of reconciliation,” Sanders said. “Today, with Democrats in control of the Senate, we will use reconciliation to benefit the working class, not the billionaire class.”

Republicans, a number of whom back the smaller traditional infrastructure package negotiated in a bipartisan fashion that’s now making its way through the Senate, are expected to unanimously oppose the Democrats’ broader “human infrastructure” measure.

“If our colleagues want to ram through yet another reckless tax and spending spree without our input, if they want all this spending and debt to be their signature legacy, they should leap at the chance to own every bit of it,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on the Senate floor last week.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a letter to members of the Democrat caucus (pdf) that the Senate will “immediately” consider the budget resolution “with reconciliation instructions” after the passage of the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package.

“As you know, earlier this year I proposed that the Senate work on ‘two tracks’ to enact a bipartisan infrastructure bill and a budget reconciliation bill to make historic investments in American jobs, American families, and the fight against climate change,” Schumer wrote, noting that instructions for reconciliation (pdf) had been carefully coordinated with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.), the chairman of the House Budget Committee.

The measure lays the groundwork for legislation later this year that would pour mountains of federal resources into the Democrats’ top priorities over the next decade. Included would be more money for health care, education, family services, and environmental programs and tax breaks for families, with much of it paid for with tax increases on wealthier Americans and corporations.

The resolution calls for creating free pre-Kindergarten for 3- and 4-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.

Medicare coverage would be expanded to cover dental, hearing, and vision benefits. Spending would increase for housing, home health care, and job training, and new resources would go toward efforts encouraging a faster transition to green energy.

The budget also calls for giving legal status to millions of people living in the United States illegally and—in a step aimed to win support from moderate Democrats—spending money to strengthen border security.

Notably absent from the resolution are plans for raising the debt ceiling, a measure that would give the federal government more room to spend under a recently reimposed debt cap.

The reimposed borrowing limit caps the federal debt at the current level of about $28.5 trillion, restricting the government’s ability to raise additional funds by selling government securities. The reinstated ceiling has forced Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to resort to emergency measures to allow the Treasury to keep meeting federal debt obligations.

Yellen reiterated on Aug. 9 her calls for Democrats and Republicans in Congress to agree to raise the debt ceiling.

“In recent years Congress has addressed the debt limit through regular order, with broad bipartisan support. In fact, during the last administration, Democrats and Republicans came together to do their duty three times. Congress should do so again now by increasing or suspending the debt limit on a bipartisan basis,” Yellen said in a statement.

In his remarks from the Senate floor last week, McConnell said that unless Democrats work with Republicans on trimming their budget resolution proposal, then “they won’t get our help with the debt limit increase that these reckless plans will require.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek
Reporter
Tom Ozimek has a broad background in journalism, deposit insurance, marketing and communications, and adult education. The best writing advice he's ever heard is from Roy Peter Clark: 'Hit your target' and 'leave the best for last.'