Democrats release new budget as Senate inches towards passing infrastructure bill

Trillion-dollar bill aims to marshal projects across US aimed including improving roads, bridges, waterworks and schools, while also expanding high-speed internet service

The infrastructure bill could be followed soon by text enacting a broad array of new education, health and climate programmes as well as an extension of tax cuts for the middle class. Reuters
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Democrats revealed the text of their new budget resolution on Monday as the US Senate moves closer to finishing a $1 trillion infrastructure spending bill, with a possible vote on the bipartisan legislation coming as early as Tuesday.

The budget blueprint is expected to be voted on this week in the Senate soon after the final passage of US President Joe Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure package. It allows Democrats to bypass Republicans to expand the social safety net and raise taxes on the wealthy and corporations.

It would be followed as soon as September with text enacting a broad array of new education, health and climate programmes as well as an extension of tax cuts for the middle class in what has been called a “human infrastructure” bill amounting to about $3.5tn. All 50 senators who caucus with Democrats will have to unite behind it for it to prevail.

Democrats left out reconciliation instructions for an increase in the debt limit, which will have to be passed soon after Congress returns to work next month, along with a stopgap spending bill to keep the government open after the end of the fiscal year on September 30.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell has said that his party will not co-operate in lifting the federal borrowing limit.

While the budget does not include instructions for a debt limit bill bypassing a filibuster, it sets the “appropriate” level of debt each year. The envisioned debt in the blueprint would rise to $33.5tn in Fiscal Year 2024 and to more than $45tn in 2031.

The budget blueprint, while teeing up the $3.5tn plan, would allow about half of it to be financed with debt.

Following months of negotiation and delay, the Senate is coming closer to finishing the infrastructure spending bill, with a vote on passage possible by Tuesday.

The legislation, which sits on top of Mr Biden's domestic agenda, cleared an important procedural hurdle late on Sunday when the Senate voted 69-28 in support of the provisions contained in the 2,702-page plan.

The Senate also voted 68-29 to limit further debate to a maximum of 30 hours, setting up a potential vote on passage early on Tuesday.

It was still unclear whether senators would reach an agreement on possibly debating more amendments beyond the nearly two dozen voted on over the past week.

The spending bill is popular among many members of Congress because of the federal dollars it would deliver to their home states.

It aims to marshal construction projects across the US aimed at repairing, expanding and improving roads, bridges, waterworks and schools, while also expanding high-speed internet service in underserved areas.

The Senate had been scheduled to begin a four-week summer recess, but instead found itself in session on both Saturday and Sunday.

Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer aims to launch immediately into debate of the budget for the human infrastructure bill, which would include federal aid for home health care for seniors, along with possible immigration reforms and funding to address climate change.

Unlike the infrastructure package, this larger one is not expected to gain Republican support, leading Democrats to pursue it under a special procedure known as “reconciliation” in which it could pass with a simple majority instead of the 60 votes needed to advance most bills.

The Senate is split 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans, with Democrats claiming a majority thanks to Vice President Kamala Harris’s tiebreaking vote.

If the $1tn bill is approved by the Senate as expected, the Democratic-led House of Representatives would still have to debate and vote on it sometime after it returns in late September from its summer break.

Bloomberg and Reuters contributed to this report

Updated: August 10, 2021, 5:14 AM
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