Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer is pressuring Democrats and Republicans to conclude negotiations on a conventional infrastructure bill and a “human infrastructure” bill before the August recess.
Schumer, a Democrat from New York, said Thursday that he was setting a strict deadline for next week for both deals so they could go up to the Senate for consideration.
“All parties involved in the bipartisan talks on the infrastructure bill must now finalize their agreement so that the Senate can begin considering that legislation next week,” he said. “I am setting the same deadline next Wednesday for the entire Senate Democratic Caucus to agree to move forward on the budget resolution with reconciliation. … The time has come to move forward, and we will. “
The deadline adds pressure on senators haggling over the bipartisan $ 1.2 infrastructure deal and the Democrats’ $ 3.5 trillion package in health care, child care and anti-poverty spending that the administration dubbed “human infrastructure.” .
President Biden said he is confident that Congress will get the job done and that Republicans will provide the necessary support to pass the package of traditional infrastructure projects.
“I have watched and listened [as] the press has declared my initiative dead at least 10 times so far, ”Biden said at a press conference at the White House. “I don’t think he’s dead; I think he’s still alive. I am still confident that we can achieve what I proposed and what I agreed to in a bipartisan agreement on infrastructure. “
Last month, Biden and a bipartisan group of 11 lawmakers agreed on a tentative deal framework to spend $ 1.2 billion over the next eight years to improve the nation’s roads, bridges, airports and seaports.
Of the sum, more than $ 550 billion comes from revenue streams that have yet to be made public. The exact nature of that funding is behind the heist.
Democrats and Republicans say the main attraction of the package is that it does not increase taxes. However, keeping that promise and getting the funding is proving difficult.
Crafting an initial proposal to fund the deal by strengthening the Internal Revenue Service’s ability to crack down on tax fraud is proving particularly difficult.
“There has to be a product that has undergone proper scrutiny and that we get it right. … It includes not only complications on the payment side, which we are talking about now, but also on the spending side, ”said Senator Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio and one of the creators of the bipartisan agreement. “So there is a lot of work to be done and we are working on it.”
Senate Democrats also have to figure out the full context of their $ 3.5 trillion welfare program package. The 11 Democrats on the Senate Budget Committee laid out an outline for the proposal this week.
Although details remain scant, many Democrats defend the deal as a “bold and robust” expansion of the social safety net.
“I think we are moving forward on the most momentous legislation passed for workers since the 1930s,” said Sanders, an avowed socialist. “And it is the legislation that will ultimately ask the rich and large corporations to start paying their fair share.”
The package includes long-sought liberal goals such as paid family leave, expanded access to child care, and free community college. The money is also used for racial justice programs and for local governments to implement broadband Internet services.
Raising the package price is a provision written by Mr. Sanders that expands Medicare benefits to cover dental, vision and hearing services. Mr. Sanders also secured a change to the program’s prescription drug pricing system.
It’s unclear whether such provisions are allowed in the reconciliation process, which allows some tax and spending bills to bypass the 60-vote barrage threshold and pass a simple majority of 51 votes.
Finding out exactly what is acceptable under the rules is one of the reasons the deal hasn’t been finalized yet.
Despite the hard work remaining on both agreements, Mr. Schumer keeps going.
“The bottom line is that there is a lot of time to do this, it is almost a week, and we should do it,” he said.
The momentum has to do in part with time. Democrats have little time left in the legislative session before the August recess. Once the legislators return, Congress is scheduled to begin its budget process, which will likely dominate most of the fall.
If infrastructure and reconciliation are not approved before the recess, Democrats could scrap legislation in favor of a spending bill to keep government open after the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30.
Although logistics plays a role, Mr. Schumer is motivated by political concerns. The longer Democrats wait before beginning to consider both deals, the more time opponents will have to mobilize the opposition.
That’s evidenced by the growing political pressure campaign in West Virginia against Sen. Joe Manchin III, a moderate Democrat and a key swing vote. Manchin faces intense pressure to oppose the reconciliation package due to its immigration and clean energy provisions.
Schumer cannot afford a single defection among the 50 House Democrats in the reconciliation package.