Senate Democrats begin process to pass infrastructure package without Republican support

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Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer speaks to reporters in the Capitol. (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer speaks to reporters in the Capitol. (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer says he will meet with Democrats on the Senate Budget Committee on Wednesday to begin the reconciliation process, allowing the party to pass parts of President Joe Biden’s infrastructure package without any GOP votes.

At a news conference on Tuesday afternoon, Mr Schumer said that the process would begin on Wednesday even as Democrats remain uncertain about their ability to pass a second, bipartisan infrastructure package in the weeks following the reconciliation effort.

“Tomorrow I’m convening a meeting with all 11 Democratic members of the Senate Budget Committee regarding a fiscal year ‘22 budget resolution,” said the Democratic Senate leader.

“Both are moving forward, the bipartisan track and the track on reconciliation, and both we hope to get done in July, both the budget resolution and the bipartisan bill,” Mr Schumer continued.

The process, a Senate procedure that allows changes to be made to the annual budget without the support of the 60 votes typically needed to avoid a filibuster, will allow the evenly divided 50-50 Senate to pass large elements of the Democrats’ $2.25 trillion American Jobs Plan and $1.8 trillion American Families Plan with just 51 votes, counting Vice President Kamala Harris as a casting vote.

Democrats had argued for months over whether they should seek GOP support for the plan, which most acknowledged would mean that the eventual package would be far smaller than the legislation initially outlined by the White House.

The move this week likely means that Senate Democratic leadership believes it has secured or will secure the votes of every Democrat in the Senate for the reconciliation package, despite threats from Senator Joe Manchin to not support an approach that was not bipartisan in nature.

Even if the initial package passes through reconciliation, the party faces a steep road to passing the rest of the White House’s priorities due to disagreements over how to pay for parts of the package, particularly whether or not to raise the corporate tax rate, which was lowered by the GOP in their 2017 tax reform legislation.

Senator Bernie Sanders, the top progressive in the Senate, said on Monday that he would not support the bipartisan bill, throwing its future into jeopardy and raising the likelihood that other Democrats will oppose it.

Among their concerns with the legislation are worries that the plan does not pay for itself through revenue raised in a way that addresses wealth inequality, as well as critiques that the bill does not adequately address the need to reduce carbon emissions.

"I wouldn’t vote for it," said Mr Sanders. "The bottom line is there are needs facing this country. Now is the time to address those needs and it has to be paid for in a progressive way given the fact that we have massive income, wealth inequality in America."

“If there’s no climate, there’s no deal,” added Senator Jeff Merkeley, another member of the Senate’s progressive wing.

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