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What's in the Democrats' big spending bills and how they would affect your life

·Senior Writer
·6 min read
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President Biden and the Democratic leaders of the House and Senate hope to pass two big domestic spending bills this year that will devote massive amounts of money to everything from Medicare to education to repairing roads and bridges. Here’s what’s in those two bills and how they could affect your life if passed.

What’s the first bill Democrats are looking to pass?

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is hoping to hold a vote early next week on a bipartisan infrastructure deal that was negotiated with Republicans over the summer.

While about a quarter of the size of Biden’s initial proposal, the bipartisan infrastructure deal comes in at around $1 trillion and covers a wide array of proposals. There is funding for roads and bridges, public transit, rail, seaports and airports. There’s also $65 billion allocated toward providing high-speed broadband internet to all Americans, with another $21 billion allocated to cleaning up so-called Superfund sites, such as abandoned mines and gas wells, that are environmentally toxic.

Nancy Pelosi
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at her weekly press conference on Thursday. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images)

The bill also includes money for green energy, including the building of a network of electric vehicle chargers, along with electric buses and improvements to the power grid. Some additional funding would go to mitigating the damage from climate catastrophes such as floods, wildfires and droughts while also looking to improve drinking water pipelines, with a focus on eliminating lead pipes. Part of the funding would come from tapping into unspent COVID-19 relief aid.

But some Democratic priorities didn’t make the cut in the bipartisan infrastructure deal, and instead were inserted into a $3.5 trillion budget proposal Democrats hope to pass without any support from Republicans.

Why does the budget deal cost that much?

The current proposal was agreed to by Democrats on the Senate Budget Committee, which is chaired by Sen. Bernie Sanders. The panel agreed on a framework of spending $3.5 trillion over 10 years on a wide array of social programs, down from progressives’ opening bid of $6 trillion over 10 years.

What would the budget deal mean for parents?

Children and teachers from the KU Kids Deanwood Childcare Center
Children and teachers in Washington, D.C., create a mural in celebration of the launch of the Child Tax Credit in July. (Jemal Countess/Getty Images for Community Change)

The proposed budget plan would ensure paid family leave for parents just before and after a child’s birth. It would also help fund day care and establish universal pre-kindergarten for 3- and 4-year-olds.

After high school graduation, the plan would provide funding for two years of free community college. Additionally, it would expand Pell Grants and provide additional funding for historically black colleges and universities.

The bill would also extend the expanded child tax credits that temporarily went into effect with the passage of the American Rescue Plan earlier this year, resulting in hundreds of dollars per child for most Americans. Those payments — up to $300 per child — are set to expire in 2022.

What about older Americans?

The plan would help cover the cost of care for the elderly and the disabled, such as by helping pay for nurses and other visiting medical staffers that would allow some people currently living in assisted-living facilities move back into their homes. The proposal would also expand Medicare to include dental, vision and hearing benefits, lowering overall health care costs.

Additionally, the deal would create an insurance program to cover low-income Americans who live in states that have chosen not to expand Medicaid, which is about 2 million people, per estimates.

What would it do for climate change?

The Windy Fire
The Windy Fire blazes through the Sequoia National Forest near California Hot Springs, Calif. (David McNew/Getty Images)

The budget proposal allocates a lot more money to climate change than the bipartisan infrastructure deal. For starters, it would spend more to address forest fires and drought concerns as well as working to reduce carbon emissions, in conjunction with the establishment of a Civilian Climate Corps to help handle these projects.

The plan would also call for new fees on polluters and consumer rebates for home electrification and weatherization.

What would it mean for personal taxes?

If you earn less than $200,000 per year, you would pay less in taxes through 2025. An estimate from the bipartisan Joint Committee on Taxation released last week found that there would be slight increases for those making between $30,000 and $200,000 in 2027 due to the planned expiration of the expanded child tax credit.

How do Democrats plan to fund these programs?

Democrats are planning to raise taxes on higher-earning Americans while increasing enforcement on tax cheats. The party is also attempting to negotiate prescription drug prices and put those savings toward the program, a policy major pharmaceutical companies strongly oppose.

Some budget experts, however, are skeptical that the government can raise enough cash from tax hikes on the wealthy to pay for the budget.

So all of this is going to be in the Democratic budget plan?

Probably not, because without Republican support, Democrats will need all 50 votes they control in the Senate to vote for it. And some moderate Democrats say $3.5 trillion is way too much money.

The most vocal members of that group, Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, have said they will not support a bill that large, although it remains unclear which programs they want to keep and which they would cut. Manchin has called for pushing negotiations on the budget deal to 2022, an idea opposed by most of his Democratic colleagues.

Joe Manchin and Mark Warner
Sens. Joe Manchin and Mark Warner speak to members of the media on Thursday. (Sarah Silbiger/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Resistance to the budget’s size among moderate Democrats has imperiled the bipartisan deal as well, since many left-leaning Democrats found that deal lacking and said they would only support it if the more robust budget proposal passed as well. The House Progressive Caucus has said that dozens of its members are set to vote against the bill if no budget agreement is passed, a maneuver supported in a Wednesday announcement by 11 Democratic senators who voted for the infrastructure deal.

Are Republicans supporting any of this?

Nineteen GOP senators — including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell — voted in favor of the infrastructure deal last month, although that could be part of a strategy to tank the more ambitious parts of the Biden agenda. The infrastructure bill isn’t expected to receive much GOP support in the House, where Republican leaders are urging their colleagues to vote against it, although it could receive a few dozen votes.

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