Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said that Democrats are prepared to pass President Biden’s nearly $4 trillion tax and spending plans — with or without Republican support.
Although the White House is still negotiating with a group of GOP lawmakers on their proposed $568 billion infrastructure bill, a counteroffer to Biden’s $2.25 trillion plan, Democrats have indicated they’re willing to go solo. The pressure on the bipartisan talks is even higher this week after Biden released his second big economic proposal, worth about $1.8 trillion.
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Democrats are now discussing using the procedural tool known as budget reconciliation to pass the spending and tax increases using their slimmest possible 50-50 Senate majority. The party already used reconciliation to pass Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan in March without any Republican votes.
“Of course reconciliation is an option,” Schumer said Wednesday while speaking during a press conference. “We hope to do as much as we can in a bipartisan way. But the No. 1 goal is a big bold plan along the lines of what President Biden has proposed.”
The complicated Senate process allows Democrats to circumvent the 60-vote filibuster and advance budget-related measures using their 50 seats, with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking any tie. Without reconciliation, which can be used on certain tax, spending and debt limit bills, Democrats would need to secure the support of at least 10 Republicans.
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Still, there are limits on what legislation qualifies for reconciliation and how frequently the process can be used – the thinking on Capitol Hill was that Democrats could only use the mechanism one more time before the midterm elections in 2022.
Schumer aides recently argued that Section 304 of the Congressional Budget Act gives them the power to pass legislation using reconciliation for a third time this year, even though the process is only technically allowed to be used once every fiscal year, pointing to language that says “the two Houses may adopt a concurrent resolution on the budget which revises or reaffirms the concurrent resolution on the budget for such fiscal year most recently agreed to.”
The Senate parliamentarian, a non-partisan referee, greenlighted the theory at the beginning of April, ruling that Democrats can recycle the fiscal 2021 budget resolution to deploy reconciliation for a second time this year, according to a Schumer spokesperson.
“We have no choice but to move forward,” Schumer said Wednesday.
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But with narrow majorities in the House and Senate, Democrats will need to secure the support of almost every member in their party to muscle through the package.
Sen. Joe Manchin, a moderate Democrat from West Virginia who has become one of the most powerful lawmakers on Capitol Hill, has indicated that he wants at least part of the bill to be bipartisan. Manchin has also pumped the brakes on other aspects of the tax and spending plans, arguing that Biden’s proposal to raise the corporate tax rate to 28% from 21% is too high.
There are other complications as well: Some blue-state Democrats have threatened to withdraw support for any changes to the tax code unless Biden supports a repeal of the Trump-era $10,000 cap on state and local tax deductions. But Biden left the deduction limit in place in both the American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan, potentially imperiling both bills’ passage.