‘End the international disgrace’: Senate Democrats unveil $3.5tn budget framework to revolutionise welfare

‘We will end the international disgrace of the United States being the only major country on earth not to guarantee paid family and medical leave as a right,” Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders says

Eric Garcia
Monday 09 August 2021 23:22
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Biden

Senate Democrats have released their long-awaited $3.5 trillion budget resolution spending bill that includes big-ticket priorities such as universal pre-kindergarten education, paid family and medical leave, home and community-based care for elderly people and people with disabilities, as well as the addition of hearing, dental and vision to Medicare.

The budget resolution top lines released Monday said that no families making less than $400,000 a year would see their taxes increase. The legislation would also be done through budget reconciliation, thus only requiring 51 votes to get through the Senate, sidestepping a filibuster from Republicans. Democrats currently have 50 senators, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting any tie-breaking vote.

But Democrats would need every member of their caucus to vote with them. Last month, Sen Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, said she would not support legislation with a $3.5 trillion price tag.

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders pre-empted Republican criticism of including Democratic priorities in budget reconciliation by noting how Republicans used it to pass tax cuts in 2017.

“Let’s be clear: this is not a new idea. When Republicans controlled the Senate they used reconciliation to pass trillions of dollars in tax breaks to the top 1 per cent and large corporations,” he said.

Some of the biggest items for consumers include paid family and medical leave for families, extending the child tax credit that was passed through the American Rescue Plan earlier this year, long-term care for seniors and people with disabilities, known as home and community-based services.

“We will end the international disgrace of the United States being the only major country on earth not to guarantee paid family and medical leave as a right,” Mr Sanders said.

The plan also outlines major additions to Medicare such as lowering the eligibility age and including dental, hearing and vision coverage.

“We will save taxpayers hundreds of billions by requiring that Medicare negotiate prescription drug prices with the pharmaceutical industry and we will use those savings to expand Medicare by covering the dental care, hearing aids and eyeglasses that seniors desperately need,” Mr Sanders added.

Similarly, the memorandum outlined plans to spend on items such as tuition-free community college, increasing the maximum amount award for Pell Grants, child care, and universal pre-K education for 3 and 4-year olds.

Meanwhile, the resolution would also provide lawful permanent status for undocumented immigrants who qualify, as well as border security.

The legislation comes as the Senate is finishing work on its bipartisan infrastructure proposal. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in July she would not put the bipartisan infrastructure proposal to a vote without the Senate first passing the reconciliation package.

But The Hill reported Saturday evening that some moderate Democrats are trying to pressure Ms Pelosi into having a standalone vote on the bipartisan legislation and asked for a “detailed scope” of both the spending levels and the amount of revenue raised.

“These specifics are crucial, particularly given the combined threat of rising inflation, national debt, and the trillions recently, and appropriately, allocated to the Covid-19 emergency. We also must have the financial resources to respond to any new waves of the pandemic,” a letter circulating among moderate Democrats said.

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