Democrats pushed their expansive $3.5 trillion framework for bolstering family services, health, and environment programs toward Senate passage Tuesday, as Republicans unleashed an avalanche of amendments aimed at making their rivals pay a price in next year’s elections. Congressional approval of the budget resolution, which seems assured, would mark a crucial first step by Democrats toward enacting the heart of President Biden's domestic agenda, the AP reports. It would open the door to a follow-up measure aimed at assisting families, creating jobs, and fighting climate change, with higher taxes on the wealthy and big companies footing much of the bill. It envisions creating new programs including tuition-free pre-kindergarten and community college. Medicare would add dental, hearing, and vision benefits. Child tax credits beefed up for the pandemic would be extended.
Republicans argued that the Democrats' proposals would waste money, fuel inflation, and raise economy-wounding taxes. Budget resolution passage is critical because in the 50-50 Senate, it would let Democrats alone approve a subsequent bill actually enacting their spending and tax policies. Approval of the budget would shield the follow-on legislation from Republican filibusters. Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the No. 2 House Democratic leader, announced Tuesday that the chamber would return from recess Aug. 23 to vote on that blueprint and perhaps other measures. More:
- The Senate began debating the budget minutes after it approved the other big chunk of Biden's objectives, a compromise $1 trillion bundle of transportation, water, broadband, and other infrastructure projects. That measure, passed 69-30 with 19 Republicans backing it, now needs House approval.
- In a budget ritual, senators plunged into a "vote-a-rama," a nonstop parade of messaging amendments that often becomes a painful all-night ordeal. The Senate spent nearly 20 hours taking 41 roll calls on an earlier budget measure this year and 28 hours on 37 votes as it approved the COVID-19 relief bill in March, according to the Senate Historical Office.
- Democrats killed several GOP offerings on politically touchy subjects that Republicans eyeing next year's congressional elections were itching to use in campaign ads. These included nonbinding proposals backing the full-time reopening of pandemic-shuttered schools, blocking IRS access to some financial records, boosting Pentagon spending, and opposing Biden's court-blocked temporary ban on oil and gas leasing on public lands.
- One amendment may have boomeranged after the Senate voted 99-0 for a proposal by freshman GOP Sen. Tommy Tuberville to block federal funds for any municipalities that defund the police. Democratic Sen. Cory Booker called the amendment “a gift" that would let Democrats “put to bed this scurrilous accusation that somebody in this great esteemed body would want to defund the police." He said he wanted to “walk over there and hug my colleague."
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