Dems Bid $3.5 Trillion on Budget Play

Ideas and Issues
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July 14, 2021

New Orleans     

Senate Democrats put a new ante on the table in the high stakes poker game being played in Congress where tens of millions of Americans stand to be big winners or more deeply disillusioned.  Matching President Biden’s requests, the number is $3.5 trillion, so that when coupled with the bipartisan infrastructure agreement, it would top $4 trillion.

The proposal is vague, but I would bet that’s deliberate.  Budget Chair Sanders and Majority Leader Schumer don’t want to show their hand too quickly and mobilize the unhappy who don’t find what they had hoped for under the Christmas tree.  My other safe bet would be that they also know full well that to keep the fifty votes they need in their Senate caucus, they are going to have to trim this down, maybe as much as a trillion, to make the moderates happy pushing the “aye” button.  The strategy, as many will remember, aided by the recent ruling of the Senate parliamentarian, is to be able to push some or all of this through as part of a budget reconciliation package, where the Democratic majority with the Vice-President could get the job done, even without any Republican support.

What they do show of their hand is pretty amazing in my book.  There’s money for an expansion of Medicare to include dental, hearing, and vision coverage.  That alone is enough to win my support.  Every day it’s amazing that we don’t protect all Americans in these areas that constitute a bare minimum standard for any quality of life.  If you can’t afford to see or hear or chew, how hard is your existence?  There’s also money in the package, from what they have shown so far, to expand the coverage of the Affordable Care Act and extend children’s support, which also fits my view of minimum acceptable livable standards.  Those are some of the goodies.  Supposedly, there will be some items to address the climate change priorities the president has expressed, but it’s telling that there are few ticklers on those items, since they don’t fly off the shelves for many of the senators as fast as benefits to direct constituents.

These are big ticket items, but the Dems are careful to say that most of us won’t pay for them.  They are including language that will exempt small businesses and families with less than $400,000 in income from the tax bite.  Instead, pushing the rate higher for the wealthy and corporations will be their argument on the revenue side.

Too bad that this is just the opening round.  To win this hand, there will be many other bids with some items raised and others lowered.  Don’t make any appointments until you see what – if anything – emerges when this all plays out.