COMPASS: The Senate takes up the Bernie Sanders $3.5 trillion amnesty budget

August 9th, 2021

Good afternoon from Capitol Hill. We’re all still observing Mayor Bowser’s strict mask mandate (the one she immediately broke), despite three COVID deaths in the last two weeks and the city hospital beds remaining at 87 percent capacity. Unlike American royalty Barack Obama, we cannot throw massive parties for several hundred of our closest friends.

The House left for August recess last week, but the Senate remains in session. They churned through the weekend working on the bipartisan infrastructure package. After roughly 18 amendment votes, the Senate moves toward a final passage vote this morning. Passage is expected, given the 17 senators who supported ending debate on the motion to proceed, and the 18 senators who supported ending debate on the bill.

For conservatives the bill has several key issues. Not only is the $550 billion in new spending in the $1.3 bill not paid for, its provisions enshrine gender identity and equity language, add explicit racial thresholds as criteria for grant programs, and consider new policies like a per-miles-driven tax. Even more troubling, as March for Life’s Tom McClusky wrote last week, is the fact that the bipartisan infrastructure bill is explicitly tied to future reconciliation legislation where Democrats intend to strip longstanding abortion protections:

The [infrastructure] bill – which needed Republican support to proceed – allows for $1.2 trillion in spending and parts remain unwritten. While the bill is unlikely to address the issue of abortion directly, repeated statements from leading Democrats make it clear that this bill inextricably linked to a $4-6 trillion partisan reconciliation bill. And that bill from all indications will include billions in abortion spending and subsidies.

The reasons given by these 17 Senators for voting to advance the infrastructure bill range from support for pork barrel projects within their state to a misguided belief their vote returns the Nation’s Capital to some form of bipartisanship.  

That reconciliation process will begin as soon as the infrastructure bill (presumably) passes. The Senate will move to debate its budget resolution, including an unlimited vote-a-rama amendment process. The budget resolution passes with a simple majority, so if the Senate’s 50 Democrats hang together (plus the vote of VP Kamala Harris, in the event of a tie), they do not need Republican votes. Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) released the details of his $3.5 trillion budget this morning. Among its provisions:

  • Amnesty for illegal immigrants
  • Universal pre-kindergarten for 3 and 4 year olds
  • Paid family and medical leave
  • Tuition-free community college
  • Medicare expansion for dental, hearing, and vision
  • Expansive climate change programs
  • Language similar to the PRO Act, which is a card check program for labor organizing, making it easier to unionize
  • Expansion of the SALT deduction
  • Empowers the IRS with more enforcement capabilities
  • Does not include an extension of pandemic unemployment benefits
  • Does not include a debt limit increase, which sets up a September showdown
  • Up to half of the $3.5 trillion is financed with new debt
  • Increases taxes on corporations and those making more than $400,000 a year; decreases taxes on those making less

It is important to note that the budget is a blueprint. Budget resolutions never become law; they merely provide the umbrella document, or the outline, under which appropriations — the actual spending — takes place. Much of that process will begin in September, when Senate committees put forward their reconciliation bill. Reconciliation also has an associated unlimited amendment process, or vote-a-rama, and passes with a simple majority.

Taken together, this current $1 trillion infrastructure bill, plus the $3.5 trillion budget resolution, which will be accompanied with a reconciliation bill of potentially an even greater amount, is one of the most aggressive efforts from Democrats in the modern era to remake the economy, rewrite the tax code, substantially change the labor markets, impose a climate agenda, and fundamentally reshape the relationship between the government, and those it governs.

“How did you go bankrupt?” a character from Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises asks a man named Mike. “Two ways,” Mike responds. “Gradually and then suddenly.”


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