“What Speaker Pelosi does I can’t control, but they may not get anything if they start putting in conditions,” Sen. Mike Rounds, a South Dakota Republican who also pretended to be part of the bipartisan group told CNN. Here’s another one of those guys. “Things are in flux,” said Sen. Todd Young, a Republican. “This is where the President needs to show leadership.” Another, Sen. Richard Burr from North Carolina, who is retiring next year, said “Pay-fors are always a function of a little fuzzy math. So we’ll see. […] We haven’t negotiated the final language. Until that gets negotiated, there is no deal yet.” And finally Trump BFF Sen. Lindsey Graham said “We don’t have enough pay-fors” in it.
Speaking of Trump, he’s been attacking the negotiations, and attacking Republican Leader Mitch McConnell for allowing them to continue. Politico reports that, despite those attacks, “Democrats suspect that the GOP leader is actually seeking to hamper their plans, particularly after he said he’s entirely focused on standing up to Biden’s agenda.” Ya think? “That’s really the test, whether they’ll stick with this,” said Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin of his Republican colleagues. Meanwhile, McConnell’s reliable troll John Cornyn is sending messages to Democratic senators in the bipartisan group, and more specifically Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema.
While Republicans are doing their best to slow the train down, the reconciliation push is speeding up. Budget Chair Bernie Sanders met with President Biden Monday afternoon, and is pushing hard for a big package.
Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is still aiming for a vote on the budget resolution next week. That means a goal of having agreement on toppling numbers by this week, which may or may not happen. The Budget Committee Democrats convened with Schumer late Monday, after Sanders’ meeting with Biden. White House aides Brian Deese, National Economic Council director, and Louisa Terrell, legislative affairs director were included in that meeting. Following that meeting, senators “declined to say whether they’ve moved off the $6 trillion, 10-year spending target” Sanders is pushing, “or narrowed the gap between that and a lower ceiling centrists have posited should be somewhere between $2 trillion and $3.5 trillion.”
Given that they’re probably going to have to fold in the hard infrastructure elements of the bill Republicans are probably going to abandon, they’ll have to continue to think big. Especially as this might be the last opportunity to do some really big stuff before next year when midterm politics will likely limit ambitions.
Democrats have big goals already for the package. “We’re gonna get yeses and nos. We know that,” said Senate Banking Chair Sherrod Brown of Ohio, about the discussions for what will be in it. “The most important thing is we go big. The public wants us to go big. We make a difference for a generation on some of these issues.” That will definitely include Biden’s proposals for universal prekindergarten, two years of free community college, extending the expanded child tax credit, and paid family and medical leave.
It could also include lowering prescription drug prices, though how they’ll achieve that isn’t clear—allowing Medicare to negotiate prices or a previous drug pricing bill power Senate Finance Chair Ron Wyden worked out last year with Republican Chuck Grassley. A cohort of Democrats are pushing for immigration reform, a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers and essential workers with temporary protected status, including farm laborers.
Another group wants to include some of the elements of the For the People Act elections reforms, and another is pushing on broadband to overrule all the Republican states that have adopted bans on local governments operating municipal networks. The Democrats from Georgia want to see a solution to close the Medicaid gap in the dozen states that are still refusing to take expansion under the Affordable Care Act. They’ve got a plan to circumvent the states and allow the federal government to enroll those in the gap in health insurance. Sanders is working to both lower the eligibility age for Medicare as well as expand its coverage to include dental, vision, and hearing care.
Another priority is including some of the stuff that Biden had in his original big package that got sidelined by the bipartisan group, especially many of the climate provisions, as well as worker protections, prevailing wage and union contracts for infrastructure work.
All of which may or may not be agreed upon by Thursday. The faster Democrats do this, the better. It’s time to leave Republicans in the dust.