Dem dissent brewing over Biden’s $3.5T spending plan
11th August 2021

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The massive $3.5 trillion spending plan passed Wednesday morning to accompany the bipartisan $1 trillion infrastructure package is already stirring controversy within the Democratic party, with moderate lawmakers attempting to distance themselves as inflation spikes and prices rise for household goods.

Democratic Senator Joe Manchin said Wednesday he has “serious concerns” about President Joe Biden’s $3.5 trillion spending plan — just hours after voting with his colleagues to move ahead with the package.

In a sign that he may try to force his colleagues to put forward a smaller bill or attempt to block any additional spending, the West Virginia senator said he feared “grave consequences” for inflation and the federal budget deficit.

“Early this morning, I voted ‘YES’ on a procedural vote to move forward on the budget reconciliation process because I believe it is important to discuss the fiscal policy future of this country,” Manchin said in a statement.

“However, I have serious concerns about the grave consequences facing West Virginians and every American family if Congress decides to spend another $3.5 trillion.”

Manchin argued that the skyrocketing inflation rate and millions of job openings across America “are not indications of an economy that requires trillions in additional spending.”

“Over the past year, Congress has injected more than $5 trillion of stimulus into the American economy – more than any time since World War II – to respond to the pandemic,” he said. “The challenge we now face is different”.

Manchin’s statement came hours after the Senate completed a 15-hour overnight “vote-a-rama” that concluded at around 4 a.m. with Senators approving the $3.5 trillion budget resolution on a party-line 50-49 vote. GOP Sen. Mike Rounds of South Dakota missed the vote to be with his wife, who is undergoing cancer treatment.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), appeared to shrug off Manchin’s concerns Wednesday, telling reporters: “Every part of Biden’s proposal will be there in a big robust way. There were some members in our caucus who want less, some members in our caucus who want more. That’s the same in the House. We’re going to all come together to meet that goal.”

Manchin isn’t the first Democrat to raise concerns about the multi-trillion-dollar spending spree largely authored by socialist Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) said last month she couldn’t support a $3.5 trillion spending bill, but left the door open to supporting a smaller package.

“I support many of the goals in this proposal to continue creating jobs, growing American competitiveness, and expanding economic opportunities for Arizonans … I do not support a bill that costs $3.5 trillion,” Sinema said at the time.

With the budget resolution acting as a framework, Senate Democrats plan to finalize the actual spending bill over the next few months, using a process called “budget reconciliation,” which allows them to pass legislation with a simple majority vote. However, with the Senate split 50-50, Democrats must ensure that every member of their conference is behind the legislation when it comes time to vote.

Schumer said Wednesday that he hopes to have the final bill passed by the end of September and had tasked his committee chairs with putting the legislation together.

“Every committee chair is going to be meeting at least on a weekly basis, maybe more often with their members,” he said. “And we will do weekly Zooms with them as well. “We’re going to be working very hard in the next few weeks, the next month, frankly. To get that reconciliation bill ready in September, that’s a hard job.”

On the House side, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said members would be called back from their August recess early to consider the budget resolution passed by the Senate.

Republicans have railed against the $3.5 trillion spending plan, with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) calling it “radical.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has already said her chamber won’t vote on passing any spending bill until both the $3.5 trillion package and the $1 trillion infrastructure bill are through the Senate.

However, the Speaker is facing dissent from more than two dozen moderate House Democrats, who have pushed her to take up the smaller plan passed by the Senate on a bipartisan basis Tuesday as quickly as possible. Pelosi is backed by progressives, who say the $1 trillion package is inadequate to address social programs and issues like climate change.

The friction between the two camps spilled over onto Twitter Wednesday after Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.), a leader of the moderate Blue Dog Coalition, tweeted: “Now that the Senate approved the bipartisan infrastructure bill, the House must pass it ASAP. While I support passing a targeted reconciliation bill to help FL families, we shouldn’t hold infrastructure hostage to it. I urge @SpeakerPelosi to put the bill on the floor this month.”

“Respectfully, no,” Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) responded to Murphy.

On a conference call Wednesday, Pelosi told members that she was sticking with her plan to wait for the Senate to pass the larger spending package before bringing both measures to a vote. With just an eight-vote majority in the House, Pelosi can only afford to have three Democrats defect and vote against the reconciliation bill.

Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.), another member of the Blue Dog Coalition, has already said he would vote against any budget resolution with reconciliation instructions. A second moderate House Democrat anonymously told Roll Call in June that they planned on doing the same, further narrowing leadership’s margin for error.

If Schrader and the anonymous member stay with their intention, two more defections would derail the resolution, since no Republicans are expected to vote for it.

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