Senate adopts Dems’ budget on party-line vote, setting stage to push through $3.5T bill

Senate adopts Dems’ budget on party-line vote, setting stage to push through $3.5T bill
Live shot of the Senate. File. (Image: ABC News screen grab)

By Andrew Trunsky

The Senate passed a $3.5 trillion budget framework early Wednesday, setting the stage for Democrats to pass sweeping measures addressing climate change, education, immigration, health care and more.

The budget passed on a 50-49 party-line vote, just a day after Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Budget Committee chairman, unveiled it on the Senate floor. Democrats voted to begin debate on the framework earlier Tuesday, immediately after they and 19 Republicans passed a bipartisan infrastructure package.

Following the vote to begin debate, the Senate began a so-called vote-a-rama, where senators had the opportunity to offer as many amendments to the framework as they wanted. While non-binding, the scores of consecutive votes were at times politically tricky for some, and went from about 1:45 p.m. Tuesday to just before 4 a.m. Wednesday.

“We’re going to have one hell of a fight,” South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, the top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, said Tuesday on the Senate floor. “I don’t know how long we’re going to be here, but as long as it takes. America is worth fighting for, and America as we know it is at risk in this budget resolution.”

Some amendments were adopted by voice vote, while others were party-line votes. The first amendment considered, brought by Wyoming Republican Sen. John Barrasso, would reject any Green New Deal provision that offshored U.S. jobs, raised energy costs or harmed America’s energy independence.

Sanders said that the amendment had “nothing to do with the Green New Deal!” and that he had “no problem” with its adoption. It was approved 99-0.

North Dakota Republican Sen. Kevin Cramer’s amendment prohibiting the banning of fracking got the support of moderate Democrats like West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin and those from fossil fuel-producing states like Colorado Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper.

One amendment proposed by Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio would create a reserve fund within the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to ensure that Cubans’ internet access remain uncontrolled by the Cuban regime. It passed on a voice vote.

Hours later, 99 senators signed on to Alabama Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s amendment that opposed defunding the police. New Jersey Democratic Sen. Cory Booker praised Tuberville’s amendment, jokingly adding that senators should also declare their support for “God, country, and apple pie.”

Ninety-five senators signed on to Missouri Republican Sen. Josh Hawley’s amendment nearly six hours later that would fund the hiring of 100,000 new police officers nationwide, with Illinois Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin, the majority whip, comparing Hawley’s proposal to one proposed by then-Sen. Joe Biden years ago.

Just Sanders and Republican Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania voted against it.

Once the budget is adopted by the House, which is out of session until Aug. 23, Democrats can then attempt to pass their plan using budget reconciliation. The framework will go to the Senate committees responsible for writing their respective provisions, with the goal that they submit their proposed legislation by Sept. 15.

While the rule allows Democrats to skirt a Senate filibuster and pass it on a simple majority vote, the items included must directly relate to the budget. As a result, some of the items, like a proposed pathway to citizenship for immigrants in the country unlawfully, will likely be challenged by Republicans leaving their fate to Senate parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough.

The framework calls for expansive measures to fight climate change, like generating 80% of the country’s energy by sustainable means by 2030, to establish universal pre-K for 3 and 4-year-olds and to reduce the price of prescription drugs. It also calls for adding dental, vision and hearing coverage under Medicare, provisions led by Sanders that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer endorsed in June.

Though the budget’s price tag now stands at $3.5 trillion, that number is not guaranteed to make it into the reconciliation plan. Several moderate Democrats, including Arizona Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, a lead negotiator for the bipartisan bill, have objected to the total, potentially jeopardizing the bill given the Senate’s 50-50 split.

In the House, however, some progressives have conditioned their support for the bipartisan bill on the Senate passing the reconciliation package, giving Democratic leadership little room for negotiation. In an attempt to hold her caucus together, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said that she will not bring the bipartisan bill up for a vote until the Senate passes the reconciliation package, despite moderates in both chambers urging her to do so.

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