By Jack Phillips
Senate Democrats on Monday outlined a plan to bypass the Republican filibuster to pass legislation to expand Medicare and give more drug price negotiation powers to the federal government.
That prompted a warning from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Monday, who warned on the floor that the GOP won’t raise the U.S. national debt ceiling if the bill cannot garner bipartisan support.
“Here’s the comedy, they won’t let Republicans have any say in this monstrosity, but they want our help raising their credit card to make it happen,” McConnell said. “Democrats want Republicans to help them raise the debt limit so they can keep spending historic sums of money with zero Republican input and zero Republican votes,” he added.
But Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said (pdf) the measure is needed to make “education, health care, child care, and housing more affordable.”
He added that Democrats would pass an initial resolution, which will lay out the package’s numbers and policies, before senators leave Washington for a month-long recess.
The $3.5 trillion package was dubbed by Democrats as “human infrastructure” in hopes of making it an easier sell to voters. The legislation contains a number of provisions Republicans have decried as left-wing, including climate-related regulations and amnesty for illegal immigrants.
In response, McConnell on Monday described the bill as a “monstrosity” and said it was written without any Republican support, saying that “if they want 50 lockstep Democratic votes to spend trillions and trillions more, they can find 50 Democratic votes to finance it. If they don’t want Republicans’ input. They don’t need our help.”
Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), in a statement, said that they will plan on passing the measure along party lines via budget reconciliation, which requires a 51-vote majority and bypasses the filibuster.
“The $3.5 trillion [reconciliation bill] … will be the most consequential piece of legislation for working people, the elderly, the children, the sick, and the poor since FDR and the New Deal of the 1930s,” stated Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist. “And yes, we will pass this budget with 51 votes, not 60, by passing it under the rules of reconciliation.”
A summary of the bill released by Schumer’s office shows the bill will include free community college tuition, money to create a so-called civilian climate corps to put young Americans to your, an expansion of Obamacare, universal pre-kindergarten for 3- and 4-year-old children, long-term care for older adults, Medicare expansions, money for homeowners to retrofit their properties to fall in line with climate change regulations, and more.
“We will save taxpayers hundreds of billions by requiring that Medicare negotiate prescription drug prices with the pharmaceutical industry, and we will use those savings to expand Medicare by covering the dental care, hearing aids, and eyeglasses that seniors desperately need,” said Sanders.
Illegal immigrants, or “undocumented people,” will be given a “pathway to citizenship” under the measure, Sanders also added.
Even though Sanders and other Democrats said they want to use budget reconciliation, it’s not clear whether it will pass the Senate’s rules for what can be used via the tactic. The Senate Parliamentarian will have to issue a statement on the bill and didn’t return requests from The Epoch Times for comment.
Meanwhile, some moderate senators including Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said they might not pass the measure, imperiling Democrats’ chances of passing the bill.
“I have also made clear that while I will support beginning this process, I do not support a bill that costs $3.5 trillion—and in the coming months, I will work in good faith to develop this legislation with my colleagues and the administration to strengthen Arizona’s economy and help Arizona’s everyday families get ahead,” Sinema told reporters late last month.
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