WASHINGTON — Senate Democratic leaders announced an agreement Tuesday evening to advance a $3.5 trillion spending plan to finance a major expansion of the economic safety net.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the $3.5 trillion will be in addition to the $579 billion in new spending under the bipartisan infrastructure agreement.
He said the deal will include a “robust expansion of Medicare” that includes new benefits like dental, vision and hearing, along with major funding for clean energy. “If we pass this, this is the most profound change to help American families in generations,” he said.
“Joe Biden is coming to our lunch tomorrow to lead us on to getting this wonderful plan that affects American families in a so profound way, more than anything that’s happened to generations,” Schumer told reporters. “We are very proud of this plan we know we have a long road to go. We’re going to get this done for the sake of making average Americans lives a whole lot better.”
Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., said the plan will be “fully paid for.”
The agreement will prohibit tax increases on people making under $400,000 and small businesses, a Democratic aide familiar with the deal said.
The announcement points to a challenge for Democrats, who will have to agree on a massive bill that is financed with new tax revenues to pass it through razor-thin congressional majority, with no realistic hope of winning Republican support.
Democrats have no margin for error in the 50-50 Senate and can lose just four votes in the House of Representatives before the legislation would be in danger of failing.
“This is, in our view, a pivotal moment in American history,” Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., the Budget Committee chairman, told reporters.
“What this legislation says among many, many other things that those days are gone. The wealthy and large corporations are going to start paying their fair share of taxes, so that we can protect the working families in this country,” he said.
The agreement is a significant decrease from Sanders’ proposed $6 trillion plan, but it represents an attempt to achieve consensus among an ideologically diverse Democratic Party with a host of competing interests. The legislation has yet to be written.
Senate Democratic leaders hope to advance both the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the party-line budget reconciliation bill this month, before Congress leaves for the August recess.
Olympia Sonnier contributed.