Tuesday, 28 September, 2021

US approves $3.5tn budget plan in crucial step on economic package

NEW YORK: The US Senate approved a $3.5 trillion spending blueprint for President Joe Biden’s top priorities early on Wednesday morning in a 50-49 vote along party lines, after lawmakers sparred over the need for huge spending to fight climate change and poverty.

After months of haggling, the Senate on Tuesday passed a $1 trillion infrastructure bill, proposing to make the nation’s biggest investment in decades in roads, bridges, airports and waterways.

The measure faces an uncertain future in the House, report agencies.

Democrats in the Senate then turned to a budget resolution containing spending instructions for the multi-trillion-dollar follow-up package, which includes provisions to create universal preschool, affordable housing and climate-friendly technologies.

The bills have been a top priority for Biden, who has sought to enact sweeping changes during a time when Democrats hold slim majorities in both congressional chambers and where they fear loss of legislative control in the looming 2022 elections.

The Democrats plan to push the package through over the next few months, using a process called “budget reconciliation https” which allows them to pass legislation with a simple majority vote.

On Tuesday, the Senate began a “vote-a-rama,” a procedure that gave senators the opportunity to propose amendments to the non-binding budget resolution. It continued early on Wednesday. Debate can run for days unless party leaders agree to a shorter period.

In the freewheeling process, senators cast votes on nearly 50 amendments, including ones that would have prevented tax increases on people making less than $400,000 a year and barred taxpayer funding of abortions. Both of those votes were approved by the chamber.

Republicans have railed against the $3.5 trillion spending plan. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who voted for the $1 trillion infrastructure bill, called the larger proposal “radical.”

Dozens of Republican senators also signed a pledge not to vote to raise the nation’s borrowing capability when it is exhausted in the autumn in a bid to curtail Democrats’ spending plans.

“They (Democrats) shouldn’t be expecting Republicans to raise the debt ceiling to accommodate their deficit spending,” Senator Ron Johnson, a Republican who circulated the pledge, told the Wall Street Journal.

Failure to increase or suspend the statutory debt limit - now at $28.5 trillion - could trigger a federal government shutdown or a debt default.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen this week urged Congress to raise the debt limit in a bipartisan vote. On Tuesday, Yellen also endorsed moving forward with the larger spending package, saying the $1 trillion infrastructure plan should have a sequel.

On Tuesday, Biden lauded the 19 Republicans who voted for the bipartisan $1 trillion infrastructure measure. “Here on this bill, we’ve proven that we can still come together to do big things - important things - for the American people,” he said.