Sanders Says He Has 50 Votes Needed to Pass a Broad Budget Plan
Sinema Says She Won’t Back $3.5 Trillion for Economic Package
(Bloomberg) -- Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders said he has the votes to pass a broad budget resolution next week, a key step in enacting President Joe Biden’s economic agenda.
The Vermont independent’s comments mean all 50 senators who caucus with Democrats are onboard with passing a resolution that could lead to follow-on legislation totaling $3.5 trillion to address priorities such as climate change, the tax code, health care, and immigration.
The budget package has been linked to a bipartisan infrastructure bill totaling $550 billion that the Senate could pass in the coming days.
“It is my absolute conviction that you’re not going to have a bipartisan bill unless you have a reconciliation bill of $3.5 trillion,” Sanders told reporters. “The working families of this country, the children of this country, the elderly people of this country deserve to have their needs met, and we intend to do just that.”
Sanders’ comments came just hours after Senator Kyrsten Sinema, an Arizona Democrat, said she wouldn’t support spending $3.5 trillion on the package, potentially complicating her party’s efforts.
Sinema, a first-term moderate who sometimes breaks with her party’s leaders, said she wants to move ahead with a fiscal blueprint to kick-start the process using Senate rules that can short-circuit a Republican filibuster.
Yet she asserted that her vote on the larger legislation hinges on the outcome of negotiations on its size.
“I have also made clear that while I will support beginning this process, I do not support a bill that costs $3.5 trillion,” she said in a statement, which was reported earlier by the Arizona Republic. “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.”
In a Senate split 50-50 between the two parties, her position underscores the delicate balancing act ahead for Majority Leader Chuck Schumer as he tries to push through core elements of Biden’s agenda and other policies congressional Democrats seek, including an expansion of Medicare.
Any Democratic senator can upset the perfect party unity required to pass the plan, but both Sinema and another independent-minded moderate, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, are getting particular attention.
Sinema didn’t make clear just how much smaller a package must be to ultimately get her support.
Her bold early move came the same day she is in the spotlight over the infrastructure bill she negotiated along with GOP Senator Rob Portman of Ohio.
John Thune of South Dakota, the Senate Republicans’ vote-counting whip, told reporters that he has been urging Sinema to take a stand on the size of the economic package, adding that more Republicans might back the infrastructure plan after seeing her tap the brakes on spending elsewhere.
But a top House progressive, who wants a much larger economic package, sharply criticized Sinema’s announcement on the heels of the related infrastructure deal.
“Good luck tanking your own party’s investment on childcare, climate action, and infrastructure while presuming you’ll survive a 3 vote House margin - especially after choosing to exclude members of color from negotiations and calling that a ‘bipartisan accomplishment,’” tweeted Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a New York Democrat.
Sanders, a key ally of Ocasio-Cortez and other House progressives, will likely be pivotal in getting them behind both the infrastructure deal and the budget package.
“At the end of the day two pieces of legislation -- a bipartisan bill and the budget reconciliation bill -- have got to pass the Senate and the House,” Sanders said.
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