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Biden to rally Senate Democrats on spending goals after they reach $3.5 trillion budget deal

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US President Joe Biden speaks about voting rights at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, July 13, 2021.

Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty Images

President Joe Biden is set to meet with the Senate Democratic caucus Wednesday to shore up support for his sweeping infrastructure and economic investment goals, hours after the lawmakers announced they had reached an agreement on a multitrillion-dollar budget resolution.

That budget accord, which would spend $3.5 trillion over the next decade, will be added to the roughly $600 billion in new spending contained in a bipartisan infrastructure plan, Democrats said Tuesday night.

They said that the budget plan is fully paid for, and that it would expand Medicare coverage for dental, vision and hearing benefits — two features that could help sway moderate and progressive Democrats to back it, respectively.

At a closed-door caucus lunch at the Capitol on Wednesday, Biden will rally Democrats and “lead us on to getting this wonderful plan,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

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White House press secretary Jen Psaki tweeted Wednesday morning that the president will “continue making the case for the duel track approach to build the economy back better by investing in infrastructure, protecting our climate, and supporting the next generation of workers and families.”

She noted in a follow-up that she misspelled the word “dual.”

Democratic leaders hope to push versions of the resolution through the House and Senate before lawmakers leave Washington for the August recess. But they acknowledged Tuesday night that their work is cut out for them, as the budget plan offers only a broad outline on spending that would have to be fleshed out in subsequent legislation.

“We know we have a long road to go,” Schumer said.

“I make no illusions how challenging this is going to be,” said Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., vice chair of the caucus.

The resolution, if approved, would pave the way for Democrats to pass a later spending bill in the Senate through the so-called budget reconciliation process. That means Democrats would only need a simple majority in Senate — which is evenly divided 50-50 with Republicans — rather than the 60 votes that the GOP could demand through the filibuster rules.

If all 50 Senate Democrats back such a bill, they could pass it even with no Republican support, as Democratic Vice President Kamala Harris could cast the tie-breaking vote.

Senate Democratic leaders are working to satisfy both the moderates in the caucus, who have expressed unease about funding the mammoth spending plans, and the progressives who have called for much more money to be spent.

Sanders, whom Schumer credited with leading the charge to include expanded Medicare coverage in the budget resolution, and other progressives had initially pushed for a $6 trillion price limit for a budget. Biden had proposed less than $5 trillion.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., expressed a starkly different sentiment Tuesday, telling reporters, “I think everything should be paid for. We’ve put enough free money out.”

The budget will reportedly align with Biden’s promise not to raise taxes on people making less than $400,000 annually. Sanders on Tuesday night said the legislation represents that “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.”

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