Postcard via Boston Public Library, Creative Commons license 2.0

The Senate passed the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill this morning by a vote of 69 to 30, so we assume no Republican senators who'd committed to voting for it woke up with a horse's head in their beds this morning. Or the motor from a Tesla, we suppose. Mike Rounds (R-South Dakota) missed the vote to be with his wife while she gets cancer treatment; he would have voted no, despite having helped negotiate the bill.

With that out of the way, Senate Democrats will get to work on passing a budget resolution for what will eventually become the $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill that'll include most of the top priorities in Joe Biden's "American Jobs Plan" and "American Families Plan." These are, as we keep reminding you, a big fucking deal.

Yes, even though Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee) complained this weekend that the Democrats weren't even willing to consider her perfectly reasonable amendment that would have shifted a billion dollars from Amtrak to build Donald Trump's border WALL.

Too bad!

The infrastructure vote was taking place as we wrote this piece, and we watched it sail past the 60-vote threshold that made it a done deal. This being 2021, we wouldn't have been entirely surprised if at the last minute all the Republicans who've spent weeks hammering out the deal suddenly decide to vote against it because they decided it should be printed in Comic Sans. Once the final vote is in, the bill will go to the House, where Nancy Pelosi has made clear it won't get a vote until the budget resolution passes the Senate as well. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer plans to get the reconciliation resolution passed before he lets the Senate take its August recess.

"Many folks called that two-track process unrealistic; many others said it's unachievable on such a short timeline and in such a slow-moving chamber," he said Monday. "But we have managed to steer two trains at the same time. There have been some bumps. There have been some delays. But the Senate is on track to finish both tracks."

This sounds very promising! Back in late June, Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) said he was OK with the general plan to pass Biden's major priorities with a two track approach, including a sizeable reconciliation bill, as long as it's paid for, largely by rolling back much of 2017's Big Fat Tax Cuts for Rich Fuckwads. Kyrsten Sinema (???-Arizona) has also indicated she plans to vote for the budget resolution. Sinema said that as the actual legislation will be written after the recess, she intends to fight for a lower total price tag, because that's Kyrsten Sinema for you.

Again, the resolution Schumer's moving through the Senate this week is only a blueprint for what Senate Democrats want in a final bill that would be passed with just 51 votes — all the D Senators plus VP Kamala Harris. The Senate Dems released their plan for the resolution Monday night, with guidelines and budget goals for various committees to start shaping the actual legislation that will go into the bill when the Senate reconvenes in September.

The blueprint includes many of the top goals Biden and the Democrats ran on in 2020, including

Taking on the climate crisis

These measures would be an important step toward meeting Biden's commitment for the US to reach 80 percent clean electricity and 50 percent reductions in carbon emissions by 2030, reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050. That will include:

  • funding for green energy research and development
  • environmental justice investments
  • establishment of a civilian climate corps
  • Investments in clean energy and electric vehicle supply chains
  • comprehensive expansion of tax credits to encourage green energy and transportation
  • Fees and taxes on polluters that would help fund the new spending, including tariffs on countries with crappy climate policies

In addition, the resolution calls for a "clean electricity payment program," which is basically a Clean Energy Standard that will fit within budget reconciliation rules, as Vox explains:

The bill likely can't directly mandate this due to restrictions in the reconciliation process. But it will try to achieve it by making payments to utilities that rely on clean energy, while fining those that aren't making progress toward reducing carbon emissions, as my colleague Rebecca Leber recently explained. Manchin will play a big role in crafting this, as he chairs the key Senate committee that will be involved.

Family and education investments

Most of these were first envisioned in Biden's American Families Plan:

And let's not forget the plan to continue the already popular expanded child tax credit, which is already making life better for lower and middle-income families in America. Not only will this child allowance for most American families with kids reduce poverty and make raising healthy kids easier, we'll just note that continuing it, along with the other measures to benefit families, will make a hell of a case for the 2020 midterms and the 2024 presidential races, because people are going to like getting half of the expanded benefits up front, and they know for sure Republicans will want to eliminate that.

Healthcare and senior benefits, holy crap!

Again, this will include several points we've mentioned previously:

  • Expanded Medicare benefits that will for the first time include coverage for dental, vision, and hearing care. Vox notes that the resolution calls for lowering the age to qualify for Medicare to 60, although it's not clear whether that will make it into the final bill.
  • Reduced Medicare prescription costs through finally allowing the government to negotiate drug prices with drug manufacturers. Hey, lower costs for Medicare means more money to spend on other parts of the reconciliation bill!
  • Expanding long-term care and ending the backlog of 800,000 elderly or disabled Americans waiting to get into long-term care.
  • Healthcare coverage for low-income people in states that refused to expand Medicaid under the ACA. Maybe it'll look like Raphael Warnock's proposal to do an end run around those 12 states, or maybe something else.
  • Expanding Obamacare subsidies that started under the American Rescue Plan. Make 'em permanent!

Also too, the bill will likely include boosts in funding for affordable housing, including rental assistance. And if legislation can be written that would pass review by the parliamentarian, Democrats also want to try to pass a pathway to citizenship for people covered by DACA, farm workers, and people in the USA with Temporary Protected Status. The trick will be getting that done in a form that makes it primarily a budget matter. We'll see.

And once the resolution is formally introduced, it will move to the complete madness of the "vote-a-rama" process, in which Republicans and Democrats will bring up a bajillion amendments nobody really expects to pass, but which will get senators on record with a vote, in hopes of making a devastating campaign ad for the midterms.

Such a grand part of democracy it is.

[WaPo / Vox / CNBC / Politico / Senate Budget Resolution / Image: Boston Public Library, Creative Commons License 2.0]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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