House and Senate Democratic leaders continued this week to hash out how to trim the $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package to arrive at a plan in the $2 trillion range that can win unanimous Democratic support.
In a letter to her caucus this week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) acknowledged that “difficult decisions” must be made soon to keep both the social spending package and the bipartisan infrastructure deal on track. The time crunch is becoming more pronounced because House Democrats want to pass the $1 trillion infrastructure bill by the end of the month and, in order to do that, they need agreement with Senate Democrats on a topline for reconciliation.
Pelosi said that in order to strike a deal that centrist Democrats like Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) can support, Democrats probably have to do “fewer things well” in the package.
The original $3.5 trillion bill is expansive, but provisions generally fall into three buckets: climate, health care and family care. As drafted, the package includes provisions to mandate universal paid family leave and expand Medicare to include dental, hearing and vision benefits. It would also guarantee prekindergarten for all children ages 3 and 4, fund better protections for the nation’s elderly, increase pay for child care workers and require employers without employer-sponsored retirement plans to automatically enroll their employees in IRAs or 401(k)-type plans.
Pelosi said in a press conference this week that she is “very disappointed” that $3.5 trillion is not going to be a viable topline number for the package but said, “Whatever we do, it will be transformative. It will produce results.”