The Senate approved the framework of a $3.5 trillion budget plan in a key procedural vote on Wednesday morning, allowing the body to move towards a final vote on the issue.
Senators voted to advance the framework 50-49 along party lines, with Senator Mike Rounds (R., S.D.) absent. The vote came just before 4 a.m. following a “vote-a-rama,” during which senators introduced amendments for largely symbolic votes designed to test the level of Senate support for various issues.
The plan provides for universal pre-kindergarten, free two-year community college, tax incentives for clean-energy sources to fight climate change, and an expansion of Medicare to cover dental, vision, and hearing. Democrats hope to cover the cost of the plan in part with tax hikes on corporations and high-earning families.
“Senate Democrats have just took a massive step towards restoring the middle class of the 21st century,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) said after the vote. “What we’re doing here is not easy. Democrats have labored for months to reach this point….But I can say with absolute certainty that it will be worth doing.”
Republicans unanimously opposed the plan, saying the amount of government spending in the proposal during a time of rising inflation is reckless.
“Senate Democrats want to take their next big step toward playing Russian roulette with our country,” Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) said in a floor speech on Tuesday before the vote. “What our colleagues are proposing and planning is absolutely jaw-dropping….This reckless taxing and spending spree is like nothing we’ve seen.”
However, McConnell added that since Democrats can use Senate rules to push the plan through with a simple majority, Republicans “will probably not be able to save our colleagues from themselves.”
While the framework of the resolution was approved, Democrats are divided on a final price tag for the measure. Progressive Representative Jamaal Bowman (D., N.Y.) said the $3.5 trillion partisan plan “still doesn’t go far enough,” while Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D., Ariz.) has already indicated that she does not support the plan’s price tag.
The plan now goes to the House, where lawmakers will return early from recess to take it up. Moderates have argued that the House should hold a stand-alone vote on the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill that passed earlier Wednesday, but progressives have said they will refuse to vote on the infrastructure bill until the House approves the budget package.
A dozen Senate committees will now begin negotiating the final details of the budget package, which Schumer hopes to pass in mid-September.