Last week Senate Democrats reached an agreement on a $3.5 trillion legislative package that would, among other things:
- Create dental, vision and hearing benefits in the Medicare program.
- Expand long-term care benefits to help people getting home- and community-based services.
- Reduce the cost of prescription drugs.
Senate Democratic leaders plan to pass their agenda using a process known as reconciliation, a move that only requires only 51 votes to pass as opposed to the 60 votes needed to pass controversial legislation in the Senate because of its filibuster rule.
That means Democrats will need all 50 of their members to vote for a final bill because total Republican opposition to the bill is expected. If that is the case it would require a tie-breaking vote by Vice President Kamila Harris to pass the bill.
One of the big sticking points is paying for the program but Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), one of the centrist lawmakers involved in the crafting of the package said the budget measure would be fully financed.
Democrats previously have said they planned to pay for much of their package using tax increases on wealthy Americans and corporations. Otherwise, the plan will not raise taxes on people making less than $400,000 per year, nor small businesses, in keeping with Biden’s prior commitments.
How the bill is paid for will be critical because one of the obstacles in passing the legislation will be its price tag. With inflation having raised its ugly head the past few weeks there is real concern mounting among Congressional lawmakers over how much more spending the federal government can afford. That fear could force major changes in whatever bill might finally be passed.