But now we’re getting new details on what’s in the framework for the reconciliation package, beyond the $3.5 trillion topline that was announced Tuesday morning. And they show that Democrats are really going for it in a big way.
Take climate change. Because Democrats are also negotiating a bipartisan “hard” infrastructure bill in the Senate that includes $579 billion in new spending but omitted many key climate measures, fears have spread that those won’t get done.
But the reconciliation framework contains numerous new climate provisions. According to sources familiar with the framework, it is designed to meet Biden’s previously stated goal of requiring utility companies to generate 80 percent of power with renewable energy sources by 2030, and cutting our carbon output by 50 percent compared to 2005 levels by the same year.
It includes a much-sought-after “clean electricity standard” that requires companies to gradually increase power generated by renewables until their carbon emissions are no more. It also includes tax incentives for clean energy sources and electric vehicles.
The economic measures in the package also appear strikingly ambitious. According to a source, these include enhanced subsidies for people who get insurance on the exchanges, and expanded funding for health coverage to low-income people in GOP states that have refused the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion.
It also includes paid family and medical leave, universal pre-K, an expansion of Medicare benefits to include dental, vision, and hearing care, and an extension of the child tax credit, which is already being hailed as revolutionary social policy.
How would this be paid for? The short answer is: by the rich.
According to the sources, the deal includes higher corporate tax and top-bracket income tax rates, increased IRS enforcement to go after wealthy and corporate tax cheats, and provisions that would enable the U.S. to implement its end of a Global Minimum Tax deal.
That’s the agreement reached with numerous foreign countries to boost taxes on each country’s companies to a minimum of 15 percent when they shelter profits abroad, to discourage such tax avoidance. That could function as a rebuttal to right-wing populism and a reaffirmation of multilateral cooperation as the answer to globalization’s challenges.
It’s key to understand that this is all a framework right now, and it has only been agreed to by members of the Senate Budget Committee. Filling in details on how these goals will be reached will now fall to numerous other committees, which will be tasked with doing this within spending limits. That will be extremely difficult.
But the agreement on the framework already tells us some important things.
First, about Democratic strategy: According to a Democratic leadership aide, Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) idea all along has been to treat the Budget Committee as a kind of miniature version of the Democratic coalition.
Moderate Senate Democrats on that committee (Mark Warner and Timothy M. Kaine of Virginia) are getting a substantially lower price tag than the original $6 trillion that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the committee chair, initially wanted. (Way to move that Overton window!)
And the moderates wanted this fully paid for, which they’ll theoretically get with the corporate tax overhaul.
“I’m going to raise what’s needed to make these critical investments in the American people and allow the caucus to move forward,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), the chair of the Finance Committee, which will write the tax provisions, told us in a statement.
“There are a number of ways to get there,” Wyden continued, adding that a central goal will be “ensuring the super wealthy and mega-corporations pay their fair share."
Meanwhile, Senate Democrats on the committee who are climate hawks (Wyden and Jeff Merkley of Oregon) are getting the robust climate proposals. And the economic progressives (Sanders) are getting large expansions of the welfare state.
The idea, the aide tells us, is that satisfying all these parts of the Democratic coalition on the committee opens up the possibility of uniting the full caucus.
To be clear, that will be very challenging. Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) is already raising objections to climate provisions that would ultimately zero out fossil fuels, though his rhetoric seems to leave wiggle room to get to yes, since it would happen gradually. And a lot turns on how all these measures will be scored for cost, and then on details of how the legislation is written.
Indeed, taken all together, the package and the strategy are, if nothing else, almost shockingly audacious. If Democrats can somehow pull this off, it will show them uniting all their factions and meeting numerous epic challenges facing the country as a true governing majority party.