The already-unsustainable national debt has spiked massively during the pandemic. Inflation is up, with some business leaders now openly fretting that it won't be reversed any time soon. Democrats have already passed nearly $2 trillion in totally partisan 'COVID relief,' including provisions that have hampered our economic recovery. They've now announced a staggering $3.5 trillion package to fund the Biden agenda, vowing to pass it on a party-line vote under a process known as reconciliation For reference, this is roughly the size of the entire 2010 federal budget -- so the plan approximately equals what the government spent on everything that year, from entitlement programs, to defense, to discretionary spending. All of it. This proposal represents new spending, on top of hugely elevated federal outlays. And here's a taste of what it would entail:
President Biden and congressional Democrats vowed on Wednesday to push through a $3.5 trillion budget blueprint to vastly expand social and environmental programs by extending the reach of education and health care, taxing the rich and tackling the warming of the planet. The legislation is far from passage, but top Democrats have agreed on working to include several far-reaching details. They include universal prekindergarten for all 3- and 4-year-olds, two years of free community college, clean energy requirements for utilities and lower prescription drug prices. Medicare benefits would be expanded, and green cards would be extended to some undocumented immigrants.
Astounding. Universal pre-K is of dubious value, even if we could afford it. Medicare is hurtling toward insolvency and desperately needs reform. Democrats say they're about the expand it. There are Green New Deal components in there, alongside "freebies," left and right. And they're even going to try to jam some immigration changes in there, too, although it's very much unclear whether the parliamentarian would allow such provisions under the requirement that reconciliation bills (which avoid the 60-vote Senate 'filibuster' threshold) deal strictly with budgetary matters, not ancillary policies. Joe Manchin says he's on board for the immigration provisions, but is warning about the price tag and insisting on pay-fors, having previously stated on the record that his range was $1-2 trillion. Democratic leaders are claiming this is fully "paid for," though they're light on specifics. Some wonks and experts are sounding exceedingly skeptical:
This reminds me of when past Republicans have asked me to identify $3 trillion in balance-the-budget spending cuts that won't be controversial or anger anyone. They don't exist, and neither does a plausible (or globally competitive) $3.5 trillion tax hike. There is no deal. https://t.co/SdSRpOymk5— Brian Riedl ?? (@Brian_Riedl) July 14, 2021
Even in the extreme unlikelihood they could find $5T in offsetting tax hikes, there would be almost no plausible taxes left to address the $100 trillion in baseline deficits over the next 30 years. And yes, the interest cost on that debt would be massive even with low int. rates.— Brian Riedl ?? (@Brian_Riedl) July 14, 2021
Even some moderate House Democrats are whispering to reporters about their fears and doubts. As you read this quote, recall that Nancy Pelosi has very, very few votes to spare in the lower chamber, and Chuck Schumer has literally zero cushion in the Senate:
Moderate House D re Sen budget in @PunchbowlNews— Jake Sherman (@JakeSherman) July 15, 2021
“Given red-hot inflationary pressures, and our strong desire to keep the House blue, a gargantuan $3.5 trillion package, with massive new taxes, is a non-starter for many of us, and I predict it would go down in a blaze of glory"
I've taken a careful but practical approach to the bipartisan infrastructure deal. If Democrats want to try to pass something as reckless and brazen as a $3.5 trillion budget-busting blowout in pursuit of a sweeping 'progressive' agenda, I must agree with Phil Klein that every Republican on Capitol Hill has no choice but to resist all of it. Lending a patina of bipartisanship to any of this is, unfortunately, a gift to power-hungry Democrats whose vote-wrangling should not be made even the slightest bit easier by the gloss of cross-aisle cooperation:
Tuesday night’s news should obliterate [the infrastructure agreement]. Senate Democrats have announced that in addition to the sham of a bipartisan agreement, they are also moving ahead with a separate $3.5 trillion package on a purely partisan basis containing every liberal wish list item but the kitchen sink...To be clear, the plan would have Democrats ram this bill through while also expecting Republicans to vote for another infrastructure bill with nearly $600 billion in new spending. So in total, we are talking about $4.1 trillion in new spending. The underlying spending being considered is bad on the merits, but it is completely irresponsible at a time when the U.S. is facing the largest debt as a share of the economy in its history... If Senator Joe Manchin wants to go along with this insanity, Democrats have the power to ram through much of their agenda on a partisan basis. But Republicans should do absolutely nothing to grease the wheels of this abomination by giving it the imprimatur of bipartisanship.
As a stand-alone bill, the infrastructure compromise is worthy of serious consideration. Given this whole drama, followed by the breathtaking reconciliation top line number and emerging details from Democrats, the well is poisoned. The ruling party is not operating rationally or in good faith. Republicans' chief task right now is strong, unified opposition. And it looks as though even some of the GOP's most cooperation-minded members may be realizing it:
Romney on $3.5T budget resolution:— Igor Bobic (@igorbobic) July 14, 2021
“Stunning, shocking, and an appalling lack of understanding of what tax increases and debt will do to this country.”
He said he couldn’t predict how it would affect bipartisan deal
Republicans don't have to abandon their own bill entirely, but they should do nothing that will make it even marginally easier for Democrats to round up the votes to ram through their multi-trillion-dollar monstrosity. If they're going to insist on going it alone, the GOP ought to have zero fingerprints on any of it. I'll defer to Mitch McConnell's experience on the best tactical approach here, but my inclination is to call on Republican members to hang back, give Democrats nothing, and see what Schumer and Pelosi can (or cannot) manage.