Free community college, preschool, and amnesty for millions: Senate unveils $3.5 trillion budget plan
(Yahoo News) - Senate Democrats this week plan to begin debating a $3.5 trillion budget resolution that would pay for universal preschool, free community college, paid family and medical leave, and expanded Medicare benefits as well as provide a pathway to citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer wrote to fellow Democrats early Monday to outline the budget plan, which lawmakers are likely to vote on this week after passing a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package.
The plan includes new green energy initiatives and extends the child tax credit and will be paid for with tax hikes on businesses and the wealthy.
The measure would provide green cards to millions of illegal immigrants and their families who work in the nation's agriculture sector.
“At its core, this legislation is about restoring the middle class in the 21st Century and giving more Americans the opportunity to get there,” Schumer wrote to Democrats, “By making education, health care, child care, and housing more affordable, we can give tens of millions of families a leg up. By making further investments in infrastructure, we can create tens of thousands of good-paying jobs. And by finally tackling climate change, we can spare our country and our planet the most devastating effects of global warming.”
The resolution would set a top-line spending figure, but many of the spending and policy details have yet to be written. Lawmakers would begin negotiating those provisions after the Senate passes the resolution.
The measure is not the final spending package, but if passed, it would allow Democrats to later pass the legislation with only 51 votes, rather than the usual 60 votes. Republicans are expected to oppose the bill unanimously. The measure is on track to become the largest spending package in history.
The bill excludes a move to raise the debt limit, which will be needed by October to allow the Treasury to continue funding government operations.
It would tackle climate change initiatives Democrats had hoped to include in the bipartisan infrastructure package aimed at eliminating fossil fuel use.
The bill would create the first-ever “civilian climate corps,” consumer rebates for electrifying and weatherizing homes, electrifying the federal vehicle fleet, and providing “environmental justice and climate resilience.”
The measure’s amnesty provision is likely to rankle many Republicans.
The provision appears to adopt provisions from the House-passed Farm Workforce Modernization Act.
The measure would permit illegal immigrant farmworkers and their spouses and children “to earn legal status through continued employment in the agricultural sector” and would make changes to the H-2A agricultural guest worker program.
The measure could ultimately provide amnesty to a significant part of illegal immigrants in the United States.
The nation’s agriculture sector uses proportionally more illegal workers than any other U.S. business sector, the Pew Research Center reported.
Farming, fishing, and forestry workers represented nearly a quarter of the 7.8 million illegal workers aged 18 and over in the labor force in 2016.
Schumer told lawmakers Monday the resolution provides a Sept. 15 target date for the committees to write the legislative language to accompany the bill.
He advised lawmakers to use the August recess to promote the spending package, which Republicans are poised to denounce as a job killer that will hike taxes.
“It is critical that we go on offense during the recess to explain to the American people how our budget will lower costs and cut taxes for American families,” Schumer wrote to Democrats Monday.