Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Senate Democrats are weighing whether to merge coronavirus relief and infrastructure into one massive package using the reconciliation process, two Democratic aides tell Insider.
The discussions reflects the desire among Democrats to swiftly capitalize on their new power and enact large parts of their agenda.
“We have few shots at the apple and we don’t want to risk doing too little,” a senior Democratic aide said.
Both aides cautioned the talks were preliminary and nothing was final.
Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Senate Democrats are weighing whether to combine an infrastructure bill and coronavirus relief legislation into a single, massive multi-trillion-dollar package that could pass without Republican votes, two Democratic aides familiar with the discussions tell Insider.
The ongoing talks reflect a desire among Democrats to swiftly capitalize on their new Senate majority with President-elect Joe Biden set to assume office in less than a week. They are poised to control both chambers of Congress and the White House for the first time in a decade – and it could pave the way for renewed legislative efforts on the economy and climate among other areas.
The aides spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly share details. Both cautioned that discussions were in their early stages and nothing was final.
Biden has repeatedly said he aims to pass another large coronavirus relief package shortly after being sworn in. Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, the incoming majority leader, called it their “first order of legislative business” in a letter to Democratic colleagues on Tuesday, which is expected to include more stimulus checks among other measures.
Democratic congressional leaders have signaled they intend to use a legislative maneuver called budget reconciliation to enact swaths of their agenda. It only requires a majority vote, meaning Democrats could circumvent Republicans and approve it on their own with 50 votes plus Vice President-elect Kamala Harris as the tie-breaker.
Sen. Bernie Sanders – who is set to chair the Senate Budget Committee – has said he is in touch with other committee leaders and Biden on how to maximize their use of the reconciliation process. They can exercise it twice this year because Republicans didn’t use it during the last fiscal year.
Read more: Bank of America says the warning signs that stocks are hurtling into bubble territory are growing – and pinpoints 6 that could signal a bear market is beginning
The Vermont senator is also trying to determine whether a reconciliation package could include Biden’s $2 trillion plan to invest into clean energy and infrastructure, the senior Democratic aide said. It includes provisions to expand public transportation, universal broadband, and boosted research and development spending for renewable sources of energy.
“We have few shots at the apple and we don’t want to risk doing too little,” the aide said.
Sanders recently told Politico he is eyeing an “aggressive reconciliation bill to address the suffering of working American families today.”
The Biden transition team did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Schumer didn’t publicly rule out merging infrastructure and coronavirus relief into what would likely be a colossal piece of legislation earlier this week.
“They’re both very important, and they both will be very high priorities whether they come across together or separately,” he told the Buffalo News in an interview published Monday.
But merging both pieces of legislation could cause another set of challenges. Reconciliation requires every Democratic senator to back it, and any one could derail it.
The other Democratic aide believed it was unlikely Democrats would opt for this route, saying it could slow down what is already a complex process. The timeline, however, could get scrambled.
House Democrats are expected to impeach President Donald Trump on Wednesday for inciting a violent riot at the Capitol that left five people dead. They are preparing to send the article of impeachment to the Senate right away, which would trigger a trial in the early days of Biden’s term.
It’s unclear whether the chamber could divide its time between an impeachment trial and traditional legislative work. But Democrats argue they can handle managing both.
“In this unprecedented moment, the new Democratic majority must show that we can walk and chew bubble gum at the same time,” Sanders said in a tweet. “Yes. We must impeach Trump. Yes. We must process Biden’s nominees. Yes. We must pass legislation that addresses the enormous crises facing working families.”
Read the original article on Business Insider