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Some Democratic Senators Express Concern About The Budget Resolution

SACHA PFEIFFER, HOST:

Democrats have a huge range of priorities in their $3.5 trillion budget. This plan is a big part of President Biden's agenda. And yesterday, he met with lawmakers on Capitol Hill to rally members of his party around it. But some Democrats are already expressing concerns.

NPR White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez joins us now for the latest. Hi, Franco.

FRANCO ORDOÑEZ, BYLINE: Hi, Sacha.

PFEIFFER: Democrats have not released many specifics about this deal. But what have you learned about what's in it? And again, this is the infrastructure deal.

ORDOÑEZ: Right. We've learned a bit. You know, we have bullet points of the main provisions, and it would amount to a sweeping restructuring of the U.S. economy. It would extend the new child tax credit expansion, establish clean energy standards, fund universal pre-K. And it would also expand Medicare benefits to include things like vision and dental. Of course, the specific details really still need to be finalized, and there are a lot of details.

PFEIFFER: And how are they proposing to pay for this?

ORDOÑEZ: Well, again, much of the specifics are still being worked out, but a Senate Democratic aide says it would be paid for with a series of tax increases for corporations and wealthy Americans. Those are the people who are making more than $400,000 a year. And also, it'd be paid for by some health care savings, including on prescription drugs.

PFEIFFER: Republicans have really not expressed interest in this at all, but Democrats say they can pass it anyway. There's a process for how they could do that. Could you explain how?

ORDOÑEZ: Yeah, sure. Democrats hope to pass the legislation through a process known as reconciliation, which would allow them to pass the spending with a simple majority and avoid a filibuster. But really, to be frank, there's no guarantee that all Senate Democrats will support the package. Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, for example, told reporters that he had a few concerns, including how it'd be paid for and also cuts to fossil fuels.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JOE MANCHIN: I'm concerned about inflation, and also, I want to see more the details, what's going on. I'm concerned also about maintaining the energy independence that the United States of America has.

ORDOÑEZ: And Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut - he's a progressive. He said his vote wasn't a lock either.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CHRIS MURPHY: The president makes an incredibly compelling case that this is the moment to go big. This is a moment you have to be able to deliver real money in the pockets of Americans that are hurting.

ORDOÑEZ: Now, Senator Murphy also said that the devil really is in the details. And look; the plan also needs the support of the House. Speaker Nancy Pelosi faces competing pressures as well. She only has a thin majority in the House. And some Democrats on the left feel the Senate deal is really too small, while other Democrats, those who are running for reelection in swing districts, will want to take a more moderate stance.

PFEIFFER: And Franco, remind us; there's a distinction here. We're talking about infrastructure proposal and a budget. There's a separate budget proposal, each covering things that the other one may not. Is that right?

ORDOÑEZ: Yeah. This is the second part of Biden's two-part infrastructure strategy - spending strategy. A bipartisan group of senators agreed on a plan that adds about $600 billion of new spending on what's called traditional infrastructure projects like roads, bridges and broadband. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has said that he'd like to bring that bill to the floor as early as next week. But there is some pushback from other Republicans who have raised concerns about how the package will be paid for. And, you know, I really just want to reiterate - that legislation will need some Republican support.

PFEIFFER: It - and they are describing as infrastructure some things that some people wouldn't consider infrastructure, but it's just sort of non-traditional.

ORDOÑEZ: Correct. The original - the larger bill is what Biden calls the human infrastructure plan.

PFEIFFER: Interesting. That's NPR's Franco Ordoñez. Thank you.

ORDOÑEZ: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.