America’s economic recovery is already stalling, but Biden is trying to buy a second wind

Joe Biden
President Joe Biden delivers a speech on voting rights at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia on July 13, 2021.

  • The US economic recovery is faltering. Pres. Biden’s spending plans promise an acceleration.
  • US economic growth missed Q2 forecasts, and new COVID risks could slow the expansion further.
  • While conservatives fear new spending can boost inflation, the White House sees it as a historic opportunity.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The US economic recovery might have just peaked. The Biden administration has plans to keep the party alive, but it won’t be cheap.

Data published Thursday showed economic output growing at an annualized rate of 6.5% in the second quarter. It marks a complete recovery from the pandemic-era drop in output, with gross domestic product finally surpassing its end-of-2019 peak.

Yet economists expected growth of 8.5%, making the government report a considerable disappointment. The quarter also benefited from stimulus and the reversal of lockdown measures. It’s highly probable that growth will moderate in the following quarters.

And new obstacles are emerging. The Delta variant of COVID-19 is causing some cities to reinstate mask mandates, possibly discouraging people from dining out, heading back to their offices and hurting consumer spending. Americans are also staring down a so-called fiscal cliff, with support programs like the student-loan moratorium and enhanced unemployment benefits slated to expire in the fall.

Growth is still expected to trend well above its historical average through the rest of the year. But with nearly 10 million Americans still unemployed, the economy remains far from fully healed.

Enter President Joe Biden and his multi-trillion-dollar spending plans. As economic growth is set to slow, the White House is moving full-steam ahead on packages it argues will lead to a stronger expansion and years of permanently higher output. It’s pushing $4 trillion in new infrastructure spending that encompasses physical items like roads and bridges, and upgrading broadband connections.

That’s not all. Biden and Democratic lawmakers are also trying to advance plans for new spending on family care, free education, and clean energy. Senate Democrats struck a deal on a $3.5 trillion budget blueprint, and it will embark on a party-line process known as reconciliation. That may face cuts in the weeks ahead, however.

The two proposals make up what Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen deemed “historic investments” that promise “a big return.” Instead of providing the kind of immediate boost yielded by the March stimulus package, the White House has billed the follow-up plans as drivers of permanently higher growth through the 2020s. Simply put, the Biden administration is looking to buy its way to a stronger rebound.

Yet conservatives argue it could cause a significant rise in inflation and set back the recovery.

“In the short-term, the economy is heading into its potential growth rate,” Brian Riedl, an economist at the right-leaning Manhattan Institute, told Insider. ” Any additional stimulus will likely lead to inflation rather than long-term growth.”

The White House isn’t dissuaded by these arguments.

“We still have work to do to build our economy back better,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement. “It’s why he’s working with Democrats to deliver on additional support for our middle class that will create a fairer, more sustainable, and stronger economy.”

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What’s in the bipartisan infrastructure bill? Here’s how it breaks down.

amtrak joe biden
U.S. Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden greets supporters after arriving on an Amtrak train for a campaign stop in Alliance, Ohio, U.S., September 30, 2020.

  • A group of Republican senators and the White House have reached a new bipartisan infrastructure agreement.
  • The plan includes $550 billion in new spending, $30 billion less than a prior proposal.
  • It encompasses investments in public transit, clean energy, electric vehicles, and roads and bridges.
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A group of key Senate Republicans and the White House announced Wednesday that they had reached an agreement on a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package. The bill includes $550 billion in new spending – $30 billion less than the original bipartisan agreement hashed out last month.

While there will likely be more proposals on infrastructure spending from Democrats – although Sen. Kyrsten Sinema has blocked Democrats’ $3.5 trillion in proposed party-line spending – the bipartisan bill would still encompass a major investment. It’s also already passed a test vote in the Senate. Here’s how it breaks down.

Roads, bridges, and transit safety

According to a White House fact sheet, the deal will put $110 billion toward road, bridges, and other projects. Those investments will “focus on climate change mitigation, resilience, equity, and safety for all users, including cyclists and pedestrians.” That includes:

  • $40 billion for bridges, which would go toward repairs and replacements
  • $17.5 billion for other “complex,” major projects that aren’t traditionally eligible for funding
  • In addition, the deal would put $11 billion toward “transportation safety programs,” with an emphasis on pedestrians and cyclists

Trains, buses, and ferries (oh my!)

The deal invests in both transit infrastructure and Amtrak, President Joe Biden’s beloved form of transit.

  • $39 billion for public transit, which would go toward upgrading and modernizing infrastructure, and increasing accessibility
  • $66 billion for rail, which includes:
    • $22 billion in Amtrak grants
    • $24 billion in grants to help modernize the Northeast Corridor (a politically important route, which even has its own slew of Northeast presidential primaries named after it: the Acela primaries)
    • $12 billion toward intercity rail
    • $5 billion in “rail improvement and safety grants”
    • $3 billion for other safety improvements
  • $2.5 billion for zero emission buses
  • $2.5 billion for low emission buses
  • $2.5 billion for ferries

Electric vehicles

  • $7.5 billion to create a network of electric vehicle chargers across the country

Water and air

  • $17 billion in ports
  • $25 billion for airports, with an emphasis on addressing backlogs and reducing emission in both types of ports
  • “Over $50 billion” in water infrastructure, with an emphasis on building resiliency amidst climate change and cyber attacks
  • $55 billion toward clean drinking water, which includes replacing lead pipes

Internet and power

  • $65 billion for high-speed broadband
  • $73 billion for grid modernization, which the White House says is the “single largest investment in clean energy transmission in American history”

Climate change and community

  • $1 billion toward reconstructing and reconcieving infrastructure that physically divides communities, as seen in the fact that “significant portions of the interstate highway system were built through Black neighborhoods”
  • $21 billion toward “environmental remediation,” which will address idle energy sites that are, on the whole, disproportionately closer to Americans of color. The funds mark “the largest investment in addressing the legacy pollution,” per the White House

How it’s funded

The White House did not specify how offsets for the bill will break down, saying simply it’ll be financed by utilizing previously unspent relief funding, “targeted corporate user fees,” and increased tax enforcement on cryptocurrencies – a far cry from Biden’s original proposed tax enforcement measures.

However, the New York Times reports that those unspent relief funds will make up $205 billion, and $53 billion could come from unspent funds in states that ended their participation in federal unemployment benefits. Cryptocurrency enforcement is expected to net $28 billion. The proposal also reportedly assumes that the investments will bring in $56 billion through economic growth alone.

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Trump threatened to primary GOP lawmakers who favor the bipartisan infrastructure plan. 17 Republicans just voted to advance it, including Mitch McConnell.

donald trump
Former President Donald J. Trump speaks about filing a class-action lawsuits targeting Facebook, Google and Twitter and their CEOs, escalating his long-running battle with the companies following their suspensions of his accounts, during a press conference at the Trump National Golf Club on Wednesday, July 07, 2021 in Bedminster, NJ.

  • President Trump threatened primary challengers to any Republicans who support the bipartisan infrastructure deal.
  • The former president has railed against negotiations in recent days, warning Republicans to abandon the talks.
  • But in a Wednesday vote, 17 Republicans joined all 50 Democrats to advance the $1 trillion package in the Senate.
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Former President Donald Trump left no words unspoken in his most direct attempt yet to tank President Joe Biden’s $1 trillion infrastructure deal.

The GOP frontman threatened “lots of primaries” ahead for any Republican lawmakers who cooperate with Democrats to get the bipartisan deal passed.

His statement was released after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell announced he would vote to advance the measure and preceded the procedural vote in the Senate on Wednesday. Seventeen Republicans joined all 50 Democrats to advance the bipartisan legislation, in a major test for the bill.

The vote came hours after a group of 10 Republican and Democratic negotiators announced they struck a deal with the White House on infrastructure, which included a new agreement of $550 billion in spending and $30 billion in cuts.

Trump, who tried throughout his presidency to pass his own infrastructure bill, has railed against negotiations in recent days, telling Republican lawmakers to skip the talks – not, it seems, because of any specific issues with the content of the bill, but because passage of the bill would be “a victory for the Biden administration and Democrats and…heavily used in the 2022 election.”

“Don’t do it Republicans – Patriots will never forget!” he wrote. “If this deal happens, lots of primaries will be coming your way.”

The threat comes as the former president has already endorsed primary challengers to try and unseat Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and GOP Rep. Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio.

Despite his defeat at the ballot box in November 2020, Trump maintains massive power in the Republican party and has been making a show of handing out endorsements – or rejection. Most recently, however, on Tuesday, a Trump-backed candidate in Texas lost in a congressional special election.

Wednesday’s vote to advance the bill in the Senate precedes a final vote on the legislation coming sometime in the next week or two. Democrats are also preparing a reconciliation package that would pass the Senate without Republican support.

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McConnell just said he’ll vote to advance Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure deal in a major test vote

mitch mcconnell
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., does a cable news interview before the start of a two-week recess, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, June 23, 2021.

  • Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would vote to advance the bipartisan infrastructure deal.
  • The procedural vote will advance a vehicle of the bill, which will later be replaced with legislative text.
  • McConnell’s approval comes after Sens. Portman and Sinema met with President Biden last month to negotiate the framework of the infrastructure deal.
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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Wednesday that he would vote to advance the bipartisan infrastructure bill that GOP lawmakers have staunchly opposed in recent weeks.

The Senate is scheduled to hold a procedural vote to advance a vehicle for the bill on Wednesday evening, which will later be replaced by the amendments proposed by GOP Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat from Arizona.

Portman and Sinema met with President Joe Biden last month to negotiate the framework of the infrastructure deal, later announcing they had reached an agreement.

“Based on a commitment from Leader Schumer to Senators Portman and Sinema that the Portman-Sinema amendment to be filed will be the substitute amendment, I will vote to proceed to the bipartisan infrastructure bill,” McConnell tweeted Wednesday evening.

McConnell’s support will likely ensure the agreement gets enough Republican votes to advance. A final vote on the bill could come sometime in the next two weeks.

The bipartisan agreement is the product of nearly a month of tumultuous negotiations between Senate Democrats, Senate Republicans and the Biden administration. It will provide nearly $550 billion in fresh funding to repair roads and bridges, along with upgrading broadband connections nationwide.

It will by covered by a blend of revenue sources including unspent coronavirus relief funding, new cryptocurrency tax enforcement, and some corporate user fees, per a White House fact sheet.

Democrats want to move that package in tandem with a $3.5 trillion party-line spending package that will contain many social initiatives strongly opposed by Republicans. That will embark on the arduous reconciliation process, which only requires a simple majority vote and all 50 Senate Democrats to stick together.

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AOC on Sinema blocking $3.5 trillion infrastructure bill: ‘Good luck tanking your own party’s investment’

AOC
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., on Monday, August 24, 2020.

  • Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez took to Twitter after Sen. Krysten Sinema came out against $3.5 trillion in Democratic infrastructure spending.
  • The New York congressman criticized moderate Sinema for “tanking” investment in childcare and climate action.
  • Ocasio-Cortez previously called the $3.5 trillion deal a “progressive victory.”
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez took aim at Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, a fellow Democrat, after Sinema came out against her party’s $3.5 trillion infrastructure bill.

Sinema told the Arizona Republic in a statement that she thinks the bill is too costly, and “will work in good faith to develop this legislation with my colleagues and the administration to strengthen Arizona’s economy and help Arizona’s everyday families get ahead.”

Ocasio-Cortez took to Twitter to call out the Arizona Democrat, writing: “Good luck tanking your own party’s investment on childcare, climate action, and infrastructure while presuming you’ll survive a 3 vote House margin – especially after choosing to exclude members of color from negotiations and calling that a ‘bipartisan accomplishment.'”

Ocasio-Cortez previously criticized the lack of diversity in the bipartisan group, arguing that it leaves marginalized communities behind.

Sinema is a key moderate for the Democrats, and a main negotiator in the bipartisan infrastructure deal. A group of Republican senators said earlier today that they had reached a bipartisan deal with the White House. That deal cut $30 billion from the new spending proposed, lowering funding for public transit and slashing an infrastructure bank meant to foster private and public partnership. Sinema’s opposition will force Senate Democrats to make cuts from the $3.5 trillion agreement they struck earlier this month. It will need all 50 Democrats in the Senate to stick together so it clears the arduous reconciliation process.

AOC is not the only progressive sounding off on the prospects of a slimmed down Democrat-only spending package. Rep. Mondaire Jones of New York also tweeted: “Without a reconciliation package that meets this moment, I’m a no on this bipartisan deal.”

At the time, the New York congresswoman said that $3.5 trillion agreement was an “enormous victory,” although she would have preferred a larger package.

“This bill is absolutely a progressive victory,” Ocasio-Cortez said, according to reporter Kevin Frey of NY1. “If it wasn’t for progressives in the House, we probably would be stuck with that tiny, pathetic bipartisan bill alone.”

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Key Republican senators, Biden agree on ‘major issues’ to move forward with infrastructure deal

senator rob portman of ohio
Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH).

  • A group of GOP senators announced they struck a bipartisan infrastructure deal on Wednesday.
  • It remains unclear whether enough GOP senators will back it in a key test vote that could happen in the evening.
  • It caps six weeks of tumultuous negotiations between the White House and Senators from both parties.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

GOP Sen. Rob Portman announced that a group of Republican senators and the White House have reached an agreement on “major issues” to move forward with an infrastructure plan.

“We’re prepared to move forward,” Portman said, according to Bloomberg reporter Erik Wasson.

Another GOP negotiator, Sen. Susan Collins, said she was “delighted” with the agreement.

Lengthy negotiations on the infrastructure deal between the senators, Democratic leadership, and the Biden administration have lasted roughly six weeks.

Over a month ago, in late June, President Joe Biden had said “we have a deal” on infrastructure with the same group of Republican senators. But just last week, Republicans voted against advancing the same framework in a sign of how tumultuous the talks were.

Many GOP senators have said they wanted time to review the full bill and a budget score from the Congressional Budget Office to ensure it didn’t grow the national debt. It remains unclear whether enough Senate Republicans will vote to advance in a second major test vote that may happen Wednesday evening.

At least 10 Republican senators must join every Senate Democrat if all 50 of them stick together.

Biden and a bipartisan group of senators struck a $579 billion infrastructure agreement last month largely focused on physical infrastructure like roads, bridges, and ports. But the bipartisan gang – evenly divided between five Republicans and five Democrats – clashed on sources of revenue as they drafted the bill.

One major source of financing was stepping up IRS tax enforcement. But conservative backlash caused the negotiators to drop it from the agreement earlier this month in an effort to keep GOP support.

It’s increasingly possible that the Senate infrastructure plan could undergo major changes in the Democratic-led House. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told CNN’s Manu Raju she would not commit to pass it untouched. She indicated there would be “some discussion” with the Senate.

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AOC vows progressives will ‘tank’ the bipartisan infrastructure bill if a reconciliation bill including more care-economy and climate change measures isn’t passed in tandem

alexandria ocasio cortez
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.

  • Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure deal cut out a number of care-economy measures from his initial plan.
  • AOC said progressive will “tank” the deal if a reconciliation bill isn’t passed at the same time.
  • The reconciliation bill would include more care-economy measures and climate change initiatives.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

After President Joe Biden reached an agreement with a bipartisan group of senators on an infrastructure plan, many Democrats criticized how the deal cut out many care-economy measures, like eldercare and affordable housing.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York doubled down on those criticisms on Thursday, promising that progressives will “tank” the deal unless a separate bill, full of care-economy measures, makes the cut, too.

Senate Democrats announced on Tuesday they had reached such a deal which they hope to pass in tandem with the infrastructure package through a political process known as reconciliation, which just requires a simple majority vote.

“House progressive are standing up…” Ocasio-Cortez said during a town hall. “We will tank the bipartisan infrastructure bill unless we also pass the reconciliation bill.”

On June 24, Biden announced he had reached an agreement on an infrastructure plan with the bipartisan group of senators after weeks of negotiations, ending up with a plan that was just under $1 trillion – cutting over a half of the president’s original price tag. This led many Democrats, including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, to say that in order to win their support for the bipartisan deal, a reconciliation bill must be passed alongside it to get needed care-economy measures to the American people.

“There ain’t going to be an infrastructure bill unless we have the reconciliation bill passed by the United States Senate,” Pelosi told reporters at the time.

Biden even said during a press conference after announced the agreement that the infrastructure deal and a reconciliation bill would work “in tandem,” but he later walked back those comments following fierce opposition from Republican lawmakers.

But progressive lawmakers are still pushing for a reconciliation bill that they believe is urgent to meet the needs of the country, including addressing the climate crisis, and their promise to shut down the bipartisan deal if the reconciliation bill isn’t passed at the same time imposes difficulties for the deal’s future.

“If [Senate Dems] try to strip immigration reform, if they try to claw back on child care, climate action, etc., then we’re at an impasse,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “It’s a no-go.”

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Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez praised the $3.5 trillion infrastructure bill as a ‘progressive victory’

GettyImages-alexandria-ocasio-cortez
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) passes through the National Statuary Hall January 9, 2020 at the U.S. Capitol.

  • Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez praised the $3.5 trillion reconciliation package announced by Senate Dems on Tuesday.
  • It would stand with the $579 billion infrastructure deal that President Biden struck with the GOP last month.
  • Without progressive lawmakers, she said, “we probably would be stuck with that tiny, pathetic bipartisan bill alone.”
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez praised the $3.5 trillion infrastructure package passed by Senate Democrats, calling it a “progressive victory.”

Earlier this week, Senate Democrats agreed on a $3.5 trillion reconciliation package to expand Medicare and strengthen social-safety-net programs, skirting GOP opposition to using more federal spending.

The New York congresswoman said she would have liked a larger package but billed the agreement as an “enormous victory,” according to NY1 reporter Kevin Frey.

“This bill is absolutely a progressive victory,” she said. “If it wasn’t for progressives in the House, we probably would be stuck with that tiny, pathetic bipartisan bill alone.”

The $3.5 trillion package would stand with the $579 billion bipartisan infrastructure deal that President Joe Biden struck with Republicans last month, and the party-line agreement would amount to $4.1 trillion.

“This is the most significant piece of legislation since the Great Depression, and I’m delighted to be part of having helped to put it together,” Sen. Bernie Sanders, the chair of the Senate Budget Committee, told reporters on Tuesday evening.

Senate Democrats expressed confidence that the package would be turned into a bill in the coming weeks, which would make it one of the largest spending bills ever taken up by Congress.

“We are very proud of this plan,” Schumer told reporters Tuesday following the negotiations. “We know we have a long road to go.”

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Senate Democrats reach deal on $3.5 trillion reconciliation package

Bernie Sanders
Senate Budget Committee Chairman Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks during a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021, examining wages at large profitable corporations.

Senate Democrats on Tuesday announced they struck a deal on a $3.5 trillion price tag for a Democrat-only infrastructure package that will expand Medicare and strengthen social safety net programs – and skirt Republicans staunchly opposed to more federal spending.

Combined with a $579 billion bipartisan infrastructure deal, the party-line agreement would amount to $4.1 trillion in fresh spending. It’s among the largest spending bills ever taken up by Congress as Democrats aim to wield their slim majorities and level the playing field within the economy.

“This is the most significant piece of legislation passed since the Great Depression, and I’m delighted to be part of having helped to put it together,” Sen. Bernie Sanders, chair of the Senate Budget Committee, told reporters on Tuesday evening. He’s pushed for a party-line package larger than $3 trillion in recent days.

The plan is poised to undergo the arduous reconciliation process, a legislative tactic that only requires bills to get a simple majority. In a 50-50 Senate, that means every Democratic senator must stick together for the plan to succeed.

The agreement didn’t include many specifics on which policies will ultimately be included. But Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said it would expand Medicare to cover vision, dental, and hearing services. The Congressional Budget Office projected in 2019 it would cost $358 billion over ten years.

Democrats leaving the negotiations were confident about the topline agreement, and they said they would turn the agreement into a legislative bill in the coming weeks. “We are very proud of this plan. We know we have a long road to go,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters.

A Senate Democratic aide granted anonymity to speak candidly said Democrats still recognize they face an arduous process ahead. “We don’t know what’s happening what’s happening with bipartisan deal,” the aide said. “This is the first baby step.”

Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia said that the spending would be “fully paid for” with tax increases. Democrats have labored to avoid tax hikes on households earning under $400,000 in keeping with President Joe Biden’s campaign pledge.

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Joe Manchin doubles down on refusing to add to the deficit to fund a Democrat-only infrastructure plan

Joe Manchin
WASHINGTON, DC – JUNE 09: Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) speaks with Xavier Becerra, Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) (L), before a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on June 9, 2021 at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. The committee is hearing testimony about the Fiscal Year 2022 budget request for the Department of Health and Human Services.

  • Manchin doubled down on his insistence to fully finance a Democrat-only infrastructure package.
  • “I think we’ve put enough free money out,” he said, citing the federal response to the pandemic.
  • Manchin’s support is critical for Democrats in an evenly-divided Senate.
  • ISee more stories on Insider’s business page.

Sen. Joe Manchin is ruling out borrowing money to finance a party-line infrastructure package as Senate Democrats deliberate the range of tax increases that would be needed to pay for President Joe Biden’s agenda.

‘I think everything should be paid for now,” he told reporters. “I think we’ve put enough free money out.”

Manchin later told reporters on Tuesday he would only back an infrastructure package that was fully financed by tax revenue, adding, “How much debt can y’all handle?” He wants to do this with tax increases, though he favors less aggressive measures than Biden put forward such as a smaller corporate tax bump.

“I think we’ve incurred over 28 and a half trillion dollars of debt and I’d like to start paying for it,” he told reporters, referring to the national debt that the US government has accumulated over several decades.

Senate Democrats are still negotiating the final price tag of an infrastructure plan that only requires a simple majority vote, allowing Democrats to skirt Republicans under a legislative pathway known as reconciliation. But they need every Democratic senator to back a party-line package given the 50-50 Senate and their tie-breaking vote from Vice President Kamala Harris.

On reconciliation, Democrats are undertaking a delicate balancing act to find an amount that satisfies progressives who want to spend big and moderates like Manchin who want to fully finance it with tax increases.

“We’re trying to move as quickly as we can,” Sen. Ron Wyden, chair of the Senate Finance Committee and a key player in the talks, told Insider. Talks that began last month could stretch into late July, with passage of a bill sometime in the fall.

The national debt has grown at least $6 trillion over the past year in the wake of the federal government’s response to the pandemic, since multiple federal rescue packages were approved. Still, many economists and the Federal Reserve say that now is the time for Congress to take advantage of low interest rates – which make it cheaper to borrow – and repair the economy.

Sen. Bernie Sanders said Monday that he was seeking a package that was over $3.5 trillion. He argues the package presents Democrats with an opportunity to overhaul the economy in a scale unseen since the 1930s.

“Childcare, clean energy, family care, we know what we need,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts told reporters. “We’ve got to get to a topline number that will support that.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer alluded to the potential potholes that lie ahead on Tuesday.”It is not going to be easy, but it is certainly going to be worth it,” he said.

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