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Senate Advances Bipartisan Infrastructure Package

On Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Schumer held a preliminary floor vote (60 votes are required) to limit debate on whether to proceed to a legislative vehicle that would be used to carry the bipartisan infrastructure bill.  Additionally, he set a Wednesday deadline for Senate Democrats to reach agreement on a $3.5 trillion budget resolution that would include President Biden’s families’ plan (childcare, education, paid family leave) climate change and other provisions.  Key Republicans complained that Schumer was rushing a process to finalize critical details of the bipartisan plan providing $579 billion in new infrastructure spending over five years, particularly on how to pay for it.  Sen. Portman, one of the leading Republican negotiators,  confirmed that the bipartisan group of 11 Republicans and 11 Democrats had eliminated a plan to rely on increased IRS tax enforcement to help pay for new spending. That plan called for providing $40 billion into the IRS to generate a net $100 billion in new revenue from increased collections.  Sen. Portman said the bipartisan group would rely on other financing strategies including the repeal of a Trump administration rule that would require drug price discounts negotiated between drug makers and insurance middlemen to be passed on to consumers. Repealing the rule could save as much as $170 billion over 10 years in Medicare expenses, partly because federal subsidies would increase to meet rising Part D premiums that would no longer benefit from the discounts.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) suggested that more funding could be tapped from unspent pandemic relief and that expanded unemployment benefits have cost $53 billion less than expected, and that an employee retention tax credit still has $66.6 billion in funding available, though estimates were subject to change. Also, CBO stated that a tax credit for employers to offset the cost of providing paid family and medical leave to their workers still has $106.3 billion in available unspent funding; however, the CBO noted those estimates were not directly comparable to their prior projections.