Bernie Sanders seeks $6 trillion infrastructure package, which Senate Democrats are considering passing without the GOP

Bernie Sanders
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) arrives at the House chamber ahead of President Joe Biden’s first address to a joint session of Congress on April 28, 2021. Melina Mara/The Washington Post via AP, Pool
  • Senate Democrats are considering a $6 trillion infrastructure bill drafted by Sanders.
  • “We have an enormous amount of work in front of us,” Sanders said Thursday.
  • Democrats are negotiating with the GOP, but also setting the stage to push them aside and pass a party-line bill.
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Sen. Bernie Sanders, chair of the Senate Budget Committee, drafted a $6 trillion infrastructure package that Senate Democrats are considering approving without GOP support, per two people familiar with the matter. The sources, who described it as an early blueprint, were granted anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly.

The figure mirrors the significant level of spending that President Joe Biden laid out in his annual budget last month. But the Vermont senator is pushing for aggressive federal action to overhaul the economy. Politico first reported details about the blueprint.

“We have an enormous amount of work in front of us,” Sanders said on Thursday after leaving a key budget meeting with Senate Democrats on Capitol Hill. He ticked off areas for federal intervention – climate change, affordable housing and an urgency to level the playing field for average families.

Sanders said that Democratic efforts to approve a party-line bill in reconciliation would commence within weeks: “We expect to have a whole lot done in July.”

A spokesperson for the Senate Budget Committee declined to comment. But Sanders later told reporters he is seeking that amount of spending. “The bottom line here is this country faces crises.. working families are struggling and it’s about time we paid attention to their needs,” he said.

Reconciliation is a legislative tactic that only requires 51 votes, though it involves strict budgetary rules. Sanders said this week that his reconciliation bill would include an expansion of Medicare, which would cut the eligibility age to 60 from 65.

Senate Democrats are also weighing including immigration reform provisions in a reconciliation bill to help finance part of the infrastructure plan, underscoring their ambition. Democrats narrowly control the Senate and hold a thin majority in the House.

They are still negotiating a potential bipartisan deal with Republicans, which has already seen opposition from key progressives including Sanders.

Those talks, however, received a boost on Thursday after more GOP and Democratic lawmakers signed onto the skinnier infrastructure bill, expected to focus on traditional elements like roads and bridges. It would be largely financed with unspent COVID-relief funds and existing spending.

The White House is giving the bipartisan talks until the end of the month – and could potentially switch gears, after that, pushing Republicans aside and prioritizing a Democratic-only bill. It may be Sanders’ $6 trillion one.