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Democratic-led House authorizes $3.5 trillion of spending as national debt climbs to $29 trillion

Pelosi was ultimately able to secure yes votes from nine moderate House Democrats for the resolution which expands the social safety net in the U.S. with new federal programs

Published: August 24, 2021 3:42pm

Updated: August 24, 2021 10:14pm

The Democratic-led House on Tuesday authorized $3.5 trillion of spending in a party-line vote, as the national debt climbs to a record $29 trillion.

The final vote was 220-212. Of the members voting, 96 lawmakers submitted proxy letters to allow them to cast their votes remotely under a system the House adopted at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

Using budget reconciliation allowed Democrats to bypass the filibuster in the Senate and push through the $3.5 trillion resolution without votes from Republicans in the 50-50 Senate. Democrats adopted the same strategy to pass the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act, which was the second largest stimulus bill in U.S. history.

The resolution authorizes $3.5 trillion in spending on new programs like universal pre-K, tuition free community college, support for child care, Medicaid expansion, legal status for certain categories of illegal immigrants and other provisions. The formal legislative language of the reconciliation bill has not been drafted yet. 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was ultimately able to secure yes votes from nine moderate House Democrats who were hesitant to vote on a $3.5 trillion resolution before voting on the Senate-passed $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill. 

As part of the resolution authorizing the $3.5 trillion, Pelosi included a Sept. 27th deadline for a vote on the separate $1.2 trillion Senate-passed bill, which garnered support from moderates such as New Jersey Democratic Rep. Josh Gottheimer, co-chair of the House Problem Solvers Caucus. 

Ahead of the vote, a fiscal watchdog group urged Democrats to oppose the resolution, estimating that it will result in $1.75 trillion of borrowing and add to the national debt. So far in the fiscal year, the deficit is $2.54 trillion. According to Treasury data, the national debt is approaching $29 trillion. 

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