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Next Democratic priority is 'grab bag' bill for infrastructure, climate change, and immigration

House Budget Committee Chairman Yarmuth and Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders signal Democrats might go forward with another major reconciliation bill without any GOP support.

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Rep. Yarmuth
Rep. Yarmuth
(Photo By Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)
Updated: March 16, 2021 - 10:47pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has directed committee chairs to draft a "transformational infrastructure package" as the next big Democratic legislation, which House Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth predicts will be a "grab bag" of liberal agenda items like climate change, health care and immigration reform.

“Congress must work swiftly to build on the historic Biden American Rescue Plan. Our recovery plan must Build Back Better For The People in every zip code by creating good-paying jobs for the future," Pelosi said in a statement on Friday.

“To that end, I have called upon the Chairs of the Committees of Jurisdiction to work with their Republican counterparts to craft a big, bold and transformational infrastructure package," she added.

Yarmuth and Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, signaled this week that Democrats might go forward with the next major bill using budget reconciliation so it could pass in the Senate without GOP votes.

“If I have anything to say about it, it will. And I think the president wants it to happen," Sanders (I-Vt.) told Axios.

Yarmuth has referred to the legislation as a "grab bag" that could combine massive infrastructure spending with health care, climate change and immigration measures. 

“I hope we can do something remotely as impactful as we just did,” Yarmuth said, referring to Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus bill, the second largest in history. “I suspect there will be some climate legislation, some health care legislation, I know some people are talking about putting immigration reforms in there."

The Democratic-led House and Senate moved Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill, the American Rescue Plan, through Congress with budget reconciliation and it passed without votes from Republicans. Biden signed it into law. The national debt is currently at a record $28 trillion. 

President Biden has proposed spending $2 trillion or more on infrastructure alone. 

"Biden will make a $2 trillion accelerated investment, with a plan to deploy those resources over his first term, setting us on an irreversible course to meet the ambitious climate progress that science demands," reads the plan on Biden's campaign website.

Pelosi said she hopes the infrastructure legislation will be bipartisan.

“Building our transportation system has long been bipartisan. It is our hope that spirit will prevail as we address other critical needs in energy and broadband, education and housing, water systems and other priorities," she said. "As we engage in these job-creating initiatives, we must discuss their impact on the federal budget, on creating economic growth and on preserving our planet.”

Lawmakers are currently debating the funding mechanism for an infrastructure bill. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has suggested a Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) tax system to pay for Biden's infrastructure plan. 

"I think all options need to be on the table," he said during his confirmation hearing.

A VMT system would require drivers to pay a fee based on the amount of miles they drive.

Just the News reached out to the House Budget Committee majority and asked for a list of the major health care, climate and immigration measures that are being considered as additions to the infrastructure plan but did not receive a response. 

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