Policy Update: Senate Releases Reconciliation Details
Yesterday morning, Senate Democrats released a $3.5 trillion budget outline for their upcoming reconciliation package (distinct from the new $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package, which was passed by the Senate today). As you may remember from the American Rescue Plan Act passed in March, budget reconciliation is a tool that allows Congress to pass legislation with a simple majority, so long as it has an impact on the federal budget. This will allow Democrats to pass budgetary legislation without having the 60 votes necessary to clear a Senate filibuster.
So, what happens next? First, the Senate must officially adopt the $3.5 trillion budget resolution which is expected to happen this week after a series of votes. Second, each Senate committee will then draft their own piece of the package, based on the budget outline, which will eventually be stitched together into one package. Committees have been directed to finalize their work by September 15. Finally, the Senate will make amendments and then vote on the package. Passage can be by a simple majority.
On July 20, AFT put out an Action Alert calling on our members to reach out to their Senators to ensure that agricultural conservation was included as part of this package. The Action Alert resulted in 820 members sending over 1,400 messages! We are pleased to share that the instructions to the Senate Agriculture Committee include additional spending on conservation. In total, the Senate Agriculture Committee has been allotted $135 billion to spend over the next decade to be directed at:
- Agriculture conservation, drought, and forestry programs to help reduce carbon emissions and prevent wildfires
- Rural development and rural co-op clean energy investments
- Agricultural climate research and research infrastructure
- Civilian Climate Corps funding
- Child nutrition
- Debt relief
It should be noted that the topline numbers above are not set in stone, and that Senate passage of the reconciliation legislation will likely require the support of every single Democrat. At present, Senate Democrats are not aligned on the total ideal cost, the priorities that should be supported, and how additional costs should be (at least partially) paid for. Senate Democrats believe that the reconciliation package will be paid for through a combination of higher individual and corporate taxes, reducing the cost of prescription drugs and other healthcare savings, greater IRS enforcement, and long-term economic growth. We will be especially interested in how any proposed tax changes will impact agriculture.