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Sen. Bernie Sanders during an outdoor protest last month. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

Key negotiators expect the Senate Budget Committee to settle on a roughly $3.5 trillion reconciliation package as the starting point for a Democrat-only bill for "soft" infrastructure, people familiar with the matter tell Axios.

Why it matters: That total is well below the $6 trillion that Sen. Bernie Sanders — the Vermont independent who leads the committee — had initially proposed. Adopting it would be a blow to his fellow progressives.

  • The emerging agreement will, however, cover all of the major Biden administration proposals on soft infrastructure, including the president's families, climate and housing programs, according to a source familiar with the Senate budget resolution discussions.
  • While negotiators are still finalizing details, the proposal is close to fully offset with new revenues, among other pay-fors.
  • The roughly $3.5 trillion could get shaved down further once the full Senate — including centrists like Sens. Joe Manchin (D- W.Va.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.) — extract their own demands.
  • The package will need the support of every Democrat on the Senate floor to pass.

Driving the news: Sanders is still pushing for a high number, telling the New York Times' Maureen Dowd for an interview published Sunday that $2 trillion to $3 trillion is “much too low.”

  • Sanders will have to convince centrists on the committee such as Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), who hasn’t revealed his top-line number but privately suggested it's more in the $3- to $4-trillion range.
  • After two weeks of staff negotiations, senators on the Budget Committee are expected to meet Monday evening to try to bridge differences on the total size of the package and how much of it needs to be paid with new revenues.
  • "A lot of work has gone into the effort and much more work needs to be done," said Mike Casca, a spokesperson for Sanders. "Sen. Sanders wrote a $6 trillion proposal to address the desperate needs of working people and the existential threat of climate change, and he’s confident that Democrats will come together around a reconciliation bill that does just that."  

The big picture: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has declared he wants the budget resolution and the bipartisan infrastructure package both to pass the full Senate before senators leave for their August recess.

  • That timeline will put pressure on senators worried about having some of their recess canceled, which could complicate lawmakers' fundraising plans.

Go deeper: Revenues are emerging as a key dividing line within the Democratic caucus, with centrists like Manchin saying new spending will have to be paid for with new taxes.

  • Other centrists are uncomfortable with raising taxes on corporations, capital gains and personal income too high, which in turn puts a ceiling on any new spending.

Between the lines: The White House is taking a wait-and-see approach and wants to give Senate Democrats the space to compromise.

  • House centrists have no interest in voting for anything that can’t pass the Senate, including tax increases, putting most of the action in the Senate.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with a comment from Mike Casca, a spokesperson for Sanders.

Go deeper

Oct 20, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Manchin's massive means test

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) is offering progressives a trade: He'll vote for their cherished social programs if they accept strict income caps for the recipients, people familiar with the matter tell Axios.

Why it matters: Manchin’s plan to use so-called means-testing for everything from paid family medical leave to elder and disabled care would drastically shrink the size and scope of the programs. It also would bring a key moderate vote to the progressive cause.

Oct 19, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Democrats brace for staredown over paid family medical leave

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Senior House Democrats are braced for battle with the Senate over whether paid family medical leave — a key priority for progressives — will be included in President Biden’s final budget reconciliation bill, lawmakers and aides tell Axios.

Why it matters: Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) has indicated he wants to cut the program to reduce the bill's price tag. “Paid family and medical leave must be in the final package,” Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, told Axios on Monday.

First look: Trump Republican comes to Rahm's defense

Sen. Bill Hagerty. Photo: Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images

One of Donald Trump's staunchest allies, Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.), will speak out publicly Wednesday in support of one of President Biden's targeted ambassadorial nominees — former Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Why it matters: Progressive activists are pressuring liberal senators to oppose Emanuel's confirmation as U.S. ambassador to Japan. Support from key Republicans may end up ensuring the Democrat gets the job.