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Casey touts White House spending plans at town hall

Democratic senator visits Penn State Altoona campus

Democrats will likely need to resort to budget reconciliation to put through most of the provisions of the Biden administration’s big spending proposals — The American Jobs Plan and The American Families Plan, according to U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, who conducted an outdoor town hall Tuesday at Penn State Altoona.

Reconciliation allows the Senate to pass budget-related bills by simple majority, avoiding the filibuster rule that stops other bills, unless they can garner 60 votes — a workaround that Democrats seized upon recently, because the Senate is 50-50, but they have the deciding vote with Vice President Kamala Harris.

Bipartisanship is likely and reconciliation would be unnecessary on the “physical infrastructure” portion of the proposed American Jobs Plan, according to Casey, a Democrat.

But Republican support is less likely on the rest of the Jobs Plan and on The American Families plan, according to Biden.

“(Still) we need all of it,” Casey said, speaking from a stage in the campus parking lot.

The goal is to get as much as possible done by Labor Day on the jobs and families initiatives, Casey said.

To take advantage of reconciliation — which would require permission from the Senate parliamentarian — it might be necessary to combine many of the provisions into a single measure, according to Casey.

It also might be necessary to isolate other provisions and attempt to pass them separately, he said.

There are some that probably won’t be amenable to reconciliation, and for those, the Democrats might need to eliminate the filibuster, which requires 60 Senate votes for the passage of standard bills, he said. Casey favors eliminating the filibuster.

Among initiatives that could help the country in this current moment of opportunity would be a revival of the Civilian Conservation Corps, a Franklin Delano Roosevelt initiative from the 1930s, Casey said. It would put people to work and help with their training, he said.

Another is the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which is needed to counter a barrage of Republican initiatives at the state level that Democrats have panned as intended to make voting difficult for Democrats — especially people of color.

The John Lewis Act would help to neutralize the “dark money” from billionaires that has poisoned the electoral process and to bolster ethics in the system, Casey said.

The right to vote has probably never “been more imperiled than right now,” Casey said.

The current national polarization is unfortunate, especially in light of it having disappeared for several months last year, after the COVID-19 pandemic began, he said.

That shift resulted in near unanimous passage of the first five COVID-19 relief bills, he said.

But it ended decisively when the Biden administration proposed the American Rescue Plan, he said.

Argument is fine, even loud argument, Casey said.

But it’s not OK when one side loses respect for the other and invective and vitriol ensue, he said.

Still, most members of Congress don’t engage in invective and vitriol, he said.

“(Nevertheless) there are some jerks,” he said.

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