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Senate votes to begin debate on Democrats' $3.5 trillion budget resolution

Fresh off a bipartisan infrastructure victory, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer moved swiftly on Tuesday to advance Senate Democrats' $3.5 trillion budget resolution — with the Senate voting 50-49 to begin debate.

Why it matters: The budget lays the groundwork for Democrat-led committees to begin drafting sections of a massive spending bill that would mark the biggest expansion of America's social safety net in generations.

  • But this is just the beginning. Once the budget resolution passes — a vote that could come as early as tonight — it will take months for the House and Senate to negotiate and draft the final product.
  • Final passage of the $3.5 trillion spending bill, which will require all 50 Democratic senators to sign on, will likely not come until late fall.

Between the lines: Democrats' plans to ram through the rest of their priorities through a one-party reconciliation bill could eliminate the goodwill built up between the two sides during negotiations on the $1.2 trillion bipartisan "hard" infrastructure package.

What's next: The process of passing the budget resolution — which only needs a simple majority (50 votes) to succeed — is expected to move fairly quickly.

  • Senators are eager to get out of town for August recess, having already lost several days due to the debate over the bipartisan infrastructure package.
  • Republicans made clear they are willing to give back several hours of debate in exchange for an early start to "vote-a-rama" — the long and largely political process of forcing difficult votes on amendments for substantial legislation.

Behind the scenes: Republicans made clear to Senate leadership they wanted the most amendment votes in the shortest amount of time possible, and hoped to begin the voting process as soon as they could after Schumer moved to advance the measure.

  • The goal of the minority during vote-a-ramas is normally to make passage of the bill as painful as possible, and also force senators to go on the record on certain issues that could be used in campaign messaging down the line.
  • But members are already worn out after multiple long days and late nights dealing with the other infrastructure bill.
  • This process can only be sped up if all 100 senators agree to expedite it.

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