Updated at 12:30 p.m. on February 16.
Senate Democrats today unveiled about 20 infrastructure, education, and “innovation” proposals, many of which they have offered previously, that will help set the chamber’s floor schedule this year.
The agenda includes a general call to simplify the tax code by eliminating “special-interest tax giveways and extra tax breaks for millionaire and billionaires." Democrats also endorsed President Obama’s call for a five-year spending freeze. Even before the release of the agenda, the freeze was attacked by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., as "timid" and inadequate.
Democrats grouped their plans under the headings of “out-educate, out-innovate, and “out-build," and dubbed the proposals as collectively aimed at "winning the future" in an effort to adopt Obama's State of the Union rhetoric. Democratic aides said that the proposals are almost all based on bills that have had bipartisan support. Still, with Republicans denouncing as unaffordable almost any infrastructure spending, the Democratic agenda faces poor prospects in the House and an uphill road in the Senate.
All Senate Democrats signed off on the agenda at a lunch meeting on Tuesday and a retreat last week, aides said.
In an indication that Democrats will build the agenda around existing legislation, the package includes the FAA reauthorization bill already on the Senate floor, a patent-reform bill passed by the Judiciary Committee, a cybersecurity bill, and the reauthorization of small-business innovation programs.
Under the “out-innovate” heading, Democrats urge expanding the research and development tax credit and creating a “Clean Energy Deployment Administration" with a mix of Energy Department employees and private-sector officials to help move clean-energy technology to the marketplace. Democrats also call for rebates and low-interest loans to drive the renovation of homes and buildings to increase energy efficiency.
Infrastructure initiatives include a surface transportation authorization bill of unspecified length; extending an “America builds” bond program; a previously defeated proposal to tweak the tax code to prevent movement of jobs offshore; a proposal to increase high-speed Internet access; doubling an advanced energy manufacturing tax credit; and investment in a smart-energy grid, a measure touted by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
Democrats also outlined a bill to boost efficiency standards for electric appliances produced in the U.S.
A bill backed by Senate Democratic Policy and Communications Chairman Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., to penalize China for currency manipulation is included in the agenda as well.
Education proposals include reauthorization of a program to retrain workers and other education programs. Democrats also want to expand a $2,500 tax credit to families with children in college.