Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer backed a push from his colleague, Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, to include Medicare expansions in President Joe Biden’s infrastructure and families plans.
The proposed expansion would add hearing, vision and dental coverage to Medicare, and would potentially be included in Democrats’ proposed reconciliation package that could pass without a single Republican vote if Democrats are united in their support of it.
“There is a gaping hole in Medicare that leaves out dental, vision, and hearing coverage,” Schumer said in a tweet Sunday. “This is a serious problem.”
“I’m working with @SenSanders to push to include dental, vision, and hearing Medicare coverage in the American Jobs and Families Plans,” he added.
Schumer met with key Democrats Wednesday to discuss a potential reconciliation package in order to pass key Democratic priorities to which Republicans remain uniformly opposed. Twenty senators – 10 from each party – agreed on a narrower $579 billion package last week that focuses largely on physical infrastructure, but omits funding for child care and climate change technology.
Some progressive Democrats have objected to the bipartisan compromise over its scope and proposed expenditures, potentially jeopardizing its passage given their extremely slim House and Senate majorities while any package would need 60 Senate votes to overcome a filibuster.
“One of the concerns I do have about the bipartisan bill is how they are going to pay for their proposals,” Sanders told “Meet the Press” Sunday. “Some of the speculation is raising a gas tax, which I don’t support, a fee on electric vehicles, privatization of infrastructure, those are proposals that I would not support.”
Schumer said during a news conference Sunday that adopting a Medicare expansion would be difficult given Democrats’ extremely narrow Senate majority. Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and more have publicly committed to passing an infrastructure on a bipartisan basis, and have not endorsed their party’s push for an additional reconciliation package.
“This is absolutely an uphill legislative effort because there are some in the Senate who really don’t think this is a problem worth fixing, and so we have to galvanize support from the public,” Schumer said, according to the New York Daily News.
Spokespersons for Manchin and Sinema did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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