September 24, 2021
Major Legislative Deadlines Imminent
Government Funding, Infrastructure, Reconciliation Dominate the News
This week in Washington, moderate and progressive Democrats have drawn their battle lines over the reconciliation/infrastructure dual-tracking, and the conflict currently seems intractable. Simultaneously, conflict over raising the debt ceiling threatens to sideline a continuing resolution to keep the government open. Ultimately, things in Washington are constantly evolving.
What You Might Have Missed
The Ongoing “Dual Track” Battle. The big news of the week is the battle between progressive and moderate Democrats on both sides of the Capitol over the “Build Back Better Act” reconciliation bill and the bipartisan infrastructure legislation. Both wings of the party are in a standoff, with moderates refusing to vote for the reconciliation bill without a simultaneous vote on the infrastructure bill. Progressives similarly won’t vote for a bipartisan bill until the reconciliation bill is ready and voted upon. Both sides fear that the other will defect from their camp’s preferred policy.
In the Senate, the main point of contention is the price tag of the reconciliation bill, with moderate Democrats seeking a $1.5 – $2 trillion package. Progressives are outraged, arguing that the $3.5 trillion figure already was a compromise amount. President Biden, Speaker Pelosi, and Majority Leader Schumer are doing all they can to project a sense of calm, with Speaker Pelosi saying in a press interview that “I’ve always been very calm about this because it’s like, it happens all the same way, all this bluster, but at the end of the day we will be unified for the American people.” In the meantime, Republicans are expected to uniformly vote “no” on reconciliation, and about half a dozen to two dozen House Republicans are expected to vote “yes” on the infrastructure bill. While House Republican leadership is advising its Members to oppose the latter, Senate Republicans have been pushing their House colleagues to vote in favor.
Overall, however, there seems to be a sense of urgency from Democrats across the spectrum, especially as the midterms rapidly approach. With the fate of the House and Senate hanging in the balance, congressional Democrats are hoping to cinch this marquee accomplishment before then.
House Votes to Approve NDAA, Continuing Resolution. Several key votes happened in the House this week. First, the House passed the FY22 NDAA with a wide bipartisan majority. This legislation included $24 billion over the President’s budget request. The Senate now must pass its version and both houses must reconcile their differences before the bill hits the President’s desk.
The House also passed, along party lines, a continuing resolution (CR) this week to the tune of $35 billion, which includes funding for communities struck by recent natural disasters and aid for Afghan refugees. The main holdup was the suspension of the debt limit; Republicans believe that Democrats should just include it in the reconciliation package. While the Senate will consider the House-passed version of the CR, it’ll likely fail. It is then probable that the House will pass a new CR without the debt limit piece, which the Senate will pass. The fiscal year ends next week, so something will have to break in the short-term.
Police Reform Talks End. This week, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) informed Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) that police reform talks were over. Having languished for months, this should not come as a surprise to observers; however, following one of the most public displays of mass demonstration in years, it is a blow to bipartisanship in the Senate.
What You Should Be Watching
The Virginia Gubernatorial Race. This week, a Washington Post poll found the Virginia gubernatorial race in a dead heat. While the race obviously has focused on state issues, this election is usually a fairly good bellwether as to where Americans are, politically, nearly a year after the incumbent President took office.
Vaccine Booster Shots: Who Qualifies? Today, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky endorsed the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices’ (ACIP) recommendation for a booster shot for people older than 65 or have an underlying health condition. Walensky went further than ACIP’s recommendation, extending it to workers in high-risk industries. You can read the press release here.