Congress To Vote On Things Monday On Capitol Hill, YMMV
The House of Representatives and the United States Senate are planning on voting on things, the question for congress is what exactly will they be voting on.
Here’s where Congress is on each of these priorities:
→ Government funding and the debt limit: The Senate will vote on a cloture motion today to proceed to the House-passed short-term funding bill, which would keep federal agencies open until Dec. 3 while suspending the debt limit until Dec. 2022. It will fail since Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and his GOP colleagues are opposed to any debt-limit increase. What happens following today’s failed vote is still unclear.
One scenario — the most likely — is that the Senate strips out the debt-limit provision and sends the bill back to the House with broad bipartisan support. The House passes the bill, Biden signs it, and a government shutdown is averted for two months. But the debt-limit problem remains unresolved, so Democrats don’t like it.
We’ve also heard Democrats may offer a two or three-week continuing resolution, which would essentially line up a government shutdown with a debt default. The idea here is to try to ratchet up the political pressure on Republicans to allow a debt-limit vote, even if they vote no.
But this approach is extremely risky and doesn’t make a lot of sense to us. There’s no way McConnell and Senate Republicans would agree to let this move forward, so there would still be the threat of a government shutdown at midnight on Thursday. And it doesn’t solve the debt-limit issue either, since McConnell isn’t going to budge there. Democrats can scream at McConnell about hypocrisy, and they have an argument, yet Dems still control the White House and Congress. So it will ultimately fall on them to solve this.
On another note: We’ve heard from several sources that the Senate may attach Iron Dome funding to whatever CR it sends back to the House, but this is not set. Iron Dome money in the government funding bill would be complicated for House Democratic leadership.
→ Infrastructure: The big question here is whether Pelosi’s unremitting pressure campaign and blazing-fast timeline will convince progressives to support the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill this Thursday even though reconciliation isn’t done. There will be a tremendous push from Pelosi and the rest of the leadership to vote yes. Pelosi and Schumer are also working on something to offer progressives in reconciliation by the time of that vote. More on that below.
BTW: Don’t expect Democratic moderates to flip their lid that Pelosi is pushing the vote to Thursday. They feel fine about it — as long as the bill passes this week.
→ Reconciliation: We spoke to a bunch of lawmakers and aides involved in the House-Senate discussions on the $3.5 trillion reconciliation package. Pelosi, Schumer and their top aides, along with committee chairs and White House officials, are scrambling to come up with a “framework” to offer to progressives this week, prior to the bipartisan infrastructure vote in the House.
This is the key to the infrastructure vote strategy from leadership. If Pelosi can show progressives there is substantial momentum on the reconciliation package, even if it’s not complete yet, she can hold down “no” votes among progressives. Remember, she doesn’t have to get all of them. She has a three-vote margin among Democrats, and between five and 10 Republicans are expected to vote for the bill. So Pelosi has a little leeway here. Not much, but some. She will use Thursday’s expiration of transportation spending authority as a talking point to say that Congress needs to act — and the work on infrastructure will continue.
What this “framework” looks like, and how much specificity it offers, is critical. There’s not a deal on a topline number yet. Pelosi made clear during her Sunday morning appearance on ABC’s “This Week” that the overall cost will be less than $3.5 trillion, calling that “self-evident.” But she didn’t say how much, or give an idea on what the tax provisions would look like, nor how the big policy fights among Democrats on Medicare, Medicaid and Obamacare are going to be resolved.
Let’s also not underestimate the tremendous distrust that progressives have for moderates right now. Three moderates on the Energy and Commerce Committee already voted against the Medicare prescription drug bargaining plan put forth by the House, and Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.) voted against the Ways and Means reconciliation markup. There’s clearly enough moderate opposition to sink the reconciliation package. Which means progressives feel like they must get some commitment from them before the infrastructure vote. This is the line Pelosi is trying to walk.