The House passed a $3.5 trillion budget resolution on Tuesday, advancing one part of the process to enact President Biden’s landmark domestic legislation — a sweeping economic spending package that seeks to expand the nation’s social safety net after hours of infighting amongst the Democratic Party.
The vote was 220-212, largely along party lines capped off hours of infighting among House Democrats over the order in which they would vote on passage on the bipartisan infrastructure separately or combined with the budget resolution and the rule to proceed on the $3.5 trillion package framework. A group of nine rebellious moderate Democrats, led by Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), had warned for weeks that they planned to stop House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), laid out legislative agenda in combining both bills to pass simultaneously. The group became ten with Rep. Stephaine Murray (D-FL) joining ship to threaten Democratic leaders of tanking the budget reconciliation if they didn’t get their demands of having an immediate vote on the Senate recently passed bipartisan infrastructure bill first and as a standalone vote.
As Pelosi attempted to break the stalemate Monday night with the rebellious group of moderate Democrats, Biden was brought into the Democratic drama. With his legislative ambitions hanging in the balance, Biden focused his priorities away from the Afghanistan crisis to make personal phone calls to some of the holdouts, including Murphy urging them to fall in line and get behind the package, according to a congressional aide who spoke to The Floridian on the matter.
After a day standoff filled with a flurry of negotiations, Pelosi and the 10 moderates struck a deal that was key to advancing Democrats’ top three priorities. While the moderates didn’t get their demand met, they walked away declaring victory, with a promise from Pelosi and Democratic leaders to be included in the draft of the spending package legislation and a working date to vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill scheduled no later than Sept. 27.
Pelosi issued a statement committing to passing the “bipartisan infrastructure bill by September 27” and “to rally House Democratic support for its passage.” However, the agreement with the moderates has triggered anger amongst the progressive Democrats who vowed to tank the infrastructure bill if their “human infrastructure” is included in the reconciliation package when it comes up for a vote.
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), the Progressive Caucus whip, doesn’t view Sept. 27 as a guaranteed date; warning votes could slip if the reconciliation bill isn’t ready by then.
“There’s still work that needs to get done, and I don’t believe that that’s actually going to happen,” Omar told reporters according to the pool report. “If we are able to finish our work by the 27th by all means, let’s have the vote. If we are not, we’re going to wait until that work gets done.”
The budget resolution was “deemed” adopted when the House passed a rule setting debate floor action on the Senate-passed infrastructure bill and advances voting rights legislation, requiring states to first receive federal “preclearance” before making changes to their voting laws. The rule also included language that ensures the moderate’s deal on the date for a vote on the infrastructure bill before recessing until Sept. 20.
In adopting the budget resolution blueprint, Democratic-led committees in both chambers have a tight Sept. 15 deadline to assemble the legislation. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) told reporters in a conference call ahead of the vote that he had set aside the first two weeks of September as committee work weeks, which he claims should provide the House committees with plenty of time to complete the markups of their sections to the reconciliation package.
The $3.5 trillion “human infrastructure” budget blueprint conjured out by Senate Democrats earlier in July and narrowly passed Senate earlier this month, setting the stage for Democrats to pour billions, increasing taxes while adding to the deficit to fund their focused based social safety net programs. Spearheaded by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), the resolution includes tuition-free community college, free universal Pre-K, paid family leave, expansion of Medicare, and providing amnesty.
However, it is highly unlikely that the mammoth reconciliation bill will be finished and ready to put together for a full-written legislative text by Sept. 27.
Democrats now will be able to use the budget reconciliation process to pass a bill by a simple majority, meaning the bill can pass by a simple majority and without a single vote from Senate Republicans. Still, the Democrats can’t afford to lose not one of the 50 Democrats in order for Vice President Kamala Harris to cast the tie-breaking vote. However, both Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) have publicly expressed “serious concern: over the price tag of the reconciliation bill.
After the vote, Biden, who delayed remarks for over five hours that were slated to only address the latest evacuation efforts in Afghanistan and his closed-door virtual emergency meeting with Group of Seven leaders on the issue hours prior, focused on pivoting to talk about the Congressional matter. The president praised House Democrats, in particular Pelosi, for her “masterful” leadership in the approval of the “human infrastructure” blueprint, calling it progress toward passing his proposals and securing a “historic investment that’s going to transform America, cut taxes for working families and position the American economy for long-term, long-term economic growth.”
The end of September will be action-packed full of legislation for Congress as they also need to pass the fiscal year 2022 appropriations bills to keep the government funded before the fiscal year ends Sept. 30, as well as a measure to raise or suspend the debt limit.