Senate. The Senate is in session this week and will continue consideration of nominations. On Wednesday, the Senate will vote on whether to take up the Freedom to Vote Act, legislation that would make numerous changes to U.S. election laws. While the revised bill now has the backing of all 50 Democratic Senators, it does not have enough Republican support to overcome the 60-vote filibuster hurdle.
House. The House will consider numerous bills under suspension as well as bills to provide resources to victims of domestic violence and to protect the rights of nursing mothers in the workplace.
Reconciliation. Talks continue behind the scenes among Democrats as to what should be included in a pared-down reconciliation bill. Last week Senators Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) held a conference call with House moderates and Sinema also talked with the President; today the President has been making calls to House and Senate Democrats and met at the White House with Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), the leader of the Congressional Progressive Caucus; tomorrow the President will meet separately with progressive and moderate Democrats. The progressive meeting at 2 p.m. will be led by Rep. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.). The moderate meeting at 4:30 will be led by Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.).
Clean Energy. Lacking any concrete developments on the reconciliation front, there has been considerable speculation as to which provisions will be cut back or dropped altogether. One proposal that could end up on the cutting room floor is the Clean Electricity Performance Program or CEPP. The CEPP provision, which was crafted by Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.) and included in the House Energy and Commerce portion of reconciliation, is a $150-billion initiative designed to reduce emissions. The CEPP would require electric providers to increase the amount of clean energy distributed to customers by 4% year over year. Providers that meet the goal would get grants from the Department of Energy, while those falling short would be penalized and owe money to the federal government.
For several weeks, Senator Manchin has raised concerns about details of the CEPP and questioned why the government would pay electric providers to reduce emissions if they were going to do it anyway. Then, on Oct. 15, the New York Times reported that Senator Manchin has “indicated to the administration that he was now completely opposed to a clean energy program.” As a result, White House and Congressional staffers have not only renewed their efforts to revise the CEPP to secure Manchin’s support but are also looking at other incentives to encourage the production and use of clean energy.
Manchin’s opposition has also provided an opportunity for Senate Finance Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) to tout his yet-to-be-finalized proposal to impose a carbon tax. It remains unlikely, though, that a carbon tax will have enough support to be included in the reconciliation package, even if there is an exemption for gasoline in order to honor President Biden’s commitment not to raise taxes on those making less than $400,000.
FY 2022 Appropriations. This afternoon Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) released the remaining nine FY 2022 appropriations bills that the committee has yet to consider. While the committee gave bipartisan support to the three bills it approved in August (Energy and Water, Military Construction and Veteran’s Affairs, and Agriculture and Rural Development), Republicans are not on board with this latest batch of spending proposals.
Democrats are proposing a 13% increase over FY 2021 for non-defense programs and a 5% increase for defense programs. Republicans are pressing for equal increases in both pots of money. Given the fundamental differences between the two parties, most observers believe that appropriations bills will not be enacted by Dec. 3, when the current continuing resolution expires, thereby necessitating another CR to keep the government open. In late July the House approved nine of the 12 appropriations measures. The remaining three are Commerce/Justice/Science, Defense, and Homeland Security. A topline summary of the nine Senate bills unveiled today is available here.
Committee Action of Note: