House. This week and next have been designated as committee work weeks so there are no upcoming votes in the House. Members have been advised that they will be given 72-hours’ notice if they need to return to D.C. for votes.
Senate. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer plans to hold a procedural vote this week on legislation the House passed Sept. 29 to suspend the debt ceiling through Dec. 16, 2022. Republicans have made it clear they will continue to oppose the measure, so the vote count will fall short of the necessary 60 needed to move forward.
Debt Limit. In a letter this morning to his Democratic colleagues, Leader Schumer said, “we must get a bill to the President’s desk dealing with the debt limit by the end of the week…. We do not have the luxury of waiting until Oct. 18th,” the deadline set by Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen for congressional action. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell responded to Schumer’s letter with his own letter to the President saying it is up to Democrats to address the debt ceiling on their own, without Republican support.
McConnell wants Democrats to use the reconciliation process to raise the debt limit, and last week the Senate parliamentarian gave the green light to this option, advising that if lawmakers were to pass a revised budget resolution and then consider a separate debt ceiling bill, they would not jeopardize the reconciliation process currently being used for the $3.5 trillion proposal.
Democrats, though, are adamant that they won’t use reconciliation to address the debt ceiling. Republicans are equally dug in that they won’t vote for legislation that suspends or raises the debt limit. This impasse, then, has led to increased speculation that Senate Democrats may try to use the “nuclear option” to change the filibuster rules for this one issue. Under the nuclear option, a change to the filibuster rules could be approved by a simple majority. While a number of Democrats have voiced their opposition to an overall change in the filibuster rules, Schumer would likely make the argument that this action is only for one specific purpose – the debt limit – and is necessary because of Republican opposition to addressing the matter. Whether this will be the path that Democrats take is still unknown as no one truly knows yet how this impasse will be resolved.
Reconciliation. After the House failed to vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill last week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called for lawmakers to act on both the infrastructure bill and a scaled-back reconciliation measure by Oct. 31. That date is the new deadline for Congress to pass a reauthorization of highway programs, following enactment Oct. 1 of a one-month extension of those programs. A five-year extension of surface transportation programs is included in the bipartisan bill that awaits a House vote.
Many feel that the Halloween deadline for agreement on reconciliation could prove to be on the optimistic side as much work needs to be done to scale back both the revenue and spending sides of the $3.5 trillion measure Democrats have been pursuing. One major wrinkle is that there still is no agreement on what the topline number will be. In the July 28 memo that saw the light of day last week, Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) told Leader Schumer that his topline was $1.5 trillion. The President, though, is hoping he can convince Manchin to accept a figure in the range of $1.9 trillion to $2.3 trillion.
Committee Action of Note: