House and Senate. The House is holding committee hearings this week, but both chambers are in recess and will return to session next week.
Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill. After much to-ing and fro-ing, the House held a vote late Friday, Nov. 5, on the bipartisan infrastructure bill that the Senate approved almost two months ago. Ensuring that the measure was indeed bipartisan, a handful of Republicans (13) joined all but six Democrats to approve the measure, 228-206. In their Aug. 10 vote, Senate Republicans proved to be much more supportive, when 19 of their 50 members, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, voted with all Democrats to approve the measure, 69-30. The White House plans to schedule a bipartisan signing ceremony soon.
Reconciliation. House leadership had hoped that Members would vote last week on both the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the Build Back Better reconciliation bill. That clearly didn’t happen. Moderate Democrats said they first wanted to see a score of the reconciliation bill from the Congressional Budget Office. Five Democrats – Reps. Ed Case (Hawaii), Josh Gottheimer (N.J.), Stephanie Murphy (Fla.), Kathleen Rice (N.Y.), and Kurt Schrader (Ore.) – released a statement Friday saying they would “commit to voting for the Build Back Better Act, in its current form other than technical changes, as expeditiously as we receive fiscal information from the Congressional Budget Office – but in no event later than the week of November 15th – consistent with the toplines for revenues and investments" in the estimates that the White House released Nov. 4. The statement added that if the CBO numbers are inconsistent with the White House estimates, “we remain committed to working to resolve any discrepancies in order to pass the Build Back Better legislation.”
CBO has been working since September on the reconciliation scores and has produced estimates for over half of the committees that reported provisions, but major sections remain to be scored, including the work of the Energy and Commerce panel and the Education and Labor Committee. In addition, a new drug pricing proposal that was unveiled last week has yet to be scored. If the CBO score isn’t finalized by the week of Nov. 15, the House could still take a vote on the reconciliation bill if the moderate Democrats feel they have sufficient cost estimates.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has said he would like the Senate to take up a House-passed reconciliation bill the week of Nov. 15. However, the budget reconciliation rules preclude the Senate from considering the measure without a complete scoring. Also, there are numerous questions yet to be answered on the Senate side, including possible changes related to drug pricing, immigration, paid leave, and the deduction for state and local taxes (SALT), not to mention other issues that might be raised by Senators Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.).
Even though the House did not vote last week on the reconciliation bill itself, it took a procedural step forward by approving the rule that will govern debate for the measure. The rule, which does not allow for floor amendments to the reconciliation bill, was approved 221-213 early Saturday morning on a party-line vote.
Committee Action of Note:
Ohio Special Elections. The House has two new members from Ohio – one Democrat and one Republican, bringing the total House count to 221Ds/213Rs, with one vacancy. In the Nov. 2 special elections, Democrat Shontel Brown won the 11th District seat formerly held by HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge, while Republican Mike Carey captured the 15th District seat held by fellow Republican Steve Stivers.
Florida Special Election. There is now only one vacancy in the House – the seat held by the late Florida Democrat Alcee Hastings, who died in April. The seat is expected to remain in Democratic hands, but the outcome of the Nov. 2 Democratic primary is still too close to call. Eleven Democrats were on the ballot, and the top two vote-getters (Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick and Dale Holness) are separated by only a handful of votes. The final results will be certified on Nov. 12. The general election will be Jan. 11.