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Legislative Update

House. Before leaving last week for its recess, the House passed and sent to the President the CHIPS-Plus bill, which is now called the CHIPS and Science Act.

Senate. Today the Senate is planning to vote again on a cloture motion that will allow Senators to take a final vote on burn pit legislation that previously passed the Senate 84-14. Last week, the cloture vote to cut off debate failed to garner the necessary 60 votes. The Senate could also take up a resolution ratifying Finland and Sweden’s accession to NATO. There are reportedly three holds on the resolution, so party leaders will have to negotiate a time agreement that limits debate if the resolution is to be considered before the Senate begins its August recess. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer would also like to bring the revised reconciliation bill to the floor this week.

Reconciliation. The Democrats’ reconciliation bill has been revived by an agreement between Schumer and Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and now has a new name, the Inflation Reduction Act. The Senate parliamentarian will be meeting with Democratic and Republican staff as they make their arguments as to why certain provisions do or don’t meet the rules for reconciliation. Also, the Joint Tax Committee and Congressional Budget Office are working on scores for provisions in the legislation that was unveiled Wednesday night.

While Schumer would like for all the parliamentary questions to be resolved before bringing the bill to the floor, that isn’t technically required and the Leader could decide to begin Senate debate later this week. Republicans would retain the option to raise parliamentary objections on the floor.

The first step in the Senate floor process is the motion to proceed to the legislation, which needs a simple majority. Vice President Harris was needed to break a 50-50 tie in March 2021 when the Senate took up the American Rescue Plan. [Senator John Cornyn (R-Tex.) announced today that he has tested positive for Covid, so it is unclear when he will be available for floor votes.]

Immediately after the vote last March on the motion to proceed to the reconciliation measure, Republicans asked the clerk to read every word of the 628-page proposal, an exercise that lasted almost 11 hours, from 3:21 p.m. on March 4 until 2:05 a.m. on March 5. The Inflation Reduction Act is 725 pages.

Once the reading is completed, if it’s requested, time for debate is limited to 20 hours, equally divided between the parties. In 2021, Democrats offered a unanimous consent request to limit debate to three hours and since no Republicans were in the chamber at 2:05 in the morning, the request was approved. This time around, that maneuver probably won’t work, but Democrats are expected to yield back most of their allotted 10 hours while Republicans will use all of theirs.

While the reconciliation process limits the time for debate, there is no limit on the number of amendments that can be voted on after debate time has expired. All amendments offered during the vote-a-rama will require majority votes for approval, except those that raise points of order that require 60 votes. Roll call votes are supposed to be limited to 10 minutes.

If Schumer can keep his Democratic colleagues healthy and present for the vote-a-rama, he is hoping for final passage this weekend at the latest. The House would then return next week for a vote on passage of the Senate bill. There are numerous variables that Schumer cannot control, so there are no guarantees that he can stick to the schedule he envisions.

Political Update

Primary Races. On Aug. 2, voters will go to the polls in Arizona, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, and Washington. On Aug. 4, Tennessee will hold primaries.

In Arizona, venture capitalist Blake Masters is leading businessman Jim Lamon and others in the Republican GOP primary race for Senate. The winner will face Democratic Senator Mark Kelly.

Two House races in Michigan are of note. In the 3rd District, Republican Rep. Peter Meijer is facing a strong challenge from John Gibbs, who worked at HUD during the Trump Administration. In the 11th District, redistricting is forcing Democratic Reps. Andy Levin and Haley Stevens to face off against each other.

Washington uses a top-two primary system in which all candidates appear on the same ballot. The top two vote-getters move on to the general election in November, regardless of their party affiliation. In the 8th District, Democratic Rep. Kim Schrier and 10 other candidates are on the ballot, with Schrier expected to nab one of the top two slots. Observers expect the other slot will go to one of three Republicans – Army Ranger veteran Jesse Jensen, King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn, or lawyer-businessman Matt Larkin.

In the race for the Missouri Senate seat being vacated by Senator Roy Blunt (R), attention has focused on the Republican primary. The latest polls show Attorney General Eric Schmitt leading Rep. Vicky Hartzler, former Gov. Eric Greitens, and Rep. Billy Long. The Democratic race pits Trudy Busch Valentine against Lucas Kunce.

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