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Legislative Update

House. The House is in recess.

Senate. The Senate is considering the bipartisan infrastructure deal.

Bipartisan Deal / Budget Resolution. Now that the legislative language for the bipartisan infrastructure deal has been completed and offered as an amendment to legislation on the Senate floor, the outstanding questions are: “How long will the Senate amendment process take?” and “Assuming the Senate passes the measure, when will the House vote?”

Senators, especially Republicans, are expected to file numerous amendments, and it will be up to Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to come to an agreement on which amendments will actually be voted on. If an amendment is the least bit controversial, it will require 60 votes for approval. The general speculation is that a vote on passage could occur by Thursday. This speculation is likely based, in part, on the fact that many Senators are planning to attend the Aug. 6 funeral of former Senator Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), who died July 26 after a bicycle accident. (President Biden is also said to be considering attending the funeral.)

If Schumer is successful in his plan to round up 60 votes for passage of the bipartisan deal, he will next turn to consideration of the FY 2022 budget resolution, possibly this weekend. The resolution will call for various House and Senate committees to draft reconciliation legislation that will provide and pay for $3.5 trillion over 10 years in spending initiatives. While the resolution itself will not provide details of those spending initiatives, Democrats will no doubt issue press releases touting their intent to use reconciliation to provide paid family and medical leave; expand Medicare benefits to cover dental, vision, and hearing services; and combat climate change.

A budget resolution cannot be filibustered, but the rules provide for as much as 50 hours of debate, evenly divided between the two sides, followed by votes on an unlimited number of amendments, i.e., the vote-a-rama that tends to drag on for hours. With Senators anxious to begin their August recess, Democrats are hoping a vote on passage can be taken next week. All 50 Democrats have indicated they will vote for the resolution, allowing it to pass with the tie-breaking vote of Vice President Harris.

When will the House act? The House is not scheduled to return from the recess for floor votes until Sept. 20, so there has been speculation that Members could return before then to pass the budget resolution. To appease her progressive wing, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said the House will pass the budget resolution but will hold off voting on the bipartisan deal until the Senate passes a reconciliation bill. However, Democratic moderates are now saying they won’t vote for the budget resolution unless the House passes the bipartisan deal.

Speaker Pelosi is going to have to juggle the interests of both sides in deciding how to proceed, and she has very little maneuvering room. The division in the House is now 220 Democrats to 212 Republicans, so Pelosi can only afford three defections from the ranks if all Republicans remain in opposition. One Democrat, Rep. Kurt Schrader of Oregon, has already said he will oppose the budget resolution because of its cost.

FY 2022 Appropriations. Three spending measures will see action this week in the Senate Appropriations Committee, starting with a subcommittee markup this evening of the Agriculture-FDA bill. That measure as well as the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs bill and the Energy and Water bill will be marked up by the full committee on Thursday. Last week, the House passed nine of the 12 FY 2022 spending bills – all except Defense, Homeland Security, and Commerce-Justice-Science.

Committee Action of Note:

  • Monday, August 2:
    • Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies business meeting to mark up the FY2022 spending bill.
  • Tuesday, August 3:
    • Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee Executive Session to consider nominations and various bills dealing with pregnant workers, suicide prevention, and assistive technology.
    • Senate Energy and Natural Resources hearings to examine nominations.
    • Senate Judiciary Committee hearing to examine student loan bankruptcy reform.
    • Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs business meeting to consider the nomination of Damon Y. Smith to be General Counsel of the Department of Housing and Urban Development; to be immediately followed by an oversight hearing to examine regulators and our financial system.
    • Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Protection hearing to examine protecting consumers from financial fraud and scams in the pandemic recovery economy.
  • Wednesday, August 4:
    • Senate Appropriations Committee business meeting to hold a full committee markup on the FY2022 Energy and Water, Ag-FDA, and MilCon-VA spending bills.
    • Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on nominations.
    • Senate Commerce Committee executive session to consider various bills and nominations to the NTSB and for Assistant Secretaries of Transportation.
  • Thursday, August 5:
    • Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs hearing to examine HUD nominations.

Political Update

Ohio Primaries. Ohio will hold primaries tomorrow in two special elections – one to replace Rep. Marcia Fudge (D), who is now HUD Secretary, and another to fill the seat of Rep. Steve Stivers (R), who now heads the Ohio Chamber of Commerce. In Fudge’s 11th congressional district, which is expected to remain in Democratic hands, the two Democratic frontrunners are Nina Sanders, who has the backing of Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and Shontel Brown, who has been endorsed by House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) and Fudge’s mother. Fudge is officially neutral.

Stivers’ 15th district race has 11 Republicans and two Democrats in their respective primaries. Since the district is expected to remain in Republican hands, the focus is on the GOP race, where Mike Carey is endorsed by former President Trump and Jeff LaRe is the favorite of Stivers. The general elections to fill both seats will be Nov. 2.

Texas Special Election. In last Tuesday’s race to replace the late Rep. Ron Wright (R-Tex.), Jeff Ellzey (R) defeated Susan Wright, Rep. Wright’s widow who was endorsed by former President Trump. Ellzey was sworn in on Friday.

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