Senate. The Senate will continue to consider nominations and could hold a vote on whether to take up a revised voting rights bill that has the backing of all 50 Democratic Senators. However, the proposal does not have enough Republican support to win the 60 votes needed to cut off debate.
House. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said this afternoon that the continuing resolution needed to avoid an Oct. 1 government shutdown will include a suspension of the debt limit through December 2022, emergency disaster relief, and funding to help resettle Afghan evacuees. The CR will reportedly provide funding through Dec. 3, but details have not yet been released. While the CR is expected to pass the House the week, the question remains whether the Senate will provide 60 votes to take up the bill. If not, how will the question of the debt ceiling be addressed? In addition to the CR, the House also plans to vote this week on the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act and legislation dealing with abortion rights.
Reconciliation. House committees met the Sept. 15 deadline to report their reconciliation assignments, but the outlook for future action is hazy. Even action in the House Budget Committee, whose only responsibility is to package the bills together, has been delayed as lawmakers wait for proposals to be scored for their revenue impact. The fact that the Budget Committee won’t act this week, as had been anticipated, is not particularly significant; more important is the question of when Democrats will submit proposed changes in the package to the House Rules Committee, and the answer to that question is dependent on backroom negotiations between the House and Senate on the size and details of the reconciliation bill.
Key to those negotiations is what will be the scope of the package, and while there are Democratic pockets of opposition to a $3.5 trillion bill, there is no clear indication of what the total should be. Then there are the substantive objections to provisions in the reconciliation package, including drug pricing proposals. In particular, three Democratic members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee – Reps. Kurt Schrader (Ore.), Scott Peters (Calif.), and Kathleen Rice (N.Y.) – and Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) have voiced their objection to those proposals. Also, Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.) voted against the Ways and Means Committee package that included drug pricing language identical to the provision that was defeated in the Energy and Commerce Committee. Given the margins in the House and Senate, Pelosi and Schumer need their votes for final approval of the reconciliation bill.
Still another problem facing the Democratic leadership on this issue is whether drug pricing provisions will pass muster with the Senate parliamentarian. On Sunday, the parliamentarian, Elizabeth MacDonough, weighed in on another Democratic priority – immigration. MacDonough advised Democrats that an immigration proposal to create a path to residency and citizenship for undocumented immigrants won’t comply with the Byrd rule. In a three-page memo, MacDonough concluded that “the policy changes of this proposal far outweigh the budgetary impact scored to it and it is not appropriate for inclusion in reconciliation.” Leader Schumer subsequently issued a statement that “Senate Democrats have prepared alternate proposals and will be holding additional meetings with the Senate parliamentarian in the coming days.”
Many House Democrats would like to make sure that whatever bill goes to the House floor is as compatible as possible with language that can clear the Senate. The best guess is that the earliest the House would vote on such a bill would be mid-October, with other forecasters predicting November or December. As Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.) said of the complicated process, “It's a little bit like a Rubik's cube on steroids. Above my pay grade to figure out how this all fits together."
Committee Action of Note:
Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Hearing to examine national cybersecurity strategy, focusing on protection of federal and critical infrastructure systems.