Senate. The Senate will continue to consider nominations this week, but attention will be on the continuing resolution that provides government funding through Dec. 3, suspends the debt ceiling through Dec. 16, 2022, and appropriates funds for emergency disaster relief and resettling Afghan evacuees.
In the face of GOP opposition to the debt limit suspension, the motion to proceed to the CR fell short of the required 60-vote threshold this evening. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is now expected to strip the debt ceiling provision, clearing the way for Republicans to support the measure. Assuming passage later this week in the Senate, the revised CR will be sent back to the House for final passage before the Oct. 1 deadline to avoid a government shutdown.
House. Passing a CR to keep the government open will not be the most climactic moment of this week’s House activities. Rather, it is the uncertainty surrounding the bipartisan infrastructure bill that has everyone questioning how the House will proceed. After the Senate passed the infrastructure bill on Aug. 10 by a vote of 69-30, Speaker Nancy Pelosi promised a group of centrists that the House would take up the Senate bill on Sept. 27.
As promised, the measure will be brought up for consideration today, but the Speaker wrote her Democratic colleagues last night that the vote would be Thursday, Sept. 30. However, some members of the Progressive Caucus are continuing to push back against holding a vote on the infrastructure bill before knowing whether the Senate will pass the Build Back Better reconciliation proposal. This intraparty disagreement is no doubt the focus of discussion at this evening’s House Democratic caucus meeting, which began at 5:30. Given the disagreement, it’s unclear whether the vote will have to be further delayed in order for the Speaker to win enough support for final passage, even with a handful of Republicans expected to back the bill.
Reconciliation. So many questions. So few answers. Speaker Pelosi has acknowledged that the $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill will have to be trimmed in size. Will there be a new target number or will lawmakers first decide which offsets are acceptable and that number, in turn, will determine the size of the package? How will Democrats address internal pushback to drug pricing proposals and how will that affect which health care priorities can be funded? How will Ways and Means Chairman Richie Neal (D-Mass.) and Senate Finance Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) iron out differences on a host of matters, including clean energy tax incentives and Wyden’s proposals to tax stock buybacks? How long will all this take?
The latest speculation is that House leadership is working to develop a new, lower topline number and will then give instructions to the various committees on how to share the reductions. Once new provisions are crafted to meet the lowered-instructions, an amendment to the reconciliation bill can be offered by Democrats at the Rules Committee prior to floor consideration.
Debt Limit. And then there’s the question of what to do about the debt limit. If Senate Republicans remain adamant that they won’t supply the votes to approve a suspension of the debt limit, Democrats may be forced to turn to the reconciliation process in order to raise the debt ceiling with simple majorities in both chambers. It’s unknown exactly what the deadline is for action, but the Bipartisan Policy Center released an updated forecast on Sept. 24, predicting that the debt limit “X Date” will most likely be between Oct. 15 and Nov. 4.
If Democrats are forced to use reconciliation, the first step will be passage of a revised budget resolution that provides instructions to raise the debt ceiling by a certain amount. Budget experts believe it’s possible to revise the budget resolution specifically for the debt limit increase, thereby allowing consideration to continue on the current $3.5 trillion (or less) reconciliation bill. However, this is uncharted territory and it will be up to the Senate parliamentarian to advise on whether this approach comports with Senate rules.
If the parliamentarian gives the green light, the Senate Budget Committee will have to mark up a revised resolution. In case of a tie vote in the evenly divided committee, Senate leadership would then move to discharge the revised resolution from committee. Debate on that motion is limited to four hours, followed by a simple majority vote. The revised budget resolution is subject to a maximum of 15 hours of debate, followed by a vote-a-rama. Following House and Senate passage of the revised resolution, work would begin on a reconciliation bill providing for an increase in the debt limit. Once that reconciliation bill clears the Ways and Means Committee and the full House, the measure moves to the Senate, where debate is limited to 20 hours, followed by another vote-a-rama.
Committee Action of Note: