Spending for social needs, which was pretty much on hold during the Trump administration, is back on the table this spring and suddenly the schedule is everything. In an excellent roundup from People's Action's campaigns director Sondra Youdelman, we see that timelines for work in the House and Senate are complicated by juggling both the Biden admin's budget, which has huge increases for education, health and the environment, and the big infrastructure bill, which demonstrates how social needs and the transportation, power grid and broadband deficiencies are deeply intertwined. Activists are going to have to learn fast and follow the back-and-forth of events almost daily to know when to put our muscle to work to keep this legislation oriented toward people and not corporations and the rich.
- The Senate Parliamentarian ruled last week that the Senate can use budget reconciliation 2-3 more times, bypassing the need for the 60 person alignment to break the filibuster (remember, budget reconciliation only requires 51 votes). This would allow for Biden's infrastructure package proposal to move through Congress in two separate bills.(The Hill) Here's some more information on how this ruling could change things in Washington in the months ahead.(The Hill) There's still some confusion on the ruling, however, in terms of constraints and the full strategy of the filibuster work-around hasn't yet been determined. (Politico)
- Breaking the filibuster will still be essential for things like democracy reform, increasing the minimum wage, and worker organizing expansion, but that continues to look tough with Sen Manchin (WV) digging in his heels around this. Check out his recent opinion piece in the Washington Post where he clearly states he will "not vote to eliminate or weaken the filibuster." Things can change, of course, and pressure from the outside for Dems to get things done might ultimately be the thing that moves him (as Maj Leader Schumer mentioned to us in our meeting that he feels a case needs first to be made that Republicans will block everything).
- The Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) introduced its priorities for the infrastructure package. They want to go BIG & BOLD: 1) Strengthen the Care Economy; 2) Bold Investments in Affordable Housing; 3) Dramatically Lower Drug Prices & Use Savings to Pay for Public Health Expansion; 4) Bold Investments in Climate Jobs and Impacted Communities; 5) Roadmap for Citizenship and Inclusion for Immigrant Communities.
- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) wants two bills -- one for infrastructure and another for the other economic provisions. But progressives have a different idea and instead want a single bill. Some progressives (in Congress and in the movement) are worried that if there are 2 bills, momentum will decline and some of the human infrastructure elements will be undermined.
- President Biden on Friday proposed a $1.5 trillion discretionary budget for 2022, $118 billion higher than the regular 2020 appropriations, featuring a significant 16 percent boost in non-defense spending. The proposal beefs up government agencies, including a 40.8 percent increase for Education, a 27.7 percent increase for Commerce, a 23.1 percent increase for Health and Human Services, and a 16 percent increase for Agriculture. It would also boost agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency by 21.3 percent and the National Science Foundation by 19.8 percent. [The proposal addressed discretionary, not mandatory spending.] (The Hill)
- Hearings: Expect a lot of infrastructure-related hearings in the next few weeks as Congress prepares to write legislation. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer [of Maryland] has laid out the April schedule for the House. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer gave a similar forecast two weeks ago.
- Budget resolution: To stay on schedule for a reconciliation bill, the House will either need to pass the budget resolution during its May work period (May 11-20) or add session days. The Senate is in session May 10-28. (Hypothetically, the budget resolution could also happen the week of June 14, but I don't think that gives committees enough time for the bill itself.) Both chambers must pass an identical resolution to set the stage for reconciliation, and the Senate has to have a vote-a-rama. The reconciliation bill basically locks in the size of the package (anything added needs pay-fors within the same committee of jurisdiction.)
Committee markups: Passing a budget resolution by Memorial Day gives Congress the month of June to write the reconciliation bill. There will be a crazy week or two of committee markups in the House. The Senate will definitely try to put its mark on the legislation, but given the split control of committees in that chamber, Senate committees may skip formal markups. After the committees of jurisdiction mark up their bills, the Budget Committee has to staple everything together.
House floor consideration: Speaker Pelosi set a goal of House passage by July 4th, which means the bill would need to be ready for the floor for the week of June 28. If the House does not pass it that week, it's currently scheduled to be out until the week of July 19.
Senate floor consideration: The Senate comes back on July 12 after the Independence Day recess. It will need several days for floor consideration, which will include another vote-a-rama.
Resolving differences: The House will either need to accept the inevitable changes in the Senate or the chambers will need to go to conference. This could happen as soon as the House is back the week of July 19. If there is a conference, that is a much more drawn-out process.
- Sending to the President: The House is scheduled to go on August recess on July 30. The Senate is scheduled to leave on August 6. Of course, the start of recess can always be delayed if the bill hasn't passed yet. Note that August 8 is 200 days into President Biden's term, which seems like a great time to sign a landmark bill into law.
- Jobs, Taxes & Investments: How Biden’s Made in America Tax Plan raises taxes on corporations to invest in the American Jobs Plan (by Americans for Tax Fairness)
- Biden Can Go Bigger and Not ‘Pay for It’ the Old Way (opinion piece by Stephenie Kelton, author of The Deficit Myth and an advocate for Modern Monetary Theory)