September 27, 2021
What to expect in Washington (September 27)
The House intends to pass a Continuing Resolution (CR), the Build Back Better Act reconciliation bill, and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework (BIF) this week, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said in a letter to members September 25: “The next few days will be a time of intensity … We must pass the BIF to avoid the expiration of the surface transportation funding on September 30. And we must stay on schedule to pass the reconciliation bill so that we can Build Back Better.”
Government funding – There is a Senate procedural vote at 5:30 p.m. today (cloture on the Motion to Proceed) on H.R. 5305, the House-passed CR to extend government funding through December 3. It is expected to fail due to Republican opposition to the debt limit suspension it includes, following which Democrats could pivot to a version without the debt limit language. Speaker Pelosi has expressed confidence Congress would keep the government open beyond September 30 but has also said Republicans should cooperate on the debt limit. A Plan B on the debt limit hasn’t been announced. Democrats could reopen the budget process to address the issue through reconciliation by the must-act date in October.
Infrastructure - There is urgency to make progress on the budget reconciliation bill in an effort to satisfy House progressives, who say they won’t support the Senate-passed bipartisan infrastructure bill set for a vote this week without action on reconciliation (which some say must include Senate approval of a bill). Moderates like Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) have signaled that if the House doesn’t approve the bipartisan infrastructure bill around the September 27 target, they won’t back a reconciliation bill.
The vote, long set for September 27, is being delayed a few days. Speaker Pelosi said in a separate letter Sunday night, “Tomorrow, September 27, we will begin debate on the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework on the Floor of the House and vote on it on Thursday, September 30, the day on which the surface transportation authorization expires.” Lining it up with expiration of the highway authorization could pressure progressives to vote in favor. As the Wall Street Journal noted, the delay “buys Democrats more time to try to hash out an agreement on the details of the social policy and climate package.”
Reconciliation – The House Budget Committee reported out the assembled House committees’ portions of the reconciliation bill – seen as a formality because changes to committee recommendations can’t be made by the Budget Committee – on Saturday, by a vote of 20-17. Rep. Scott Peters (D-CA), one of the members who has taken issue with the bill’s approach to drug pricing, was the only Democrat to vote against the measure. Republicans offered motions to instruct aimed at making changes in the rule providing for consideration of the bill. It is that point in the process where changes to the assembled House reconciliation bill to reflect negotiations with the Senate are likely to occur, in a manager’s amendment set up by the Rules Committee. Speaker Pelosi said it is “self-evident” that the bill will be smaller than $3.5 trillion. How soon a deal with the Senate can be reached is unclear.
A September 26 New York Times story on the challenges facing Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) in advancing a reconciliation bill in the closely divided Congress said, “Ms. Sinema of Arizona has privately told colleagues she will not accept any corporate or income tax rate increases. But recent discussions by Senate Democrats about adding a carbon tax to the bill to both combat climate change and help replace that revenue have run up against concerns raised by three House Democrats from Texas. In a letter to Ms. Sinema and Mr. Manchin, they expressed their opposition to several provisions in the bill aimed at combating climate change, and also came out against increasing a minimum tax on overseas income from U.S. companies above where it was set in 2017.”
Health – Also in the NYT story on challenges facing leaders: “Representative Kurt Schrader of Oregon has said he wants a bill that spends less than $1 trillion over 10 years. Several House members say they cannot accept the bill’s get-tough approach to prescription drug prices.”
The Sunday Washington Post described three categories of health changes sought by Democrats:
The analysis said: “Swing-district Democrats favor the ACA proposal because it would fortify a system already in place, delivering instant benefits to voters ahead of next year’s midterm elections. The Medicare proposal is more complicated because it would take several years for federal regulators to implement a payment system for dentists and other doctors.”
Thursday, September 30 (1:00 p.m.), is the EY Webcast, “Build Back Better legislative developments,” with discussion to include: