Washington Update - August 15, 2021

Billy Moore    Dc2

Last week, the Senate approved a bipartisan $1.2 trillion physical infrastructure package and a partisan budget authorizing a $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill that will be debated this fall. Before they left for recess, Senate Democrats teed up a September vote on voting rights legislation restoring protections of the 1965 Voting Rights Act removed by the Supreme Court.

The House will reconvene August 23 to debate the budget resolution and voting rights legislation. The budget will advance only if Speaker Nancy Pelosi can negotiate a settlement between Democratic liberals who don’t want a vote on the infrastructure bill until the Senate passes reconciliation legislation and moderates who want a vote on the infrastructure bill at the same time as the budget resolution. If the budget resolution fails, the reconciliation and infrastructure packages will fail as well. The most likely solution is a vote the budget and infrastructure at about the same time.

If passed, the bills will cap a burst of spending that began in March 2020. On top of the infrastructure package, the reconciliation plan is akin to the New Deal wrapped into one bill. Highlights include free preschool and community college; new dental, hearing and vision coverage under Medicare; lower drug prices; extension of the expanded child tax credit; major climate investments; immigration reform; and more revenue from the wealthy and corporations. Not all Democrats are on board with the cost, but few have objected to the goals.

At the same time, Congress will need to extend expiring appropriations to prevent a government shutdown and increase the debt ceiling to avoid a default on Treasury bonds. 

Other than the infrastructure bill, Republicans will oppose the agenda while calling attention to the latest surge of the coronavirus pandemic, inflation, border crossings and the military withdrawal from Afghanistan – making the imminent leadership test for President Biden and congressional Democrats immensely consequential.

Like Congress, your Updater will be on recess next week.