Washington Update - September 6, 2021

Billy Moore    Dc2

Congress is preparing for a late September legislative blitz, headlined by a House vote by September 27 to clear the bipartisan $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill for President Joe Biden’s signature. In addition, Congress must pass a continuing resolution to prevent an October 1 government shutdown. Votes on the debt limit and the up to $3.5 trillion reconciliation package may be pushed into October.

If the vote on infrastructure legislation comes before the reconciliation vote, as seems likely given reconciliation’s size, complexity and lack of consensus, House liberals promise to oppose passage of the infrastructure bill. The scenario empowers House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy and Republican rank-and-file dealmakers to decide the House vote on the infrastructure bill. Leader McCarthy’s job is to oppose, making his support for the package unlikely. That would give House Republican dealmakers, mostly members of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, the power to pass or kill the legislation. Betting is strong they will vote to pass it.

Democrats are intent on pairing a debt limit increase with a continuing appropriations bill. Congressional Republicans say passing the debt limit increase is the responsibility of Democrats who want to force Republicans to either support the legislation or take responsibility for a debt default and government shutdown. The Democrats’ gambit seems likely to fail, in which case they would need to pass a free-standing continuing resolution and begin negotiations to pass a debt limit increase later in October.

House committees are marking up reconciliation bills this week. Democrats are divided on the size and scope of the package, forecasting internal negotiations before it is ready for a floor vote.

President Biden needs congressional leaders to carry the day on all the initiatives as his standing is pressed by the pandemic, natural disasters and the Afghanistan withdrawal.