House and Senate Democratic leaders on Tuesday indicated they are preparing to move ahead with steps necessary to enact as much of President Biden’s agenda as possible by using the same tactic that got around a Republican filibuster threat and passed the $1.9 trillion COVID-relief package earlier this year.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and John Yarmuth, the chairman of the House budget committee, want to include budget-reconciliation instructions in the next budget resolution, which would make it possible to enact another big spending package by a simple majority vote in both chambers, exceeding in size and scope even Biden’s aforementioned American Rescue Plan enacted in March.
Naturally, a Beltway media environment dominated by discussion of on-again off-again bipartisan infrastructure negotiations will view this highly predictable development as a potential deal-killer in talks with Republicans. But Democrats are making it clear any potential reconciliation bill can be adjusted to accommodate an infrastructure agreement that would be enacted by regular old legislation:
[Yarmuth] said his committee is preparing to write reconciliation instructions for about $4 trillion in spending but could remove any bipartisan agreement from those instructions.
“We’re assuming right now that everything will be done by reconciliation,” he said, including Biden’s infrastructure, child care and other proposals and perhaps some additions backed by congressional Democrats. “That doesn’t preclude a bipartisan agreement. If one happens, we just take that part out of the instructions. But right now, we’re assuming everything will be in.”
Similarly, Schumer said he “plans to bring a scaled-down infrastructure package to the Senate floor in July under regular order … Both are moving forward, the bipartisan track and the track on reconciliation, and both we hope to get done in July, both the budget resolution and the bipartisan bill.”
Obviously the two “tracks” are interdependent, in part because Senate progressives don’t want to back a bipartisan infrastructure bill without assurances from Democratic centrists that they’ll support a later reconciliation bill even as Republicans claim Congress cannot afford to do anything more this year. Moving ahead on the budget resolution, moreover, will keep some pressure on Republicans to negotiate with at least a bit of good faith, in the understanding that Democrats aren’t going to wait perpetually. And they really can’t: If they want to pass a reconciliation bill after the planned August congressional recess, the building blocks have to be put into place in the next few weeks.
Having said that, there is enough time for Democrats to adjust their resolution and the reconciliation instructions to take into account some internal deal-making to ensure a united party (essential in both chambers), and to cover whatever gets left out of a bipartisan deal, if one is actually reached. Whatever else happens, the reconciliation bill will include most of Biden’s $2.25 trillion American Jobs Plan, and his $1.8 trillion American Families Plan. So it will be an enormous piece of legislation, and quite possibly the last big package that can be enacted prior to the 2022 midterm elections.