07.27.2021 Washington Update

Infrastructure/Budget Resolution –The Senate’s bipartisan “group of 22” spent the weekend trying to finalize the nearly $600 billion infrastructure package—but to no avail. If anything, the package appears to be on life support. Disagreement remains over funding for mass transit, broadband, drinking water, and unspent COVID relief, as well as Davis-Bacon provisions.

Assuming an agreement is reached, the bill text will receive an official score from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).  Drafters expect that the “amendment in the nature of a substitute” will include the bipartisan infrastructure spending agreement as well as the text of Sen. Carper (D-DE) and Sen Capito’s (R-WV) Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act.

If an agreement were reached, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) will likely file a motion to reconsider the failed cloture vote on (the motion to proceed to) H.R.3684, the shell for the Senate bill.  After this, if supporters garner 60 votes, it will likely take the rest of the week, and perhaps into next, to finish Senate debate. This timing assumes a deal is reached in the next few days.

Moreover, a significant issue, heretofore unaddressed, is how the gang will deal with amendments, of which there will be many, and from both sides of the aisle.  The outcome of any one of those could upset the delicate political balance achieved by the bill’s authors.  Schumer choosing to “fill the amendment tree” to diminish the number of amendments doesn’t seem like a viable option.  What’s more, no one quite knows who will manage the bill on the floor.  Senator Portman (R-PA)?  Senator Sinema (D-AZ)?  Portman and Sinema together?

Senate Republican members of the gang are looking to recruit 5 to 10 other Republicans to vote for the package.  The chief selling points are that the package will be fully paid for, and that senators should want to take credit for infrastructure investments they would have supported no matter who was in the White House.  And don’t forget, they are reminding their colleagues, that the Trump White House supported a $1 trillion infrastructure bill.

The key to broader Republican support hinges in part on the CBO score, that is, whether the proposed offsets are real or illusory.

With the press concentrating almost exclusively on Senate drama, it’s easy to forget the House. But notably last week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) reiterated her position that, “We will not take up the infrastructure bill until the Senate passes the reconciliation measure.”

As we’ve noted, Democrats cannot assume House Republicans will vote for the bipartisan infrastructure package. The recent events surrounding the January 6th Commission, along with Pelosi’s insistence that both packages have to move together, have brought House Republicans closer together, meaning only a few GOP outliers could break from staunch conference opposition.

Democrats have only 3 votes to lose, and House progressives are growing restless.  It’s worth noting that House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Pete DeFazio (D-ORE) released a “Dear Colleague” last week condemning the Senate highway reauthorization bill.  DeFazio noted that, among other major differences, the House INVEST in America Act has 1,475 “Member Designated Projects,” otherwise known as earmarks.  The Senate highway reauthorization has none.

It’s also worth remembering that should the bipartisan infrastructure bill collapse, Democrats could simply add a good chunk of the nearly $600 billion in infrastructure spending backed by Republicans into the $3.5-trillion reconciliation plan, to bring the actual total to $4.1 trillion.  This fact is not lost on many Republicans who are eyeing this process warily.

Leader Schumer and Budget Committee Chairman Sanders (I-VT) want to have the $3.5 budget proposal with reconciliation instructions ready for a floor vote in early August.  The calendar is starting to get tight and the first week of the August recess could be converted into a Senate work week.

It’s not just the budget resolution that would keep Senators in D.C., as a U.S. Capitol Police and National Guard emergency funding bill also needs to be passed.  Chances of the Senate staying in session the week of August 9th increase by the day.


House Floor this Week and NDAA – Unless the House is called back to process the FY2022 budget resolution, this is the last week the House is in session until mid-September.  The House will attempt to pass an appropriations minibus, H.R. 4502, which will consist of the Agriculture-FDA, Energy and Water, Financial Services, Interior-Environment, Labor-HHS-Education, Military Construction-VA, and Transportation-HUD spending bills.  The Legislative Branch, State-Foreign Ops, and Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations bills could also be added to the minibus this week.  These appropriations bills have been a tough sell for some members of the House Democratic Caucus. The Democratic leadership also has no margin for error, as Republicans will maintain full unity in opposition to these spending bills.

Several Senate Appropriations Committee subcommittees may mark up the Agriculture-FDA, Energy and Water, Military Construction-VA, and Transportation-HUD spending bills next week.

House Armed Services Committee subcommittees will mark up portions of the fiscal year 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) this week.  The Cyber-Innovative Technologies and Information Systems, Strategic Forces, Seapower and Projection Forces, and Military Personnel subcommittees will hold their markups on Wednesday.  Thursday sees the Tactical Air and Land Forces, Readiness, and Intelligence and Special Operations subcommittees conducting votes in their subcommittees.  A full committee NDAA markup is planned for September 1.


Senate Floor this Week – The Senate could commence debate on the bipartisan infrastructure agreement, but the Senate will also consider, among others potentially, Todd Kim to be an Assistant Attorney General.