Becker & Poliakoff

Becker’s Washington Weekly: Week of September 27, 2021

Becker’s Washington Weekly: Week of September 27, 2021

Democrats face their biggest challenge in operating a united government this week by attempting to pass legislation advancing President Biden’s domestic agenda, avoiding a government shutdown, and keeping the United States from defaulting on its debts for the first time in history.

This week, the House will consider the Bipartisan Infrastructure Package which passed the Senate last month. While Speaker Nancy Pelosi promised Moderates a floor vote on the bill by September 27th, fractures among Democrats caused her to delay that vote to this Thursday. House Moderate and Progressive Democrats have clashed with the Speaker on prioritizing the infrastructure bill over the larger $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill which Progressives favor for its funding of America’s “social infrastructure.”

Every Democratic faction in the House has proven crucial since Speaker Pelosi can only afford to lose three votes to pass many pieces of legislation. However, reports indicate that at least 10 Republicans will vote for the infrastructure bill, potentially making up for some Democratic defectors. The Democrat-only budget reconciliation package does not have the same leeway.

Although no Republican will vote for the $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package, Democratic support is also in doubt. House Progressives are threatening to tank both the infrastructure and reconciliation bills if the latter is not passed by the Senate first. But not every Senate Democrat wants to pass reconciliation in its current form, thanks to moderate Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) who want to see the topline figure reduced to an undisclosed number. Over the weekend, Speaker Pelosi predicted that that figure would likely be reduced given the Senate requires all 50 Democrats to vote together to pass anything.

This week marks the end of the current fiscal year when the government will shut down unless Congress passes some sort of funding bill. The House has already passed a continuing resolution (CR) to keep the government funded through December while suspending the now-expired debt limit through December 2022. If Congress does not suspend or raise the debt ceiling by next month, when the Treasury Department predicts the U.S. will run out of money, America will be in default on its debts and could send the economy into a recession.

Despite that urgency, Senate Republicans will very likely filibuster the bill to a halt because of their opposition to suspending the debt ceiling, although they voted to do so three times during the Trump Administration. While votes on the debt ceiling have historically been bipartisan (albeit politically unappealing for both sides), Republicans are now calling on Democrats to go it alone since they are attempting to pass trillions in new – and partially deficit – spending.

If at least 10 Senate Republicans do not join Democrats to overcome a filibuster, they will forego millions in disaster relief for southern states meant to attract their votes, forcing the House to either pass a “clean” bill or send the government into both a shut down and default.

The Administration

President Biden’s sole focus this week will be passing the bevy of domestic legislation highlighted above, which will define his credibility as a seasoned Washington negotiator. Failure on any of these could prove disastrous for Democrats in next year’s midterm elections; success would prove beneficial.

The House

In addition to its legislative haul, the House will conduct numerous hearings this week:

  • The House Financial Services Committee will consider eliminating societal barriers to increase the economic opportunities for former convicts.
  • The House Select Committee on Economic Diversity and Fairness in Growth will consider the effects of globalization on U.S. economic disparities.
  • The House Foreign Affairs Committee will discuss strengthening U.S. ties with Southeast Asia.
  • The House Small Business Committee will consider (1) the role of sustainable forestry on climate solutions (2) access to capital for employee-owned businesses.
  • The House Committee on Education and Labor will consider best back-to-school reopening practices.
  • The House Veterans’ Affairs Committee will consider modernizing the VA’s IT infrastructure.

The House will also consider five measures, including the sentencing disparities between crack and powder cocaine and sanctioning Cambodia’s government and military for various human rights violations.

The Senate

The Senate will also convene several hearings this week:

  • The Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee will discuss CARES Act oversight.
  • The Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee will consider how to replace the federal government’s legacy IT and address the worsening threat of natural disasters.
  • The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions committee will also consider best back-to-school reopening practices.

Becker’s Federal Lobbying Team will continue to monitor these developments as they evolve and will share with you as soon as information becomes available.