Schumer warns August recess in danger as infrastructure work piles up
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) warned colleagues in a letter Friday to be prepared to work long nights, over the weekends and into the scheduled August recess so that they can finish work on a bipartisan infrastructure bill and a budget resolution.
“My intention for this work period is for the Senate to consider both the bipartisan infrastructure legislation and a budget resolution with reconciliation instructions, which is the first step for passing legislation through the reconciliation process,” Schumer wrote in a “Dear Colleague” letter.
“Please be advised that time is of the essence and we have a lot of work to do. Senators should be prepared for the possibility of working long nights, weekends, and remaining in Washington into the previously-scheduled August state work period,” Schumer warned.
The Hill previously reported the Senate could bring a bipartisan infrastructure bill, which has the tentative support of a bipartisan group of 21 senators, to the floor the week of July 19.
President Biden and a group of five moderate Republican and Democratic negotiators struck a deal in late June on a framework that would spend $1.2 trillion over the next eight years on infrastructure.
Schumer said Friday that the White House and bipartisan negotiators have worked “tirelessly” to turn their agreement into legislation and thanked senators and staff “for their hard work during the July 4th holiday.”
“When the Senate returns to session, we will keep working to pass President Biden’s American Jobs and Families Plan. As I have said for weeks, discussions about infrastructure have continued steadily along two tracks,” Schumer wrote to colleagues.
“On the bipartisan infrastructure track, our committees are working tirelessly with the White House and the bipartisan infrastructure group to turn their recent agreement into legislation,” he wrote.
“On the second track, the Senate Budget Committee continues their work on a FY 2022 Budget Resolution to enact the remaining elements of the American Jobs and Families Plan — especially provisions on climate change, health care and the caring economy,” he added.
Schumer’s ambitious agenda for the upcoming work period means it’s likely that senators will stay in Washington beyond the scheduled start of the August recess, which is Monday, Aug. 9.
Passing a Senate budget resolution usually takes a week and requires senators to slog their way through a time-consuming floor debate and vote-a-rama, when the minority party has the power to offer an unlimited number of amendments to slow the process down and force majority members to take tough votes.
For senators to stick to their schedule of leaving town by the start of the second weekend of August, they would have to finish floor consideration of the bipartisan infrastructure package in two weeks — assuming a July 19 start of debate on the bipartisan infrastructure plan — and then wrap up the budget resolution the first week in August.
Passing a budget resolution would set the stage for a reconciliation process allowing Democratic leaders to pass a bigger infrastructure package with only Democratic votes, but they couldn’t afford a single defection.
Schumer will have to juggle the competing political priorities of moderate and liberal Democratic colleagues who have different ideas over how much to spend on infrastructure.
Liberals such as Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) have demanded a guarantee that a scaled-down bipartisan infrastructure bill and a larger reconciliation bill, with significant new spending to expand access to child care and address climate change, are welded together and have equal chance of being signed into law.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), a key centrist, has declined to commit to supporting a reconciliation bill that has yet to be drafted but has also acknowledged that Democrats are likely to pass a second infrastructure bill under the reconciliation process.
Adding to the “To Do” list, Schumer said he may bring S1, the For the People Act, which would overhaul election laws, back to the floor. It’s a top priority of Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Senate Rules Committee Chairwoman Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) and many other Democrats.
“I want to be very clear: last month’s vote represented the starting gun—not the finish line—in our fight to protect our democracy,” Schumer wrote Friday, noting that Klobuchar plans to hold a field hearing in Georgia to examine the impact of recently enacted state election reforms.
“As majority leader, I reserve the right to bring back voting rights and democracy reform legislation for another vote on the Senate floor,” he wrote.
“We still have a lot more important work to do and the items outlined in this letter do not represent an exhaustive list as there could be more that the Senate considers this work period,” Schumer wrote.