This week: House aims to pass Biden spending bill as time runs out
House Democrats are aiming to pass President Biden’s social and climate spending bill as they barrel closer toward the end of the year.
Both the House and Senate are back this week from a one-week Veterans Day recess, but they’re both expected to be out next week for Thanksgiving. And they’re both aiming to get out of town for the year by Dec. 13.
The House’s expected consideration of the Build Back Better bill this week comes after Democrats punted their plan to hold a vote before the Veterans Day recess as moderates pushed for more information from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).
The CBO released analyses on parts of the bill last week and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a letter to her caucus late last week that they expected additional information by Monday. But the CBO has not yet said when it could have an analysis on the entire bill.
“We thank the CBO for moving expeditiously as we await further numbers from committees who finalized their work later,” Pelosi wrote in her letter to House Democrats.
As part of an agreement worked out by moderates, progressives and House leadership, the House passed a rule that sets up a final vote on the social spending bill before leaving for the one-week break. Five House moderates Democrats also released a statement pledging to vote for the bill “in its current form other than technical changes as expeditiously as we receive fiscal information from the Congressional Budget Office … consistent with the toplines” from a framework agreed to earlier this month.
The statement also specified that the vote would take place “in no event later than the week of November 15.” And House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) included “consideration” of the bill on the House floor schedule for this week, though he didn’t specify a date they would try to bring the bill to the floor.
Progressives are making clear that they expect a vote this week and that a full CBO analysis of the entire bill was never a requirement.
“To clarify for everyone: the agreement we made w/our colleagues was NOT for CBO score. It was for some additional financial information from CBO. Agreement also says that in no event would the vote take place later than the week of Nov. 15. We trust our colleagues’ commitments,” Congressional Progressive Caucus Chairwoman Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) tweeted.
With the delay in the House, the Senate’s consideration of the spending bill appears likely to slip past Thanksgiving. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) had previously hoped to bring it to the floor this week, allowing Senate Democrats to try to pass it before leaving town for the one-week holiday recess.
“Timing of consideration of the [Build Back Better Act] in the Senate will largely depend on when the House sends us the bill and when CBO finalizes their scores for all of the committees, which are needed to complete the ‘Byrd Bath’ process,” Schumer wrote in a letter to Senate Democrats released on Sunday.
Schumer had previously estimated that the Senate would need a week to go through procedural steps to get the bill ready to come to the Senate floor. If the House passes the spending bill this week that could position the Senate to be ready to go to the floor as early as the week after Thanksgiving, though that would also put them on a collision course with a Dec. 3 government funding deadline.
And even as House Democrats aim to pass the bill this week, Senate Democrats are still negotiating over key pieces including the climate language, changes to the tax code and an uphill effort to get Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) to support including paid leave in the bill.
Data from last week showing that inflation had hit a 30-year high could also put new pressure on Senate Democrats, who need total unity from their caucus in order to pass the bill. Manchin has repeatedly called for a “pause” on the bill and signaled that he was worried about inflation. After the data released late last week, he said in a statement that “the threat” from inflation isn’t temporary “and is instead getting worse.”
“From the grocery store to the gas pump, Americans know the inflation tax is real and DC can no longer ignore the economic pain Americans feel every day,” Manchin added.
The Senate will also need to get the bill by the parliamentarian, who offers guidance on whether or not the bill complies with restrictions on what can be passed under the budget reconciliation process that Democrats are using to bypass a GOP filibuster.
Schumer, in his letter to Senate Democrats, said that meetings with the parliamentarian on the Byrd rule, which lays out the reconciliation restrictions, “will begin this week.”
The Senate is “likely” to bring the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), a sweeping military policy bill, up this week as they wait for the House to send over Biden’s spending bill.
The Senate Armed Services Committee approved its defense bill in July, setting a $778 billion top-line that added $25 billion more to the defense budget than the administration requested.
But since then the bill has been in limbo as Democrats tried to leave the floor open for the bipartisan infrastructure bill, which passed in early August, and then for the social and climate spending bill, consideration of which has repeatedly slipped as Democrats continued to negotiate.
The defense bill typically passes with a wide, bipartisan margin but it’s a magnet for hundreds of amendments and takes roughly two weeks to get onto the floor and to a final vote, a substantial amount of floor time in an increasingly crowded end-of-year schedule.
Some conservatives want to remove language from the Senate bill that includes women in the military draft. The United States has not instituted a draft since the Vietnam War, but men still have to register with what’s officially known as the Selective Service System or face consequences such as losing access to federal financial aid for college.
But they are likely to fall short, given bipartisan support for the provision and its inclusion in the House version of the NDAA as well. There’s also no guarantee they will get an amendment vote. Hundreds of amendments are filed every year but only a handful get votes as part of the Senate’s debate.
The Senate is expected to use the NDAA as a vehicle for repealing the 2002 Iraq War authorization. Schumer pledged to give the repeal a vote this year and wrote in a letter to Senate Democrats on Sunday that “the NDAA is a logical place to have that vote.”
Once the Senate passes the bill it will still need to work out a deal with the House on a final version of the bill and pass it again before it can go to Biden’s desk.
The Senate will start the week working to confirm additional Biden nominees.
The Senate will take a procedural vote on Graham Scott Steele’s nomination to be an assistant secretary of the Treasury at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, setting up a final vote for Tuesday.
Schumer has also teed up votes on Robert Bonnie to be under secretary of Agriculture for farm production and conservation and Brian Nelson to be under secretary for terrorism and financial crimes. The Senate is also expected to vote on Jonathan Kanter’s nomination to be an assistant attorney general.
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