Business & Economy

On The Money: Schumer pressured from all sides on spending strategy | GOP hammers HUD chief over sluggish rental aid | Democrat proposes taxes on commercial space flights

Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) addresses reporters after the weekly policy luncheon on Tuesday, July 20, 2021.
Greg Nash

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THE BIG DEAL—Schumer feels pressure from all sides on spending strategy: Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) is nearing a decision point on how to move President Biden’s sweeping infrastructure package as he faces competing pressure points.

The inflection point comes as senators have been working behind the scenes for weeks to try to advance a two-track infrastructure strategy — a bipartisan bill and Democrats’ go-it-alone $3.5 trillion plan — before they leave for a lengthy summer break that’s scheduled to start in a matter of weeks. 

The snag: 

  • Facing a time crunch, Schumer has scheduled a vote for Wednesday to tee up debate on the bipartisan group’s $1.2 trillion plan and get the process moving. 
  • But with Republicans vowing to block the Senate from moving forward as negotiators still try to finalize their agreement, Schumer will need to make a decision about what to do after the failed vote. 

“We have a lot we need to do this month, so we can’t continue to delay and delay. … We’ve got to keep to a schedule. … Sen. Schumer has to be able to control the schedule,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) told reporters after a closed-door caucus lunch. The Hill’s Jordain Carney has the latest here.

The bigger picture: Democrats have been pursuing a two-track infrastructure strategy, trying to reach an agreement on a smaller bipartisan deal and Democratic unity on a second, larger bill that will include a host of other priorities for the party and Biden.

The balancing act is tough because support for the bipartisan bill is tied up with Democrats’ plans for the second $3.5 trillion plan, and Schumer is facing pressure from both sides. 

  • Republicans are urging him to cancel Wednesday’s vote, something he’s suggested that he won’t do. 
  • But Schumer is also facing pressure from the House to ditch the bipartisan track after Wednesday’s vote, where progressives are ready to move to the budget resolution.

The Hill’s Mike Lillis has more here on the frustration among House Democrats here.


Republicans hammer HUD chief over sluggish rental aid: Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge took heat Tuesday from Republicans over the meager portion of rental aid distributed to tenants and landlords with less than two weeks until a federal eviction ban expires.

Democrats and Republicans on the House Financial Services Committee spent most of a Tuesday hearing  sparring over Fudge’s role in the dismal pace of rental aid distribution and why Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen had not joined her before the committee.

The background: Congress approved a total of $46 billion in rental aid between two coronavirus relief bills passed under former President Trump and President Biden. 

  • Administered by both the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Treasury Department, the program is intended to ensure millions of tenants have enough funds to cover rent and utilities accrued while they were protected from eviction.
  • While the program has distributed all of that money to state and local grantees, only $1.5 billion made it to tenants, landlords and utility companies as of May, according to data released by the Treasury Department last week.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is also unlikely to extend its eviction ban past July 31, leaving millions facing eviction and deep debt without sorely needed federal aid.

“If we don’t get those resources flowing, there’s going to be a bunch of folks in a terrible jam come sunrise on Aug. 1,” said Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Okla.). I’ll take you to the hearing here.

Democrat proposes taxes on commercial space flights: Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) said Tuesday that he is planning to introduce legislation that would establish excise taxes on commercial space flights with human passengers that aren’t focused on scientific research.

Blumenauer, a senior member of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, announced his proposal on the same day that billionaire Jeff Bezos participated in a brief trip to the edge of space. Another billionaire, Richard Branson, made a similar trip earlier this month.

How it works: 

  • The first part would create a per-passenger tax on the price of a flight to space. 
  • The second part would create a two-tiered excise tax for each space launch, with one tier for flights between 50 and 80 miles above the Earth’s surface and a second tier with a higher tax for flights that exceed 80 miles above the Earth’s surface. 

But don’t worry, my fellow nerds: There would be exceptions to the taxes for NASA flights for scientific research purposes. The Hill’s Naomi Jagoda has more here.


  • A House Financial Services subcommittee holds a hearing on expanding access to the banking system at 10 a.m. 
  • A House Small Business subcommittee holds a hearing on the SBA’s role in climate change solutions at 10 a.m.
  • A House Ways and Means subcommittee holds a hearing on forced labor in supply chains at 10 a.m.
  • The House Financial Services subcommittee holds a hearing on statistical rating organizations at 2 p.m.


  • The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) on Tuesday announced it will scrap a May 2020 rewrite of anti-redlining regulations and work with the Federal Reserve and Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) on a replacement rule.
  • The House passed a bill Tuesday largely along party lines that aims to revive the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) authority to return money to constituents harmed by companies found to engage in deceptive practices. 
  • Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) on Tuesday released a bill that would overhaul a deduction for noncorporate business income that was created by Republicans’ 2017 tax law.
  • It’s been six months since President Biden took office, and one Cabinet position remains vacant: director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).
  • The House passed a bill Tuesday largely along party lines that aims to revive the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) authority to return money to constituents harmed by companies found to engage in deceptive practices. 


  • President Biden plans to appoint lawyer Jonathan Kanter as the head of the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) antitrust division, the White House announced Tuesday, another sign of the administration’s intention to take on Big Tech. 
Tags Chris Murphy Chuck Schumer Donald Trump Earl Blumenauer Frank Lucas Janet Yellen Jeff Bezos Joe Biden Marcia Fudge Ron Wyden

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