House Passes Stopgap Funding Bill and Reconciliation Gains Momentum
This blog post is written by AACTE consultant Jane West and is intended to provide updated information. The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the views of AACTE.
As you will recall, after returning last week from the August recess Members of Congress were off to the races to get four major pieces of legislation passed and ultimately to keep the government running. The big four are the bipartisan infrastructure bill, the reconciliation bill, a continuing resolution to avoid a government shutdown, and legislation to raise the debt ceiling to avoid the government from heading into default on its obligations. On Tuesday evening House Democrats took an initial step towards warding off a government shutdown, passing a short-term spending bill that would keep the government funded through early December and lift the limit on federal borrowing until after the midterm elections in 2022.
The bill is urgently needed as Congress has virtually given up on trying to pass the FY 22 funding bills before the September 30 deadline when all current government funding runs out. The United States is expected to reach its debt limit in the coming weeks and without an increase in the debt ceiling, the government could default on its financial obligations. By pairing the debt limit raise with the spending package to keep the government running, Democrats had hoped to pressure Republicans into dropping their opposition to raising the debt ceiling, a routine step that allows the government to meet its obligations. But even with crucial funding for their states on the line, no Republicans voted for the legislation. The bill now goes to the Senate, but Republicans there have already vowed they will neither vote for the legislation nor allow it to advance in the Chamber where 60 votes are needed to move the legislation forward. In a 50-50 divided Senate, Democrats need at least 10 Republicans to get on board.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) had initially promised Democrats that she would hold a vote on the Senate-passed bipartisan infrastructure bill by September 27. She also pledged to approve the partisan reconciliation bill—a $3.5 trillion plan for social programs (including education)—in conjunction with the bipartisan infrastructure bill. The intention was that the bipartisan infrastructure package would only pass once the $3.5 trillion reconciliation package passed both chambers. But moderates balked at that plan and threatened to vote against the bipartisan bill if she didn’t de-link the two bills. As part of a deal for moderates to vote for the budget last month, Pelosi agreed to bring the infrastructure bill to the floor on September 27, which is now just days away. But, progressives in the House want the House to first vote on the $3.5 trillion spending package before voting on the bipartisan infrastructure package. Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA.), who heads the Congressional Progressive Caucus, has said half of that group could vote against the infrastructure bill if their demands are not met.
Before Thursday evening, it all seemed highly unlikely that the Speaker could deliver on her promises to Democrats. But following a series of meetings between moderate Democrats and the White House and Congressional Leadership and progressives, the trains appear to be getting back on track. House Budget Chairman John Yarmuth (D-KY) announced on Thursday that the Budget Committee would meet on Saturday to package together the reconciliation recommendations from 13 other House committees in order to get the combined measure to the Rules Committee. The Budget Committee’s role is primarily procedural, but the Rules Committee could initiate major changes to the proposal. The goal now is for leadership to bring the reconciliation package and bipartisan infrastructure package to the floor for a vote early next week. This suggests that behind the scenes, the Speaker is confident she can garner the support of Democrats for both reconciliation and bipartisan infrastructure. The Speaker eluded to this on Thursday afternoon announcing that Congressional leadership and the White House had reached agreement on a “framework” that will pay for most, if not all, of the massive $3.5 trillion human infrastructure bill—mitigating concerns from both progressive and moderates over the price tag. With four trains moving down the track, it seems we may avoid a collision after all.