House Budget Standoff? No, No, Nancy Pelosi Took Care Of *That*
Remember how Tuesday there was this huge impasse between Nancy Pelosi and a group of nine House moderates that imperiled Joe Biden's domestic agenda, possibly his entire presidency if the moderates couldn't be brought
to heel on board? The Nine Numpties were dead set against moving forward the framework for the $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill without first voting on the smaller bipartisan infrastructure bill that had already passed the Senate, so it could be signed by Joe Biden, even though Biden himself had endorsed the plan for both bills to be linked.
That could have been a big problem, since the infrastructure bill is fairly modest, with only $500 billion in new spending on physical infrastructure, while the reconciliation bill is how congressional Democrats will pass much of what Biden ran on in 2020: climate, healthcare, education, all that "human infrastructure" stuff. Had the standoff dragged on, it would've been bad news. But we were pretty confident that Pelosi would get it all worked out.
Turns out she got it done far faster than we'd expected. Yesterday afternoon, the budget framework passed on a 220-212 party line vote, with all Democrats voting for it. Yes, including the nine who swore they had to do the infrastructure bill first or they'd turn into pumpkins or some damn thing. On top of that, the House also passed the John Lewis Voting Rights Act for good measure. It was a pretty productive afternoon!
The Associated Press reports it didn't take too much to get past the standoff:
Pelosi brushed aside the delays. "That's just part of the legislative process," she said, according to an aide granted anonymity to discuss a closed-door caucus meeting. [...]
In brokering the compromise, Pelosi committed to voting on the bipartisan package no later than Sept. 27, an attempt to assure lawmakers it won't be left on the sidelines. It's also in keeping with Pelosi's insistence that the two bills move together as a more complete collection of Biden's priorities. Pelosi has set a goal of passing both by Oct. 1.
So now most House members can get back to recessing while members of various House and Senate committees get started writing the actual legislation that will become the reconciliation bill, hooray!
Because the reconciliation process is weird as hell, the resolution passed yesterday is only the general template for a budget bill, as the Washington Post explains:
The outcome immediately set in motion a laborious effort on Capitol Hill to transform the $3.5 trillion blueprint into a fuller legislative product. Much like the proposal the Senate adopted this month, the House budget is essentially an outline that does not require Biden's signature. Rather, it is a congressional document that unlocks for Democrats a longer legislative process known as reconciliation — a tactic that allows them to write a tax-and-spending bill that can bypass a Republican filibuster.
As part of the forthcoming package, Democrats have pledged to expand Medicare, invest sizable sums in education and family-focused programs, and devote new funds toward combating climate change — fulfilling many of the party's 2020 campaign pledges. And they have aimed to finance the tranche of new spending through tax hikes targeting wealthy corporations, families and investors, rolling back tax cuts imposed under President Donald Trump.
"A national budget should be a statement of our national values," Pelosi said before the House began voting. "And this will be the case."
What that means is that the real work, and more fights between progressives and moderates, will get rolling once Congress is back in session September 20. Between now and then, House and Senate committees will draft the details of the bill; their drafts are due by September 15, after which the bill will go to the the floor of the House for debate and amendments. Pelosi wants to have the entire process finished by October 1, when a number of current authorizations for transportation funding run out.
As Roll Call points out, Pelosi's plan to have the House vote on the smaller bipartisan infrastructure bill does appear to signal a change in strategy. Pelosi
had been saying for months that the House would not vote on the infrastructure bill until the Senate passed the reconciliation package. But the House is expected to vote on reconciliation before the Senate does, and the Senate may not have time to weigh in on reconciliation before the Sept. 27 deadline for the House infrastructure vote.
House progressives have insisted that the reconciliation package had to be passed before they'd vote on the smaller infrastructure bill, as a way of ensuring that moderates didn't just pass the smaller bipartisan bill and let the far more ambitious reconciliation package fail. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland) says that shouldn't be a concern:
"I have assured people, in my view, both are going to pass. Whatever the sequence, both are going to pass," Hoyer said.
Whether progressives are fully on board with the change remains to be seen; Pramila Jayapal (D-Washington), chair of the Progressive Caucus, said the roughly 100 members will have to see how solid the moderates' commitment to the big reconciliation bill is before they'll pass the infrastructure bill:
Our position remains unchanged: We will work to first pass the Build Back Better reconciliation bill so we can deliver these once-in-a-generation, popular and urgently needed investments to poor and working families, and then pass the infrastructure bill to invest in our roads, bridges and waterways.
Are we all going to start calling the reconciliation bill the "Build Back Better" bill? Kind of hope so, since keeping the two parts of this nutty "two track" process straight can be confusing.
There will still be a lot of negotiating ahead to work out the full reconciliation bill in a form that can get the votes of all 50 Democrats in the Senate. But the first hurdle is out of the way now. We're also pretty impressed with Nancy Pelosi's attitude after the vote, as relayed by CNN congressional reporter Daniella Diaz:
I asked Pelosi about the deal she reached with moderates when she walked off the House floor. "What deal?" she res… https://t.co/3ysfHWU8cO— Daniella Diaz (@Daniella Diaz) 1629828843.0
I asked Pelosi about the deal she reached with moderates when she walked off the House floor.
"What deal?" she responded. "They wanted clarification about how we go forward and that's what we did."
There's still a long way to go, but it really does look like we are headed for a hell of a big New Deal style package becoming a reality. A win on this would be huge, and would give Biden and Democrats a very, very good issue to campaign on for the 2022 midterms, beyond all the good it would do for everyday Americans.
Also, don't mess with Nancy Pelosi.
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