What a week it is shaping up to be in our nation’s capital! In a reversal from the commitment Speaker Pelosi made to House Progressives last month, the Speaker is moving to decouple the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) from the incomplete $3.5 trillion reconciliation package and hold a vote on the infrastructure bill Thursday. The move came after Pelosi said it had become clear that the price tag of the larger bill would have to come down. The IIJA is still scheduled to come to the floor for a vote Thursday night, and it is unclear how Pelosi plans to come up with the votes necessary to pass the infrastructure package. All of this is happening as Congress faces a lapse in government funding on Thursday at midnight and default on Oct. 18th, after Senate Republicans made good on their promise to sink a temporary government funding and debt-ceiling suspension on Monday.
The September 27th deadline for consideration of the IIJA was fulfilled by a multi-day debate on the bill, but the outcome is far from secure. House Progressives are concerned that Senate Democratic moderates will balk at the social spending package Democrats are hoping to pass through reconciliation. Progressive Caucus Chair Jayapal has stood by her position that as many as 60 members of her Caucus are willing to vote against the IIJA if they do not first pass the social safety net package. Behind the scenes, sources indicate that a tangible commitment from the key Senators Manchin and Sinema may be enough to bring along House Progressives to pass the IIJA. Democratic leaders are working to find a compromise that will placate both their caucus’s moderate and Liberal wings. In the meantime, House Leadership has not yet begun their whip operation for tomorrow’s vote (as of 11 am today), and it appears the White House has not applied pressure to either of the intransigent groups.
These two tenets of President Biden’s agenda, the IIJA and the reconciliation package, are crashing headlong into government funding and debt ceiling deadlines. Without the passage of a continuing resolution before Thursday at midnight, the government will shut down. Just 18 days later, America will face default without a suspension or increase in the debt ceiling, according to Treasury Secretary Yellen on Tuesday. Monday evening, Senate Republicans followed through on their promise to jettison a bill that would have postponed the debt limit deadline and funded the government through December. On Tuesday, they objected to a procedure that would have allowed Democrats to suspend the debt limit without any Republican votes and insisted the debt limit be raised through reconciliation. As the government funding deadline rounds the corner and the debt ceiling issue looms large, the Senate appears to be deadlocked. The only apparent off-ramp would be for Schumer to strip the debt-ceiling increase out of the bill and pass what is known as a ‘clean CR,’ or a flat continuation of government spending through December 3rd, which Republicans have said they are amenable to. That would leave Democrats to raise the debt ceiling by amending their reconciliation package to include the measure, something Schumer has refused to do thus far.
How this will interact with the IIJA fight going on in the House is a rapidly evolving question – one that our Government Affairs team will be asking and answering near-hourly. We are working with our allies to continue to push the IIJA forward and promote a non-calamitous resolution to the unstable situation in Washington this week.