Adam S. Olsen- Washington, D.C.
August 9, 2021

The Senate on Sunday night voted to end debate on a roughly $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, putting it on a glide path to passing this week.  Senators voted 68-29 to end debate on the bill, which required 60 votes. Eighteen GOP senators joined with all Democrats to help advance the legislation.  Even though the legislation, crafted by a bipartisan group of senators and the White House, is all but guaranteed to pass the Senate and head to the House, opponents could still use the chamber’s rules to run the clock for an additional 30 hours before the Senate can take a final vote. Republican freshman Senator Bill Hagerty of Tennessee who very closely aligns himself with former President Donald Trump spent the weekend using a procedural maneuver to essentially grind the chamber to a halt and his and others objections could continue to delay passage of the bill, absent an agreement, until early Tuesday morning.  The bill faces a far less certain fate in the House, where Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) has vowed that she won’t bring up the bipartisan deal until the Senate votes on a massive $3.5 trillion spending package not expected to come to the floor until this fall.

As the Senate was putting the finishing touches on a bipartisan infrastructure bill this morning, Democrats released their $3.5 trillion budget plan that sets the stage for a massive investment in social programs and climate policy.  The plans fit into what Democrats consider a complementary, two-part agenda to boost the economy, strengthen the social safety net and attempt to curb climate change.  The Senate could pass the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill as early as Tuesday morning and the Senate will then “immediately” move toward passing the budget resolution, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, (D-New York), told colleagues in a letter Monday.  The budget resolution, which includes instructions for how to draft the $3.5 trillion bill, does not include an increase to the debt ceiling.  Republicans, balking at the spending package, have warned that they won’t put up the 10 GOP votes needed to raise the debt ceiling outside of the budget process. Though the budget resolution can still be changed, the Democratic plan to leave it out paves the way for a massive fight this fall over the nation’s borrowing limit.  Because Democrats opted not to include an increase in the federal debt limit, it will have to be passed soon after Congress returns to work next month, along with a stop-gap spending bill to keep the government open after the end of the fiscal year on September 30th.  The budget resolution provides a target date of September 15th to the committees to submit their reconciliation legislation and the plan is for the caucus to meet during the week of the 15th to review the bill.  The Democratic plan gives the Senate Finance Committee wide latitude to draft policies that would increase taxes on corporations and those making more than $400,000 a year, and instructs lawmakers to provide tax cuts for those making less. In addition, the resolution asks the committee to find additional revenue to pay for the $3.5 trillion in spending from health care savings and a new fee on carbon polluters.  While the Finance Committee would have to reduce the deficit by at least a nominal $1 billion, other committees, including ones covering health, energy, the environment, agriculture and so on, would be allowed to craft provisions adding about $1.75 trillion in spending over a decade.  The document also includes references to policy areas that Democrats see as crucial to their re-elections in the 2022 midterms, including enacting policies to create paid family leave, extend the child tax credit, and expand Medicare benefits to include dental, vision and hearing.

The reconciliation instructions memo distributed to Democratic Senators is attached.  A summary of the budget resolution is here.

Adam S. Olsen, Washington, D.C.