Adam S. Olsen- Washington, D.C.
August 10, 2021

The Senate just overwhelmingly passed the massive $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package by a vote of 69-30, which only needed a simple majority vote to pass.  The House of Representatives will likely not take up the bill until the fall. The House is out for August recess and won’t return for votes until September 20th and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) has indicated that the chamber won’t take up the bipartisan bill until Senate Democrats pass the separate and more expansive $3.5 trillion infrastructure package without GOP votes under the budget reconciliation process, a stand that has been met with criticism from Republicans and pushback from some moderate Democrats.  Eight moderate House Democrats are raising concerns in a letter to Speaker Pelosi about the Democrats’ budget plans that would pave the way for passing the $3.5 trillion reconciliation package and are also calling for an immediate vote to the infrastructure bill and not tie it to the reconciliation package.  President Joe Biden left Wilmington on Tuesday morning to be at the White House for the Senate vote and is poised to deliver a speech, either in the Rose Garden or inside the White House, depending on the weather, to mark the passage of a key piece of his economic agenda.  The bipartisan deal includes roughly $550 billion in new funding, making it substantially smaller than the $2.6 trillion proposed by Biden earlier this year.  It includes money for new investments for infrastructure projects like roads, bridges, broadband, water and rail. According to a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analysis, the bill would add $256 billion to the deficit, though negotiators argue that “hard” infrastructure projects pay for themselves over time and that CBO didn’t give them full credit for their work.

Once the Senate passed the bipartisan bill, Democrats moved directly to taking up the budget resolution that greenlights and includes instructions on drafting a $3.5 trillion spending package later this year.  Democrats are using the budget rules to pass both the resolution and the subsequent spending bill without GOP votes.  The vote on that could drag out late into the night or likely even into Wednesday morning as Republicans propose multiple amendments to force Democrats into taking politically fraught votes. But both parties expect Democrats will prevail on the simple majority vote required. Before the Senate can pass the budget resolution, it faces up to 50 hours of debate and needs to endure a chaotic, hours-long session known as a vote-a-rama that allows any senator to force a vote on any proposal they want.  As part of the deal that spared the Senate an early vote on the bipartisan package, there was also an agreement to use less than the allowed 50 hours of budget debate divided equally between both sides ahead of the vote-a-rama.  Senators are in discussions about yielding back most of their debate time and moving quickly to the chaotic session. Schumer, on Monday night, said that they would start the marathon of votes “shortly” after they formally take up the budget resolution on Tuesday.

Later today, the President will receive a briefing from the FEMA Administrator and his Homeland Security and COVID-19 Response teams on how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting hurricane preparedness.

Adam S. Olsen, Washington, D.C.