Adam S. Olsen- Washington, D.C.
August 24, 2021

The House is back in session today, and the two-track approach to enacting President Joe Biden’s expansive domestic plans that made early progress in the Senate faces a crucial test this week in the House, where it hinges on the fractious Democratic majority moving largely in lockstep.  At issue is the timing of the House’s consideration of the $3.5 trillion budget resolution and the separate $550 billion bipartisan infrastructure bill. Progressives are demanding the House take up the resolution, essentially a blueprint that encompasses many of their priorities, and hold off passing the infrastructure legislation. Moderates want the infrastructure package passed now. Neither side appeared willing to budge Monday especially after the moderate group led by Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-New Jersey) grew from nine to 10 with the addition of Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Florida), a co-chair of the  Blue Dog Coalition. The bloc of centrists had been demanding that the House quickly pass the infrastructure bill now to guarantee a big, bipartisan legislative victory for Biden, before the House begins work on a larger $3.5 trillion package that would fund a slew of social benefits programs.  In a Washington Post column published Sunday, the nine Democrats said they “are firmly opposed to holding the president’s infrastructure legislation hostage to reconciliation, risking its passage and the bipartisan support behind it.”  Democratic leaders worked on Monday to cobble together the votes needed to push their $3.5 trillion budget blueprint through the House, but after a day of frenetic negotiations, Democrats ultimately scrapped tentative plans for a vote on Monday. Lawmakers went home shortly after midnight without a clear agreement on how to pave the way for Congress to move quickly to enact an ambitious expansion of the nation’s social safety net over Republican opposition, with Speaker Pelosi telling members, “We must not squander our Congressional Democratic Majorities and jeopardize the once-in-a-generation opportunity to create historic change to meet the needs of working families.”

However, Speaker Pelosi told rank-and-file Democrats in a private meeting Tuesday morning that she is now inching closer to a deal with the moderate group.  The emerging agreement began taking shape late Monday and Tuesday morning. It would extend an olive branch to the moderates led by Rep. Gottheimer by guaranteeing that the House will take up the Senate-passed $1.2 trillion infrastructure package by a September 27th deadline and send it to President Biden’s desk.  The latest tweak will revise the rule from including a sense of Congress that the House commits to voting on the bipartisan infrastructure bill by September 27th to stating that the chamber “shall consider” it by that date.  Guaranteeing an infrastructure vote in the House by September 27th would represent a serious concession to the moderates.

The House will also consider, H.R. 4 – The John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2021 which is a bill to refortify and restore the key civil rights law that bans racial discrimination in voting and redistricting.  The Supreme Court significantly undermined the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in two landmark cases in 2013 and 2021.  Those rulings came as federal courts are increasingly making it more difficult for plaintiffs to win emergency election-related petitions and not explaining their decisions in consequential cases.  The John Lewis bill enshrines judicial precedent and legislative history to strengthen efforts to draw majority-minority districts under the parameters of the Voting Rights Act that better enable racial minorities to elect candidates of their choice.

The House will also likely consider ten bills under suspension of the Rules including S. 1828 – HAVANA Act of 2021.

Adam S. Olsen, Washington, D.C.