Adam S. Olsen- Washington, D.C.
August 25, 2021

The House has adjourned again, after House Democrats voted Tuesday to move forward with President Joe Biden’s top domestic legislative priorities after resolving a standoff between Democratic Leadership and centrist members, who threatened to block the $3.5 trillion safety net expansion.  The House voted 220 to 212 on a key procedural motion to instruct committees to write the $3.5 trillion bill, which can now pass both Congressional chambers without any Republican support. To placate the centrist Democratic holdouts, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) committed to a September 27th deadline to vote on the $550 billion Senate-passed infrastructure bill.  While the budget plan, which also passed the Senate this month, does not have the force of law, it allows Democrats to move forward with a fast-track process known as reconciliation. That would enshrine the details of the blueprint in legislation that is shielded from a filibuster, allowing it to pass over the objections of Republicans.  It is expected to include universal preschool, paid family leave, federal support for child care and elder care, an expansion of Medicare and a broad effort to tackle climate change, all paid for through tax increases on high earners and companies.  Remarks by President Biden on the Ongoing Evacuation Efforts in Afghanistan and the House Vote on the Build Back Better Agenda.

All of this sets the stage for a very complicated and contentious September when the House returns for votes on Monday, September 20th, with only nine legislative days before October 1st.  The budget resolution, now cleared by both the House and Senate, starts the process of work over the next several weeks as committee chairs in both chambers write their portions of a massive $3.5 trillion social spending bill, assemble them together and prepare them for floor action on the target date of September 15th.  Around the middle of September is also when the Treasury Department is expected to be on the precipice of running out of the extraordinary measures they’ve put in place to avoid defaulting on the national debt.  Later in the month is the September 27th agreed upon deadline to vote on the Senate-passed bipartisan infrastructure bill, just a few days before surface transportation programs are set to expire on October 1st.  In addition, government funding dries up at the end of September, unless Congress can either conference all 12 spending bills or pull together a continuing resolution by October 1st to keep the government open.  Any continuing resolution would have to be based on predicated spending levels and policies adopted during the Trump administration making it a tall order for House Democrats.  Finally, by the end of September, the 15 percent increase in federal food benefits put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic are also set to expire and on October 3rd, the extension of the ban on evictions will end.

Later on Tuesday, House Democrats passed a sweeping voting rights bill named after Rep. John Lewis, (D-Georgia) the late civil rights icon.  The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act was approved 219-212 and all Republicans voted against the legislation.  The bill is part of congressional Democrats’ broader campaign to strengthen voting laws at the federal level to fight restrictive voting laws passed in Republican-led states, such as Texas and Georgia. However, it faces steep opposition in the Senate, where Democrats hold a thin majority.  The legislation would require states with recent histories of discrimination to get federal “preclearance” to change their voting laws, which directly addresses the Supreme Court’s 2013 ruling in Shelby County v. Holder. The ruling gutted the preclearance system in the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which civil rights advocates argue was successful in blocking proposed voting restrictions in states and localities with histories of racial discrimination.

Both the House and Senate now stand adjourned.  The Senate will reconvene for votes on Monday, September 13th and the House will be in a combination of recess and committee work weeks and will reconvene for votes on Monday, September 20th.

Washington, D.C. Daily Update will not publish again until the Senate reconvenes on Monday, September 13th.

Adam S. Olsen, Washington, D.C.