Adam S. Olsen- Washington, D.C.
September 20, 2021

Both the House and Senate will reconvene today and begin a frantic two week period of work to try to complete items that need to be finished by September 30th.  Today is the first day both chambers will be in session on the same day since late July.

The Senate will convene at 3:00 p.m. and resume consideration of the nomination of Margaret Irene Strickland to be United States District Judge for the District of New Mexico.  The Senate will also consider and vote on the nomination of Veronica S. Rossman to be United States Circuit Judge for the Tenth Circuit.

The House will reconvene for votes at 6:30 p.m. and is expected to consider five bills under suspension of the Rules including S. 189 – Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2021.  The House may also consider as many as ten postponed suspension bills from August.

House and Senate Democrats are confronting two quickly approaching deadlines: the September 30th funding cliff to prevent a government shutdown and House Democrats’ commitment to vote on the roughly $1 trillion Senate-passed infrastructure deal.  As Democrats move forward with government funding on the floor, much of their behind-the-scenes haggling this week is likely to focus on President Joe Biden’s two-part infrastructure spending package. With ten days before much of the government runs out of money, House Democrats are expected to vote this week on a stopgap spending bill that would keep the government open until December and fund Hurricane Ida reconstruction, wildfire response, Afghan resettlement and other emergency matters.  That bill might then be paired with a measure to raise the debt limit, although Democratic leadership hasn’t said if they will tie the debt fight to the continuing resolution or try to pass it on its own or attach it to another bill.  Senate Republicans have vowed that they won’t help pass the debt ceiling increase, whether it is on its own or included in another bill.  Because conservatives are vowing that they will filibuster any bill that includes a debt hike, Democrats will need at least ten GOP votes unless they backtrack and include it in the $3.5 trillion spending plan and pass it with only Democratic support.

In a letter on Friday previewing this month’s short legislative session, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland) said the House will vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill the last week of September “pursuant to the rule passed in August.”  The 13 House committees tasked with writing the second $3.5 trillion package have completed their work and advanced their respective portions this week, adhering to a September 15th  goal set by Democratic leaders.  Beyond those fiscal deadlines and the infrastructure bills, Hoyer confirmed the House will also vote on legislation to guarantee access to abortion after the Supreme Court earlier this month refused to block a restrictive Texas law that bans the procedure in almost all cases.  Other items slated for time on the House floor schedule include the annual National Defense Authorization Act, which advanced out of the House Armed Services Committee earlier this month.  More than 800 amendments have been filed to the House Rules Committee, which will take up and determine the contours of the debate today.

Senate Democrats will vote as soon as this week on revamped voting and election reform legislation after Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) moved to tee it up.  Democrats, including Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) and Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia), rolled out the updated bill last week, touting it as a unifier of the 50-member Senate Democratic Caucus.  But the bill will likely fall to a GOP filibuster, with Democrats needing 10 GOP votes to start debate. Manchin is pitching Republican senators on the bill, but they blocked the more sweeping For the People Act earlier this year and have been publicly skeptical of the renewed Democratic effort.  Democrats are under growing pressure to nix the 60-vote legislative filibuster or make exceptions that would keep it intact on other legislation but let voting bills pass by a simple majority.  But Democrats would need total unity to change the rules, something they don’t currently have and both Manchin and Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona) have said they oppose nixing the filibuster and Manchin has specifically opposed a carve out for voting rights.  The new slimmed down legislation jettisons some of the more controversial elements of the earlier plan. It would not, for instance, restructure the Federal Election Commission or mandate the use of nonpartisan commissions for congressional redistricting.  The package’s provisions range from making Election Day a public holiday to protecting local election officials from partisan interference. Partisan gerrymandering and voter caging would also be banned. Same-day voter registration would be available in all states, as would automatic voter registration systems. A 30-minute wait-time limit would be imposed for in-person voting, and uniform, flexible ID requirements would be established in states that require voter IDs.

Adam S. Olsen, Washington, D.C.