Adam S. Olsen- Washington, D.C.
October 4, 2021

House progressives refused to vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill on Friday, which the Senate approved in August, because there was no deal on the Democrats’ larger reconciliation package.  After progressives and moderates failed to break their stalemate over the two pieces of legislation last week, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) on Sunday said he hopes to pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill and a reconciliation package in the next month, setting another target date for Congress to approve two pieces of legislation central to President Joe Biden’s domestic agenda.  Leader Schumer’s deadline for passage of the bills matches that of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California), who announced on Saturday that she wants to pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill by October 31st, when the 30-day reauthorization of highway funding expires.  The House and Senate on Friday night passed legislation to reauthorize funding for highway and transit construction programs that lapsed the day before in an effort to avert thousands of worker furloughs and interrupted projects.  House lawmakers passed the 30-day stopgap measure on a bipartisan basis with a vote of 365-51.

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer plans another vote today on a measure passed by the House to suspend the federal government’s legal debt limit until December 2022. But his Republican counterpart, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), vows to block the attempt, for the third time running, leaving a path forward very uncertain.  Each party has a failsafe available at any time, just 10 Republican senators can join with Democrats to end a filibuster of the debt-ceiling legislation. Or, all 50 Senate Democrats can unite in carving out an exception to the filibuster rule, so that the measure can pass with a simple majority vote. Democrats also have the option to use the reconciliation process, which would take about two weeks to raise the debt ceiling.  That suggests Monday, October 4th, as the last day to comfortably follow the alternative process, if Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen’s October 18th date for the government to run out of money proves binding. Morgan Stanley analysts forecast that unless there is a resolution by next week, Treasury bills maturing in late October could “quickly” decline in value, they wrote in a note to clients late last week. On Friday, Treasury bills around the potential default window sold off, with the yield on the October 21 maturity climbing as much as 8 basis points.

Just a short while ago, Leader Schumer Schumer said that Congress needs to get a bill raising the debt ceiling to President Biden’s desk by the end of the week, an ambitious timeline given an entrenched stalemate between Democrats and Republicans. “Let me be clear about the task ahead of us: we must get a bill to the President’s desk dealing with the debt limit by the end of the week. Period,” Schumer wrote in a letter to Senate Democrats on Monday.

For today, the Senate will be in session and will resume consideration of the House message accompanying S.1301, the legislative vehicle to suspend the debt limit.  The Senate will also vote on the nomination of Jonathan Eugene Meyer to be General Counsel of the Department of Homeland Security.

The House is in committee work week this week and next, and will return for votes on Tuesday, October 19th.

Adam S. Olsen, Washington, D.C.