Adam S. Olsen- Washington, D.C.
October 18, 2021

The Senate will reconvene at 3:00 p.m. and will proceed to resume consideration of the nomination of Christine P. O’Hearn to be United States District Judge for the District of New Jersey and will also consider the nomination of Gustavo A. Gelpi, of Puerto Rico, to be United States Circuit Judge for the First Circuit.

This week, Senate and House Democrats will try to break through weeks of gridlock over President Joe Biden’s sweeping social infrastructure plan, as they inch closer to an end-of-month deadline to get a two-part infrastructure package to his desk.  But even as Democrats have gotten closer to the self-imposed deadline, they’ve struggled to find the sort of breakthroughs on significant parts of the bill that would unite progressives and moderates, neither of whom leadership can afford to alienate given the tight margins in the House and Senate.  Progressives have voiced their frustration with Senators Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona) who have warned for months that they oppose a $3.5 trillion top-line figure for the eventual bill.   A group of progressives held a conference call last week urging the two Democratic senators to offer specifics about what they can, or can’t, support in the final bill, which they have refused to do.  During that call Senator Sinema told House Democrats that she will not vote for the multitrillion-dollar package before Congress approves a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill.  This week will see President Biden more engaged in the negotiations between members of his party.  To start, the president met Monday morning with Representative Pramila Jayapal (D-Washington), and Biden is expected to hold other conversations by phone with Democrats across the ideological spectrum in an effort to break the stalemate.  As the negotiations continue, Democrats are considering cutting back or jettisoning programs to shave hundreds of billions of dollars off the final price to get it to a number that can pass the House and Senate along party lines. One key part of President Biden’s climate agenda — a program to rapidly replace coal- and gas-fired power plants with wind, solar and nuclear energy — is likely to be dropped from the bill because of objections from coal-state senator, Joe Manchin.

As the infrastructure bills play out, the Senate will vote on an updated election reform and voting bill on Wednesday, setting up another clash as Democrats struggle to get legislation to President Biden’s desk.   Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) will move on Monday evening to tee up the vote, after Democrats spent months working on a revised bill that could unite all 50 members of his caucus.  But the bill is expected to be blocked by a GOP filibuster, meaning it will fall short of the 60 votes needed to advance.  There’s growing support within the Senate Democratic caucus, and intense pressure coming from outside of it, to create a carve out from the legislative filibuster to let voting-related legislation pass by a simple majority instead of hitting the higher 60-vote threshold required for most legislation.  But in order to change the legislative filibuster Democrats would need total unity from their entire 50-member caucus, something they don’t have as some Senate Democrats oppose nixing the filibuster, and others are viewed as wary of changing the rules at all.

The House will reconvene for votes at 6:30 p.m. tomorrow.

Adam S. Olsen, Washington, D.C.