Democrats Advance $3.5 Trillion Reconciliation Bill, But Obstacles Remain
The Senate is likely to be busy in September, as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) still needs to put together a spending bill that conservative Democrats, including Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Krystin Sinema (D-AZ), find agreeable.
On Tuesday, the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives advanced its $3.5 billion budget plan to the Senate. The vote was briefly delayed while ten Democratic representatives indicated they would not support it until a vote was held on a smaller bipartisan infrastructure deal negotiated in the Senate. After Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) committed to bringing it up for a vote within a month, the ten Democrats approved the larger bill, and it passed along partisan lines, with 220 votes in favor and 212 opposed.
The roughly $1 trillion bipartisan bill contains roughly $500 million in new spending for conventional infrastructure, including roads, bridges, the electric grid, railways, and public transit. A number of provisions related to climate were left out of this bill, eliciting complaints from progressive Democrats. Many of these were later added to the larger $3.5 trillion bill. This bill also includes universal pre-K education, Medicare expansion, and increased funding for eldercare.
The issue of passing the smaller, bipartisan bill without passing the larger one has been a point of contention on Capitol Hill. The Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), an alliance of progressive Democrats, indicated in an August survey that most of its ninety-six members would not vote to approve one bill unless the other would be approved as well. Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), the CPC’s chairwoman, confirmed on Tuesday that this remained the group’s position.
The Senate is likely to be busy in September, as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) still needs to put together a spending bill that conservative Democrats, including Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Krystin Sinema (D-AZ), find agreeable. Because of the Senate’s 50-50 split, and the Republicans’ strong opposition to the proposed reconciliation bill, any dissenting Democrat in the chamber could kill the bill. Both senators have agreed to the $3.5 trillion spending proposal, substantially increasing its prospects for success.
While most bills can be “filibustered,” or blocked by a single senator until sixty or more vote to continue, reconciliation is a procedural method that exempts bills from filibusters. The March 2021 American Rescue Plan Act, which provided the third round of $1,400 stimulus checks as well as the incoming Child Tax Credit advance payments, was passed through reconciliation. However, Elizabeth MacDonough, the Senate parliamentarian, has declared that Democrats will only receive one more reconciliation bill during the current legislative session—which Schumer and other Senate Democratic leaders are using for this bill.
Trevor Filseth is a current and foreign affairs writer for the National Interest.