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Schumer tees-up Biden’s plans for action next week with outcomes largely unknown

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By Jay Heflin

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced that next week his chamber would move forward on the bipartisan infrastructure deal and the $3.5 trillion budget proposal, but it is not clear how these measures will fare.

Below is background on the plans and a breakdown on some of the hurdles they face in Congress.

Background on the infrastructure proposal:

Senator Schumer said that next Wednesday his chamber would take a procedural vote on the infrastructure bill, which is not expected to include any tax increases.

This vote will not be about passing the bill. It will be a “procedural motion,” where Senators cast ballots on whether to bring the bill forward and debate it. At least sixty Senators must support this motion for the debate to begin on the bill. This will require the support from at least ten Senate Republicans. If the bill gets less than sixty votes, it’s considered to be filibustered and does not move forward.

Currently, no bill has been introduced, and it’s not clear if one will exist by Wednesday. It is also not clear what the Senate will do if there is no bill.

The bipartisan group of Senators who have spent weeks negotiating the bill's details have yet to agree on how to pay for the measure. The crux of the problem is funding the IRS to increase its enforcement, which could raise between $300 billion and $1.6 trillion in revenue over ten years, according to estimates.

Senate Republicans a part of the bipartisan group were originally in favor of the IRS funding. Now they are not. The bipartisan group seeks to replace the IRS provision, but little headway has been made. Talks are expected to continue through the weekend – if not longer.

There is a chance that Senator Schumer could postpone next week’s vote if no agreement is reached, but it is too soon to tell if that will occur.

Background on the $3.5 trillion budget proposal:

Senator Schumer wants his Caucus to agree on the $3.5 trillion budget proposal by next Wednesday, the same day that the chamber has scheduled the procedural vote on the infrastructure proposal.

It is not clear when the Senate will vote on the budget measure, and its text has not been made public. 

The budget is expected to lay the groundwork for legislation that increases taxes on corporations and wealthy taxpayers. It is not expected to increase taxes on taxpayers with less than $400,000 in taxable income. Owners of small businesses and family farms are also expected to be exempt from tax increases, although there is little detail on who qualifies for this.

House Democrats are expected to pass a different budget that would provide more spending than the Senate proposal.

Both chambers must approve the same budget for it to be actionable. If there is no bicameral budget agreement, legislation that increases taxes has no chance of passing Congress.

The budget and future tax legislation (if it is created) will only need Democratic support to pass the Senate because it will have “reconciliation” protections. In the House, where Democrats control the chamber, all legislation is passed by a simple majority.

Breakdown:

While two bills are moving through Congress, it is better to think of them as one. They have been inextricably linked by Democrats who stress that both measures must pass Congress or neither gets enacted.

This connection has caused Senate Republicans to rethink their support for the infrastructure bill. 

Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-SD) told Roll Call that linking the bills “muddies the picture” and that if the bills “are going to have to ride together” that “certainly complicates any effort to secure Republican votes for the infrastructure bill itself.”

Only five Senate Republicans supported the original infrastructure agreement. Since then, conservative support has dwindled, and makes it harder to garner the ten GOP votes needed for the measure to pass the Senate. 

Republican Senators Jerry Moran (Kan.) and Mike Rounds (SD) were originally open to supporting the infrastructure plan when it was announced. Now they are not.

“GOP support for an aisle-crossing deal with President Joe Biden is soft. The bipartisan infrastructure deal that five Senate Republicans helped sell to Biden is under harsh scrutiny from the right, testing the support of GOP centrists who will be crucial to getting the bill passed a guaranteed filibuster,” Politico reports.

Support for the infrastructure plan is also soft among House progressive Democrats. They, on the other hand, support the budget proposal because it funds their social priorities and increases taxes on corporations and wealthy taxpayers. Republicans in both chambers oppose the budget plan because of the tax increases.

Progressive Democrats are also afraid that their party leaders will abandon the budget proposal because moderate Democrats (who stand the greatest chance of losing their re-election bids next year) don’t want to vote on it.

Progressives have warned that they will oppose the infrastructure proposal if there is no guarantee that the budget resolution will pass.

“We will tank the bipartisan infrastructure bill unless we will also pass the [budget] reconciliation bill,” said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), according to Politico.

Meanwhile, moderate House Democrats are vowing to oppose the budget measure because it spends and taxes too much.

Given red-hot inflationary pressures, and our strong desire to keep the House blue, a gargantuan $3.5 trillion package, with massive new taxes, is a non-starter for many of us, and I predict it would go down in a blaze of glory," an unidentified House moderate Democrat told Punchbowl News.

If four House Democrats oppose the budget measure or the infrastructure plan they will not pass the chamber.

This tit-for-tat situation has created a quandary for Democratic congressional leaders: Which bill should be voted on first. Progressives want it to be the budget while moderates want infrastructure.

It is not clear how this problem will be solved because lawmakers cannot vote on two bills simultaneously and pieces of the infrastructure bill cannot be included in a reconciliation bill.  


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