The Senate returned to Washington on Monday after a two-week hiatus faced with a pile of complicated legislative work and important deadlines looming to pass President Biden’s far-reaching economic agenda.
The Democratic leaders have planned a month-long sprint for the Senators, warning them to prepare for late nights, weekend work, and even canceling part of their beloved August break to set the final adoption of their priorities in the fall. The house won’t return until next week but will then face a similar time crisis.
Her goal is to advance two huge bills at once before the summer break: a bipartisan investment in roads, bridges, high-speed internet, and other infrastructure projects; and a far larger and more partisan package that would include tax hikes for businesses and the rich to fund social safety nets and programs to combat climate change. If successful, the July sprint would get Congress to enact both bills when it goes back to work in September.
“We are making very good progress on both roads,” said Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and majority leader, on Sunday. “I’ve been on the phone with all sorts of different people and lawmakers all weekend to move forward on these avenues, as well as the White House and the President, and we’re making progress.”
But given the sheer ambition of the legislature – the two bills combined could spend $ 3 trillion or much more – and the slim majority of Democrats in both the House and Senate, the task will not be easy. Either or both bills could stall or fall apart if Democratic leaders attempt to target both a group of moderate Republicans and Democrats who have reached a rare bipartisan agreement on traditional infrastructure spending, and their more progressive Democratic members pushing for more ambitious ones appease package focusing on education, childcare, taxation, healthcare and the environment.
After the bipartisan group of senators reached an agreement last month to spend $ 579 billion in new money on infrastructure projects, the bipartisan group of senators spent much of the extended 4th-run house. Key Senate committees are expected to begin passing parts of this bill this week, and Mr Schumer said he expected a vote by the entire Senate before leaving in August. It remains to be seen whether he can bundle the votes required for the adoption.
Work on the other legislative package, which Republicans have signaled they will oppose, is slowing down. The Democrats are poised to get it passed with a budget maneuver known as reconciliation that would allow them to bypass a Republican filibuster. But that means the party will most likely run out of votes in the Senate and its moderate and progressive wings will have to agree on what to take in and how much to spend.
Senator Bernie Sanders, the progressive Vermonter and chairman of the Senate Budgets Committee, is pushing for up to $ 6 trillion in spending and told the New York Times last week that a moderate proposal to spend a third or less of it would ” was “way too low.”
These differences need to be resolved quickly. Mr Schumer wants the Senate to vote on a budget resolution setting reconciliation spending before the Senate leaves town. Measures in the house could follow.