Posts tagged with "Reconciliation"

Democrats’ big climate, healthcare, and tax package clears major Senate hurdle

August 9, 2022

The U.S. Senate voted on Sunday, August 7, to advance a sweeping climate and economic bill with the support of all 50 Democrats—bringing long-stalled elements of President Joe Biden’s agenda one step closer to reality, reports NBC News.

The procedural vote on the filibuster-proof package was 51-50, with all Republicans opposing the motion to begin debate and Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote.  The bill will be sent to the House in the coming days.

The legislation, called the Inflation Reduction Act, includes major spending to combat climate change and extend healthcare coverage, paid for with savings on prescription drugs and taxes on corporations. It puts hundreds of billions of dollars toward deficit reduction.

“This is one of the most comprehensive and impactful bills Congress has seen in decades,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) said on the floor before the vote.

“It’s going to mean a lot for the families and the people of our country,” Harris told NBC News as she arrived to break the 50-50 tie.

The procedural vote, during a rare weekend session, kicks off several hours of debate, followed by a “vote-a-rama”—a process in which senators can offer virtually unlimited amendments that require a simple majority of votes to adopt.

The legislation isn’t subject to the filibuster—it is being pursued through a special process called reconciliation, which allows Democrats to pass it on their own. But the process includes limits; policies included in the bill must be related to spending and taxes, and the legislation has to comply with a strict set of budget rules. It’s the same process Democrats used to pass the American Rescue Plan in 2021 and Republicans used to pass the Trump tax cuts of 2017.

Before Sunday’s vote, the Senate parliamentarian ruled that key Democratic provisions on clean energy and allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices passed muster and could be included in the inflation package, Democratic leaders said.

“While there was one unfortunate ruling in that the inflation rebate is more limited in scope,” Schumer said, “the overall program remains intact and we are one step closer to finally taking on Big Pharma and lowering Rx drug prices for millions of Americans.”

The Democrats-only package, which includes several pieces of Biden’s Build Back Better agenda, was long thought to be dead after Senator Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia)rejected a larger bill in December. He cut a deal last week with Schumer, pleasantly surprising many of his Democratic colleagues, and has since been on a media blitz to sell it.

“It’s a red, white and blue bill,” Manchin said recently on MSNBC, calling it “one of the greatest pieces of legislation” and “the bill that we need to fight inflation, to have more energy.”

On Thursday, August 4,  Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona), following a week of silence, signed off on the bill after securing some changes to it.

Sinema forced Democrats to remove a provision that would have limited the carried interest tax break, which enables wealthy hedge fund and investment managers to pay a lower tax rate.

Instead, it was replaced by a new 1% excise tax on stock buybacks that is expected to bring in $74 billion—five times as much as the carried interest provision, Schumer said. Sinema also secured $4 billion in funding for drought prevention in Arizona and other western states.

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) said on Friday, August 5, that the amendment process would be unpleasant. “What will vote-a-rama be like? It’ll be like hell,” he said.

Research contact: @NBCNews

Biden: Curbing filibuster to raise debt limit is ‘a real possibility’

October 7, 2021

President Joe Biden said on Tuesday, October 5, that Democrats are considering a change to Senate filibuster rules to bypass a Republican blockade over raising the debt limit, which has set the United States on a collision course with a government default, The New York Times reports.

“Oh, I think that’s a real possibility,” Biden said when asked if Democrats were considering the last-resort route, which would involve making an exception to allow for a debt ceiling bill to pass with a simple majority instead of the usual 60 votes needed.

Senate Democrats discussed carving out the exception at their weekly lunch on Tuesday. No conclusions were reached, but notably, according to participants, the two strongest opponents of filibuster changes—Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona—did not speak up in protest. They also did not speak up in support.

However, on Wednesday morning, Manchin indicated that he would not support modifying the filibuster in order to deal with the debt ceiling.

The move, once nearly unimaginable in a chamber steeped in decorum, has come under discussion as the Biden Administration and congressional Democrats have explored ways to head off a government default without Republican support.

Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen has warned lawmakers of “catastrophic” consequences, including a recession and financial crisis, if Congress does not act before October 18, when the government is projected to be unable to pay its bills.

On Wednesday, the Senate was scheduled to vote on whether to take up legislation to raise the debt ceiling until December 2022. But with ten Republican senators needed to join Democrats in support, the vote is expected to fail.

Some Democrats have expressed hope that if curbing the filibuster is the only avenue left, the party could muster 50 votes for the rule change.

Biden’s remarks on Tuesday evening, made as he returned to the White House after a trip to Michigan to sell a bipartisan infrastructure package and expansive social spending bill, reflected the president’s increasingly confrontational approach to a divided chamber that has presented him with one legislative obstacle after another as he tries to pass his domestic agenda.

“As soon as this week, your savings and your pocketbook could be directly impacted by this Republican stunt,” Mr. Biden said during remarks at the White House on Monday, October 4—cautioning that a failed vote on Wednesday could rattle financial markets, sending stock prices lower and interest rates higher. “A meteor is headed for our economy,” he said.

The president has also bristled at the ultimatum put forth by Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, who has said Democrats must use reconciliation—a more complicated process that could take a week or more to come together—if they want to overcome Republican opposition to raising the debt limit.

Research contact: @nytimes

White House to reset messaging on spending bills

October 5, 2021

The White House is looking to reset the messaging this week around its multitrillion-dollar spending bills deadlocked in Congress, as President Joe Biden hits the road to pitch popular elements of the package. NBC News reports.

Officials are hoping to get the focus back on the content of the bills, like programs that would cut prescription drug prices and lower child care costs, and away from the process and debate over the price tag, which has been at the center of infighting among Democrats in Washington, said a White House official.

Biden will travel to the working-class town of Howell, Michigan, on Tuesday to “continue rallying public support” for the bills, the White House said on Sunday, October 3, in a statement. Biden said Saturday that he may make other stops this week, although the official said nothing has been finalized.

Biden said over the weekend that he believed the messaging around the bills had gotten muddled and that he hoped to improve the sales pitch. The bills—one for $550 billion on infrastructure and another for a proposed $3.5 trillion to fund a range of social programs—are part of a major campaign promise Biden made to rebuild the country’s physical and “human” infrastructure and have been the focus of his domestic policy agenda as president.

There’s an awful lot that’s in …  these bills that everybody thinks they know, but they don’t know what’s in them,” Biden told reporters on Saturday, October 2, adding, “When you go out and you test each of the individual elements in the bill, everyone is for them, not everyone, over 70% of the American people are for them.”

According to NBC News, both the infrastructure bill and the social spending measure have the support of Democrats—but moderates have pushed to reduce the size of the social safety net bill, while progressives insist the spending is needed especially following the economic upheaval caused by the pandemic.

Progressive House Democrats refused on Friday to vote for the smaller infrastructure bill until they had more assurances that the larger social spending bill also would pass the Senate. Both bills only need Democratic support because they are being put forward through a legislative process known as reconciliation.

In Washington, much of the focus by the White House this week will be on trying to reach an agreement among Democratic senators on the larger social safety net bill.

Biden had numerous phone calls over the weekend from his Delaware home with members of Congress, said the official, who declined to say which members.

Research contact: @NBCNews