The House has resumed its summer recess after a dramatic couple of days. Democrats were able to pass their $3.5 trillion budget blueprint and the John Lewis voting rights bill as well as set a date for a vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill. The next House floor votes are set for September 20 — nearly a month away. Today, though, Democratic leaders took a bit of a victory lap, with both centrists and progressives framing the deal struck Tuesday as a win. Here’s what you need to know.
Who Won Democrats' Big Budget Deal?
Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday celebrated the House’s approval a day earlier of Democrats’ $3.5 trillion budget framework — and downplayed some elements of the deal she struck to get all Democrats on board.
"It's a wonderful morning. We had such a good day in the Congress yesterday," Pelosi told reporters at her weekly press conference. "I want to salute my caucus for the commitment to values that they demonstrated in accepting the president’s budget, the Build Back Better initiative. Again, it was a team effort for us to win the vote."
For a while, though, it was far from certain that all of Pelosi’s team would stick together, as a group of moderate Democrats threatened to withhold their support for the budget blueprint unless the House first voted on the infrastructure bill.
The deal Pelosi made to secure the moderates’ votes included setting a September 27 deadline for a vote on the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill already passed by the Senate. Pelosi said that concession was just a "clarification" of the timeframe since surface transportation program authorizations expire at the end of next month and an infrastructure vote would have been needed by then anyway. "So, we're talking about a couple of days earlier," Pelosi said, adding that the moderates’ participation was "constructive."
Pelosi wants the $3.5 trillion sending package paid for: Pelosi told reporters that her goal is to have all committees reporting their individual portions of the budget package by September 15. She added that she wants to see the entire cost of the legislation covered. "I’d like to have it totally paid for. We’ll see what is possible," she said. Other Democrats have suggested that their spending plans may not be fully offset.
Schumer says infrastructure and budget plans will meet most of President Biden’s emissions goals: In a letter to Senate colleagues, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said that an analysis by his office shows that the two pieces of legislation together would put the U.S. on track to reduce carbon emissions to about 45% of 2005 levels by 2030. Read more at Axios.
Centrists say they got what they wanted: "With roads and bridges crumbling across our nation, this agreement does what we set out to do: secure a standalone vote for the bipartisan infrastructure bill, send it to the president’s desk, and then separately consider the reconciliation package," the centrists led by Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) said in a joint statement on Tuesday. "We have established a path forward that ensures we can pass this once-in-a-century infrastructure investment by September 27th, allowing us to create millions of jobs and bring our nation into the 21st century. It will receive standalone consideration, fully delinked, and on its own merits."
Progressives say there’s no "delinking": Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the larger spending package were still linked as far as her caucus is concerned. "As our members have made clear for three months, the two are integrally tied together, and we will only vote for the infrastructure bill after passing the reconciliation bill," she said in a statement.
Why the moderate holdouts may have been so SALTy: "It seems the nine members obstructed the caucus to obtain leverage in crafting the reconciliation package to junk the $10,000 limit on state and local tax (SALT) deductions," writes Washington Post Columnist Jennifer Rubin. "If so, they suffer from political tone-deafness, as the deductions primarily help wealthy homeowners in blue states. At a time when Democrats are contrasting their support for working- and middle-class Americans with the GOP’s defense of wealthy scofflaws, and when Democrats are searching for more revenue, restoring the SALT deductions was not going to happen."
So maybe nobody won: "Pelosi managed to keep her party from falling apart at a crucial moment, and that’s about all. Moderates still can’t point to passage of the bipartisan infrastructure bill, and progressives are angry that they’ve lost leverage to pass a sprawling social spending package," Jeff Greenfield writes at Politico.
"The agreement has to be accorded some level of respect, since it keeps alive the possibility of victory for President Joe Biden’s agenda. But what it really shows, besides Pelosi’s deftness, is just how far Democrats are from a coherent governing force. Particularly with a huge trust deficit between the party’s factions, the struggle between the left and center could still derail Democrats’ best shot at a set of accomplishments to buoy them in 2022 and beyond."
September is going to be rough: The calendar will be packed and the prospects for another intraparty clash over the infrastructure and budget bills are quite high given that trust levels between moderates and progressives are quite low. The budget package may not be ready by the September 27 deadline for an infrastructure vote. Progressives will worry that moderates will bail on the reconciliation package if the infrastructure bill is approved separately.
That will pose another challenge for Pelosi. Biden on Tuesday praised her leadership as "masterful." She may have to demonstrate that mastery again, working with the Senate on the reconciliation package as well, as Democrats set up the timing of their votes in both chambers.
Tuesday’s vote sets up a debt-ceiling showdown: Punchbowl News reports that Tuesday’s vote "made it official -- there’s going to be a partisan showdown over government funding and the debt limit this fall. We all know it’s coming, but the rule included language preventing a clean vote on a separate resolution raising the debt limit. Democrats are now expected to pair a debt-limit increase next month with a continuing resolution to keep federal agencies open beyond Sept. 30, which is when government funding runs out."
The bottom line: Democrats took a big step Tuesday toward enacting President Biden’s economic agenda, but they’re nowhere near done yet.
Majority of Americans Back Biden’s Spending Plans: Poll
As Democrats attempt to simultaneously pass the $1 trillion infrastructure plan approved by a bipartisan group of senators and the $3.5 trillion "human infrastructure" package that would advance on a partisan basis, they have one big advantage: Most Americans say they support both.
The bipartisan infrastructure plan received support from 63% of respondents in a new USA Today/Suffolk University poll, the paper reported Wednesday, while the larger partisan package received support from 52%.
Partisan differences were substantial, though, with only 36% of Republicans backing the bipartisan bill, compared to 89% of Democrats. On the larger partisan package, just 21% of Republicans expressed support, compared to 89% of Democrats.
Half of the respondents in the poll — which involved 1,000 registered voters reached by phone between Thursday, August 19 and Tuesday, August 24, with a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points — said they want lawmakers to work together to work across party lines on major issues, even if less is accomplished that way. But a slim majority of Democrats (51%) say they want their representatives to get things done, even if it means moving ahead without Republican support.
Child Tax Credit Payments Have Pulled 3 Million Children Out of Poverty: Study
The temporary boost to the child tax credit included in the Covid relief package passed earlier this year prevented about 3 million children from being in poverty in July, according to an analysis by researchers at Columbia University.
The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which President Biden signed into law in March, made three changes to the child tax credit that helped produce those results:
1. It increased the value of the credit from $2,000 per child to $3,000 or $3,600, depending on age;
2. It expanded access to reach more families, especially poorer ones that don’t file tax returns; and
3. It required a portion of the tax credits to be paid out directly in monthly installments, starting in July.
The first batch of payments was provided to households with 59.3 million children, the researchers said, and was primarily responsible for reducing the U.S. child poverty rate from 15.8% in June to 11.9% in July.
More broadly, the researchers found that all Covid relief measures – including extra unemployment benefits, stimulus checks and food assistance – kept roughly 6 million children from being in poverty during the month of July.
The tax credit program is expected to reach even more children in the coming months as more households sign up. Researchers estimate that as many as 3 million children are not yet receiving the benefit. The payments went out to households with about 61 million children in August, which should further reduce the poverty rate.
The enhanced child tax credit is scheduled to expire in December, although Democrats aim to pass a longer-term extension of the program as part of the $3.5 trillion budget plan currently under construction and debate in Congress.
- The Emptiness of Democrats’ Big Deal – Jeff Greenfield, Politico
- Pelosi Is Poised for Another Big Victory – Jonathan Bernstein, Bloomberg
- The Democratic Rift Between Progressives and Moderates Is Unresolvable – Henry Olsen, Washington Post
- Why Pelosi’s Victory Was Never in Doubt – Jennifer Rubin, Washington Post
- Biden Needs to Get More Aggressive About Delta — for Our Sake, and His – David Faris, The Week
- The Undeniable Overlap of Politics, Vaccinations and the Impact of the Virus’s Fourth Wave – Philip Bump, Washington Post
- America’s Exceptional Infighting Over the Coronavirus – Aaron Blake, Washington Post
- The FDA’s Slow Road to Full Vaccine Approval Will Matter in the Long Run – Megan McArdle, Washington Post
- F.D.A., Not F.D.R. – David Leonhardt, New York Times
- Inflation Could Stay High Next Year, and That’s OK – Peter Coy, New York Times