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In Review: Congress Punts on FY22 Appropriations, Stalls on Infrastructure Amidst Intra-Party Differences

 October 2, 2021 | Cole Karr

President Joe Biden signed on September 30 Congress’ continuing resolution, just hours ahead of a midnight deadline, as the House twice missed its self-imposed deadlines to pass a landmark bipartisan infrastructure package.

The continuing resolution, entitled Extending Government Funding and Delivering Emergency Assistance Act, ensures federal government agencies are funded through December 3, before which Congress will need to pass all 12 appropriations bills or craft a new continuing resolution. The bill signed last week also provides emergency appropriations totaling $28.6 billion for federal response to the slough of recent disasters and $6.3 billion to resettle refugees from Afghanistan.

Despite successfully staving off a lapse of federal discretionary programs – for now –, Congress has yet to move the long-awaited $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act as moderate and progressive wings of the House Democratic Caucus continue to spar over a separate $3.5 trillion reconciliation effort. Part of the Biden Build Back Better agenda, the reconciliation framework would, among its many provisions, expand the country’s “social safety net,” implement universal preschool, expand childcare services, provide two years of paid-for community college, and increase taxes on wealthier Americans. 

The House Progressive Caucus is demanding Democratic leadership provide greater assurance that their priorities are well-funded in the reconciliation package and that their moderate counterparts do not oppose and kill the bill. Moderate voices in the Democratic Party in both the House and Senate have voiced strong concerns about the $3.5 trillion price tag, which had already been negotiated down from its original $7 trillion.

In brief remarks to press after meeting with Democrats on Capitol Hill on October 1, Biden said " it doesn't matter whether it's in six minutes, six days or six weeks, we're going to get it done." He also told members of his party to anticipate the Build Back Better legislation’s topline figure to be between $1.9 and $2.3 trillion.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., had originally brokered a deal between the two factions in mid-August, securing moderate House Democrats’ votes to pass a budget resolution, which sets the stage for a reconciliation bill, on the condition of a September 27 vote on the bipartisan infrastructure legislation. However, House Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., has rallied progressives to block a vote on the infrastructure package until congressional action on the reconciliation framework. Negotiations caused an extension of the self-imposed deadline to October 1, only to be missed once again as the House began a two-week recess.

Pelosi has stated she would not bring a major bill, like the Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act, to the House Floor knowing it would fail to receive a passing vote, and she seeks a reconciliation bill that will pass out of the Senate by a simple majority.

Congressman Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J., the leader of the moderate Problem Solvers Caucus, released a statement following the missed deadlines and that highlights the Party’s divide.

“It’s deeply regrettable that Speaker Pelosi breached her firm, public commitment to Members of Congress and the American people to hold a vote and to pass the once-in-a-century bipartisan infrastructure bill on or before September 27,” Gottheimer said.

Currently, though, there is only a framework plan for the reconciliation bill, and no legislative text has been presented. Furthermore, Senator Joe Manchin, D-W.V., a leading moderate voice in the chamber, revealed on September 30 that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., agreed to his demands for a lower framework price tag totaling $1.5 trillion. The news cast deeper uncertainty on how the forward progression of the bipartisan infrastructure package.

These talks remain on going even as lawmakers debate whether to increase the debt limit ahead of October 18, which Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has warned will be the date the limit is reached.

Stay tuned to NSDC for more updates on this developing story. Contact Cole Karr, NSDC Federal Advocacy Coordinator, for questions or concerns.

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