House Dems eye ‘kitchen sink’ for next big bill

Less than two weeks after President Joe Biden incorporated one of the most expansive moves in Congress in decades into law, House Democratic leaders are already dreaming of getting bigger.

With most of the items on their agenda hobbled by the Senate filibuster, top House Democrats are looking for ways to build muscle through drug prices and climate targets, using the same secret budget process the party uses to bypass GOP votes for its pandemic aid bill can. For many members, comprehensive immigration laws are also on the wish list. Democrats are keen to include what they can in Biden’s next high-profile package – this could be the party’s last attempt to use the budgetary tool before the midterm elections.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Senate majority Chuck Schumer have not officially chosen to use the budgetary tool known as reconciliation for Biden’s next major priority, an infrastructure and employment plan. Biden and top Democrats are still publicly campaigning Republicans for his proposal. Given the GOP’s continued reluctance in the Senate, many high-ranking Democrats in both houses believe this will be the ultimate path.

House Democrats are debating whether to include two of the caucus signature bills – one, a drug price bill known as HR 3 and another, a comprehensive green infrastructure bill known as HR 2 – as part of the next reconciliation package, according to people familiar with them your plans. Both would be a huge win for Pelosi, whose caucus drafted the measures shortly after regaining the majority in 2019.

These plans are still in the early stages. House lawmakers left town on Friday for a three-week hiatus, which Democratic leaders will spend assembling their pieces of the package. This includes the chairman of the House Transportation Committee, Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), Who wants to mark his part of the massive bill by the end of May.

Influential groups within the democratic caucus also advocate including more provisions in the budgetary process. The Hispanic Caucus of Congress wants to incorporate the White House immigration law, which would provide a route to citizenship for 11 million people who have lived in the United States

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CHC chairman Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.) Pitched an immigration measure with his peers in a private caucus call last week, explaining that Biden’s comprehensive plan is challenging given the poor prospect of surviving a filibuster in the Senate for the infrastructure bill, according to the caller.

Rep. Raul Ruiz, D-Calif., Speaks on the Law to Protect Patients and Improve Affordable Care during the news conference on Wednesday, June 24, 2020 on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo / Manuel Balce Ceneta)

However, senior Democrats recognize that it would be difficult – if not impossible – to get past the Senate MP, the Chamber’s arbitrator for impartial rules. They say healthcare and climate bills are more likely to have a direct budget impact.

The Senate’s dense budget rules have already forced the MP to crush one of the largest parts of Biden’s coronavirus aid package, an increase in the federal minimum wage. Still, Yarmuth said he believes many different health and climate laws could outlive budgetary rules as well as some aspects of immigration policy: “Not everything, but I think certain things can.”

Then there is the problem of getting 218 votes: the wider the package, the harder it becomes to lock down support across the caucus – a tougher task that is more difficult given the wafer-thin margin of the Democrats generally.

Democrats concede that another massive partisan package with a president who often boasts of a track record of working across the aisle is nowhere near the ideal option. But many also envision a fight to reach an agreement with Republicans on the outline of the infrastructure plan, let alone how to pay for it.

Pelosi and other Democrats have put in options like increasing the corporate tax rate or capital gains tax to pay for every infrastructure bill. GOP leaders have resisted both while offering few of their own.

The House Democrats’ urge to fill the next reconciliation package with as many substantive elements as possible is underpinned by their desire to make optimal use of the legislative powers gained in November. Many House Democrats are increasingly frustrated that their Senate colleagues haven’t lifted their 60-vote threshold on most bills yet.

“If they don’t get rid of the filibuster then let’s use the only mechanism we are allowed to use,” said Rep. Juan Vargas (D-Calif.), Who supports the use of the budget process for immigration changes.

He admitted that this would be as inappropriate as using pliers instead of a hammer to drive a nail into a piece of wood. But, added Vargas, that might be the only option.

“I think it’s silly to use that process, but if that’s all we have … I’m for getting it through every possible way,” he said.

Another Democrat, Rep. Lou Correa, D-Calif., Added that he wanted to see a bill that would provide a route to citizenship for the immigrant population known as dreamers if the Senate does not pass this bill soon: “I think the best way to do this would be outside of reconciliation. But if we need reconciliation, we need reconciliation. “

The Democrats last launched the reconciliation process less than a month ago to pass Biden’s $ 1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, which also included long-term party priorities such as an expansion of child tax credits and a multi-employer pension bailout.

Much is at stake for the second and final reconciliation package of the year. Most Democrats believe that due to the time constraints of the election year and the complexity of the process, they will not have another chance to use the budget tool until midway through next fall. Meanwhile, GOP leaders are already predicting that they will retake the house next year in an election cycle that has been historically bad for the party that controls Washington.

Progressive Democrats are also putting together a long list of priorities that they want to include in the next law of reconciliation, such as another push to raise the minimum wage. But this time around, the Democrats shouldn’t accept another negative decision from the Senate enforcement officer and miss the chance to give a raise to millions of the worst paid workers in the country.

“Obviously I have had the feeling for some time that you can override the parliamentarian. So that wouldn’t be a problem for me, ”said Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Chairwoman of the Progressive Caucus of Congress, adding that her caucus will continue to push Senate Democrats to reform the filibuster and more parliament-approved bills to record.

“There just has to be” an override of the Senate MP, added Jayapal. “Otherwise we won’t be able to deliver our transformative pieces.”

Caitlin Emma contributed to this report.

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