Politics

A Guide to the Twisted Thicket of Bills in Congress

Democrats passed the funding and debt ceiling bill in the House on Tuesday with no Republican votes, but they can’t do the same in the Senate because of the filibuster.

About six weeks ago, the Senate approved a $1.2 trillion package (including $550 billion in new federal spending) to strengthen the nation’s physical infrastructure. The vote, after months of tortuous negotiations between the White House and lawmakers from both parties, was unusually bipartisan, with 19 Republicans joining all 50 Democrats in support.

But the House hasn’t taken it up yet, because a majority of the House Progressive Caucus won’t vote for it until the larger, partisan bill (more on that in a minute) passes. Mr. Biden and top congressional Democrats — including Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer, the majority leader — agreed on a “two-track” strategy that ties each bill’s fate to the other’s. They settled on this as the only way to pass both, given the competing priorities of the party’s progressive and conservative wings.

I wrote about the reasoning behind that strategy last month. Ms. Pelosi had struck a deal with the conservative faction, promising a vote on the bipartisan bill by Sept. 27 if the faction would support an immediate procedural step to advance the partisan bill. Nothing has changed since then — except that Sept. 27 is in four days, and the partisan bill is nowhere near done.

Which is a problem, because if the bipartisan bill comes to the floor on Monday as promised, it will almost certainly fail.

Representative Pramila Jayapal of Washington, the leader of the House Progressive Caucus, told Ms. Pelosi this week that more than half of her nearly 100 members remained committed to voting against the bipartisan bill before the partisan one is finished. That is more than Republican support for the bipartisan bill can realistically make up for, especially after the House minority whip, Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana, announced on Thursday that he would urge Republicans to vote against it.

The question now is whether Ms. Pelosi will postpone the Sept. 27 vote, infuriating the members to whom she promised it, or whether she will let it go forward and fail. (If she goes the latter route, the House could still pass the bill later.) The outcome will shape negotiations over the partisan bill.

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