But the “two-way” strategy of pursuing a pair of historic bills creates the possibility that neither of them becomes law.
While the infrastructure package has been hailed by President Joe Biden as a model of bipartisanship – 19 Senate Republicans voted in favor – the budget plan is much more divisive. Not only are Republicans against it, but some Democrats are questioning the merits of such a huge bill.
Just hours after the infrastructure victory, Democratic leaders in the Senate pushed through the $ 3.5 billion budget resolution on Wednesday in the wee hours of the day in a partisan 50-49 vote, without the support of Republicans.
Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives, had vowed not to address the infrastructure bill until the Senate passed the budget. But when the bills arrive in the House, the road becomes much more bumpy.
Progressive Democrats insist they won’t support the infrastructure package without a much bigger budget resolution, which includes a range of spending programs backed by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her left-wing allies.
More and more centrist House Democrats have raised concerns about the scale of the budget bill, raising the prospect of turf war once the two pieces of legislation reach the lower house – and risking the adoption of both, given the narrow majority of eight votes enjoyed by Democrats in the Loger.
For his part, Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader in the Senate, said he believed the strategy was working. “The two-track strategy is moving full steam ahead,” he said Tuesday. “The Senate is on track to complete both prongs – and deliver an exceptional outcome for the American people. “
Biden appeared much more circumspect, telling reporters more difficult negotiations in Congress awaited them. “Let’s be clear,” he said after Tuesday’s Senate vote on infrastructure. “The work is far from over.
Biden’s assurances did little to appease Republicans, who attacked Democrats for pursuing a partisan process minutes after celebrating a bipartisan victory.
“Today Americans can witness the best and the worst here in the United States Senate,” said Lisa Murkowski, a Republican from Alaska who frequently crosses the political aisle.
“Best of all: the Senate has just adopted, on a strong bipartisan basis, a historic infrastructure package,” she added. “The worst: The Senate immediately turned to a fully partisan bill, a budget resolution that proposes more than $ 3.5 billion in new spending that will translate into tax hikes for Americans. “
Even some centrist Democrats questioned the rapid change. Although Kyrsten Sinema, the Arizona Democrat who negotiated the infrastructure deal, and Joe Manchin, the closely watched West Virginia Democrat, voted for the budget resolution early Wednesday morning, both questioned the wisdom of a price tag of $ 3.5 billion.
Biden described himself on Tuesday as a “congenital optimist,” telling reporters about the budget plan: “I think we’ll have enough Democrats to vote for this, and I think the House will end up tabling two bills on my desk. “.
The two separate approaches are a by-product of an oddity in the Senate rules. Normally, a bill cannot be passed by the chamber without a qualified majority of 60 votes, which is necessary to interrupt debate on a bill – the process used for the infrastructure bill. But a process called reconciliation, aimed at getting Senate finance bills through faster, only needs a simple majority, which Democrats assembled on Wednesday morning, even without needing a decisive vote in the Senate. Kamala Harris’ vice-presidency in the upper house 50-50. .
The budget resolution provides the plan for a budget that would spend billions of dollars on a range of Biden’s priorities, including extending universal education to three- and four-year-olds; implementing clean energy tax credits; and the expansion of Medicare, the public health insurance system for older Americans, to provide dental, vision and hearing benefits. The spending would be offset, in part, by higher taxes on American corporations and wealthy Americans.
Business interests fear that Pelosi’s insistence on considering the two bills together will doom the bipartisan agreement on infrastructure spending they have supported for years. The Business Roundtable and other pro-business lobby groups have suggested that the House – whose members are on summer recess – returned early to consider the infrastructure bill.
But Steny Hoyer, the second House Democrat, said that even though the House would return from vacation several weeks earlier than expected, on August 23, it would first consider the Senate budget resolution.