Democrats Inch Closer to Finish Line on Budget Reconciliation, Two New Senate Republicans Cosponsor EQUAL Act
By Jason Pye - Director, Rule of Law Initiatives
A big update on the EQUAL Act: As you may know, we’ve been working on the EQUAL Act over here at Due Process Institute. This bill would eliminate the unjustifiable and unnecessary 18:1 sentencing disparity between crack cocaine and powder cocaine offenses and allow for re-sentencing of current inmates on a case-by-case basis. The EQUAL Act has been sitting in the Senate since the overwhelming passage of the legislation in the House on September 28. Last week, though, four senators—Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Jon Ossoff (D-GA), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)—cosponsored the Senate version of the EQUAL Act. Also, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) marked the 35th anniversary of the sentencing disparity between crack cocaine and powder cocaine with a discussion on the Senate floor. You can watch that here.
Build Back Better Act has a framework: The White House has released a framework for the budget reconciliation package known as the Build Back Better Act. The price tag comes in at $1.75 trillion, but there is nearly $2 trillion worth of tax increases and other pay-fors. The bigger ticket items include climate-related tax and spending provisions, universal preschool, an extension of the expansion of the Affordable Care Act premium tax credits, and an extension of the expansion of the child and earned income tax credits. Tax increases and pay-fors include the minimum 15 percent corporate tax, investments in the Internal Revenue Service to boost tax enforcement, repeal of the Trump administration’s drug rebate rule, and a surcharge on adjusted gross income for higher-income earners. By the sound of it, Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) are on board with the framework, but legislative text will be where it all matters. President Biden visited the House Democratic Conference on Thursday to sell both the Build Back Better Act framework and the bipartisan infrastructure framework. The House Rules Committee held a hearing on the Build Back Better Act, H.R. 5376, on Thursday, but there are provisions in that legislation that aren’t in the framework, including the controversial $600 transaction reporting rule. We still don’t know when this will get a vote, but we’ll keep you updated.
Deficit watch: The final budget deficit for FY 2021 was $2.77 trillion, which is 12 percent lower than the budget deficit in the previous fiscal year. The federal government spent $6.817 trillion—$265 billion more than FY 2020—and brought in $4.047 trillion in revenue, which is $627 billion more than the previous year. The budget deficit for FY 2022 is projected to be $1.153 trillion, but projection doesn’t account for the budgetary or economic impacts of any pending legislation.
To BIF or not to BIF: House Democratic leaders had hoped to put the legislation that is the Senate’s bipartisan infrastructure framework (BIF), H.R. 3684, on the floor on Thursday. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) had said that she wanted to pass the bill before President Biden landed in Rome for the G-20 summit, but progressives forced her to pull back. Interestingly, Politico notes that Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), who co-chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus, specifically warned the White House not to have President Biden ask for a vote on the BIF. He didn’t, and progressives ran with that. Progressives have long said that they wouldn’t allow the BIF to come to the floor without assurances that the Build Back Better Act will pass the Senate. To progressives, it’s a trust issue. Progressives want Manchin and Sinema to commit to voting for legislation tied to the Build Back Better Act framework. Instead of passing the BIF, the House considered and passed a temporary reauthorization of federal transportation programs via the Further Surface Transportation Extension Act, H.R. 5763. Moderate Democrats are frustrated with progressives’ approach to the BIF since moderates view this as an easy win. Still, Pelosi sent a letter to House Democrats on Thursday showing optimism. “As you know by now, the House will postpone the vote on the BIF. The good news is that most Members who were not prepared for a yes vote today have expressed their commitment to support the BIF,” Pelosi wrote. “I thank the overwhelming number of House Democrats who support both the BIF and the Build Back Better Act. It is both heartening and impressive to observe the strength of Members’ engagement in the discussion.” It’s likely that House Democratic leaders will try again on the BIF this week.
House and Senate schedule: It’s worth noting that the Senate is scheduled to be in recess next week while the House will have a committee work week. Both chambers will be back for the week of November 15. The week of November 22 is a recess week for Thanksgiving. Both chambers will be back during the weeks of November 29 and December 6, but that’s it. The bottom line is, there are only a handful of legislative days left in the year, although additional days can be added.
Suspensions in the House: The House returns today at 2:00 pm for legislative business. First and last votes today are expected around 6:30 pm. The chamber will be in session through Friday, with the last votes of the week expected before 3:00 pm that day. That’s also subject to change. There are 24 bills (listed below) on the suspension calendar for the week. These bills will likely be on the floor between Monday and Wednesday, but we imagine there’s a lot of uncertainty on the floor schedule depending on what happens with the BIF and the Build Back Better Act. It’s also possible that any legislative action on the BIF and Build Back Better Act will kick votes on some suspensions into a future week.
Catawba Indian Nation Lands Act, H.R. 1619 (Natural Resources)
Lumbee Recognition Act, H.R. 2758 (Natural Resources)
Pala Band of Mission Indians Land Transfer Act, H.R. 1975 (Natural Resources)
Urban Indian Health Confer Act, H.R. 5221 (Natural Resources)
Bear River National Heritage Area Study Act, H.R. 3616 (Natural Resources)
A bill to authorize the Seminole Tribe of Florida to lease or transfer certain land, and for other purposes, S. 108 (Natural Resources)
Old Pascua Community Land Acquisition Act, H.R. 4881 (Natural Resources)
Eastern Band of Cherokee Historic Lands Reacquisition Act, H.R. 2088 (Natural Resources)
Veteran Entrepreneurship Training Act, H.R. 3469 (Small Business)
Investing in Main Street Act, H.R. 4256 (Small Business)
SBA Cyber Awareness Act, H.R. 3462 (Small Business)
Small Business 7(a) Loan Agent Transparency Act, H.R. 4481 (Small Business)
7(a) Loan Agent Oversight Act, H.R. 4531 (Small Business)
Small Business Advanced Cybersecurity Enhancements Act, H.R. 4513 (Small Business)
Small Business Development Center Cyber Training Act, H.R. 4515 (Small Business)
Fiscal State of the Nation Resolution, H.Con.Res. 44 (Rules)
Hazard Eligibility and Local Projects Act, H.R. 1917 (Transportation and Infrastructure)
Advanced Air Mobility Coordination and Leadership Act, H.R. 1339 (Transportation and Infrastructure)
E-Bridge Act, H.R. 3193 (Transportation and Infrastructure)
Preliminary Damage Assessment Improvement Act, H.R. 3709 (Transportation and Infrastructure)
To amend title 40, United States Code, to modify the treatment of certain bargain-price options to purchase at less than fair market value, and for other purposes, H.R. 2220 (Transportation and Infrastructure)
To redesignate the Federal Building located at 167 North Main Street in Memphis, Tennessee as the "Odell Horton Federal Building," H.R. 390 (Transportation and Infrastructure)
To designate the Federal building located at 1200 New Jersey Ave Southeast in Washington, DC, as the “Norman Yoshio Mineta Federal Building,” H.R. 4679 (Transportation and Infrastructure)
To designate the Federal building and United States Courthouse located at 1125 Chapline Street in Wheeling, WV, as the “Frederick P. Stamp, Jr. Federal Building and United States Courthouse,” H.R. 4660 (Transportation and Infrastructure)
Bills that come to the floor under suspension of the rules require two-thirds of members present and voting for passage. This is the most common way that bills considered by the House come to the floor. Some of these bills may be passed by a voice vote, rather than a roll call vote. Most bills that come to the floor under suspension aren’t widely considered controversial, although leadership may occasionally test a bill under suspension to gauge opposition or sneak a bill through the chamber. Because of the dilatory tactics used by the House Freedom Caucus, some suspension bills may be packaged together to save time and limit the number of roll call votes.
Rule bills: As of now, the only rule bill on the schedule for next week is the Protect Older Job Applicants (POJA) Act, H.R. 3992. The POJA Act, which addresses age discrimination of job applicants by employers, will be considered pursuant to H.Res. 716, which is the rule adopted by the House during the week of October 11. It’s possible that the BIF and the Build Back Better Act could be on the floor this week, as well as other additional legislation, including the Intelligence Authorization Act for FY 2022. Consideration of any other legislation would require the House Rules Committee to meet and approve a rule for consideration of those bills.
House committee schedule: Below are some House committee hearings that may be of interest. The full House committee schedule for the week can be found here.
20 Years After 9/11: Examining Emergency Communications (Homeland Security Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Recovery; Tuesday at 10:00 am)
The Task Force on Financial Technology: Buy Now, Pay More Later? Investigating Risks and Benefits of BNPL and Other Emerging Fintech Cash Flow Products (Financial Services, Tuesday at 10:00 am)
Countering Domestic Terrorism (Intelligence Subcommittee on Counterterrorism, Counterintelligence, and Counterproliferation; Wednesday at 9:30 am)
Evolving the U.S. Approach to Cybersecurity: Raising the Bar Today to Meet the Threats of Tomorrow (Homeland Security, Wednesday at 10:00 am)
Our Changing Economy: The Economic Effects of Technological Innovation, Automation and the Future of Work (Economic Disparity and Fairness in Growth, Wednesday at 10:00 am)
Cyber Threats, Consumer Data, and the Financial System (Financial Services, Wednesday at 10:00 am)
Markup of Legislative Measures (Judiciary, Wednesday at 10:00 am)
Entrepreneurship in the New Economy (Small Business, Wednesday at 10:00 am)
The Immediate Challenges to our Nation’s Food Supply Chain (Agriculture, Wednesday at 10:00 am)
Cyber Threats, Consumer Data, and the Financial System (Financial Services Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Financial Institutions, Wednesday at 10:00 am)
A Call to Action: Modernizing the Community Services Block Grant (Education and Labor Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Human Services, Wednesday at 10:15 am)
Article One: Strengthening Congressional Oversight Capacity (Modernization of Congress, Thursday at 9:00 am)
The Texas Abortion Ban and its Devastating Impact on Communities and Families (Judiciary, Thursday at 10:00 am)
The Community College Pipeline to Small Businesses (Small Business Subcommittee on Innovation, Entrepreneurship, and Workforce Development; Thursday at 10:00 am)
The Evolving Cybersecurity Landscape: Industry Perspectives on Securing the Nation's Infrastructure (Transportation and Infrastructure, Thursday at 10:00 am)
Closing the Courthouse Doors: The Injustice of Forced Arbitration Agreements (Education and Labor Subcommittee on Employment, Labor, and Pensions; Thursday at 10:15 am)
If you’re interested in watching any of these hearings online, you can find committee websites here.
Noms, noms, noms: The Senate returns today at 3:00 pm and will resume consideration of the nomination of Jonathan Davidson to serve as Deputy Under Secretary of the Treasury. The cloture motion on the Davidson nomination was filed by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) on Thursday. Schumer also filed cloture on the nominations of Benjamin Harris to serve as an Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, Isobel Coleman to serve as a Deputy Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development, Jeffrey M. Prieto to serve as an Assistant Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, and Rajesh D. Nayak to serve as Assistant Secretary of Labor. The cloture motions for all of these nominations ripen on Tuesday. We imagine a vote series on at least some of these cloture motions tomorrow.
Obviously, the calendar is fluid: If the House moves on the BIF, presumably without amendment, the Senate won’t take that up again, but if the Build Back Better Act is sent to the Senate, that could shake up the floor schedule. It’s possible that the House sends something over even if there isn’t a deal on the legislative text on the framework. If a deal on text is reached, the Senate could begin consideration. Remember, there will be a vote-a-rama, and that could consume a considerable amount of floor time.
Senate committee schedule: Below are some Senate committee hearings that may be of interest. The full Senate committee schedule for the week is here.
Cleaning Up Online Marketplaces: Protecting Against Stolen, Counterfeit, and Unsafe Goods (Judiciary, Tuesday at 10:00 am)
The Libor Transition: Protecting Consumers and Investors (Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs; Tuesday at 10:00 am)
The State of Nutrition in America 2021 (Agriculture Subcommittee on Food and Nutrition, Specialty Crops, Organics, and Research; Tuesday at 10:00 am)
Nominations Hearing (Judiciary, Wednesday at 10:00 am)
Implementation of Aviation Safety Reform (Commerce, Science, and Transportation; Wednesday at 10:00 am)
Examining Programs at the Economic Development Administration (Environment and Public Works, Wednesday at 10:00 am)
Business Meeting (Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs; Wednesday at 10:30 am)
Executive Business Meeting (Judiciary, Thursday at 9:00 am)
Business Meeting (Small Business, Thursday at 9:30 am)
Next Steps: The Road Ahead for the COVID-19 Response (Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions; Thursday at 10:00 am)
Potential Non-Electric Applications Of Civilian Nuclear Energy (Energy and Natural Resources, Thursday at 10:00 am)
Only one more win: If the Atlanta Braves win one more, they win the World Series. We had a chance to take it last night, but our bullpen, which had been a strength through all of the playoffs, didn’t pitch well. The World Series heads back to Houston. Game 6 is tomorrow night. If you’re a Braves fan, like me, you’re tensing up. You’ve been here before, and you’re worried it’s about to happen again.
Go Dawgs!: I just want to take a moment to point out that the University of Georgia Bulldogs are still the #1 college football team in the nation after dispatching the University of Florida Gators over the weekend by a score of 34 to 7.
If you’re interested in watching any of these hearings online, you can find committee websites here.