House signs will begin reconciliation markup next week
House Democrats face a legislative crisis upon their return to town, with concurrent deadlines setting up a mad race to draft a massive reconciliation plan and pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill within weeks.
House committees will start scoring their share of the $ 3.5 trillion reconciliation bill next week after lawmakers approved the budget resolution yesterday, overcoming a dispute between leaders and moderate Democrats (PM E&E News, August 24).
Budget panels on both sides of Capitol Hill are expected to assemble the package by mid-September ahead of a potentially contentious vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill – HR 3684 – currently slated for September 27 under a deal concluded between the moderates and the President of the Chamber, Nancy. Pelosi (D-California). Not to mention the tightening of the estimates that will come with the end of the fiscal year on September 30.
At the same time, significant tensions remain over the sequencing of bills, pitting the moderates against the progressives within the Democratic House caucus. This conflict could further derail the whole process. All of this means that lawmakers will have few precious legislative days to prepare for what will likely be the most important climate bill in U.S. history.
With the holidays currently scheduled on the Congress calendar, “you have a maximum of 10 days in September to do all of this,” House Budget Speaker John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) Said yesterday. “All the committees I know of are already functioning,” Yarmuth told reporters.
Despite the positioning of House progressives, who want to see the reconciliation package passed by the Senate before voting on the bipartisan bill, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) Told reporters the The order in which bills received votes remained an open question.
“We don’t have a firm vision for sequencing,” he said, adding that “we don’t know exactly when reconciliation will be ready”.
According to the schedule established by Hoyer yesterday, committees will have the first two and a half weeks of September to draft and annotate their bills without votes on the ground. Pelosi has already asked committees to report their bills back to the Budget Committee by September 15 to prepare the package for the expected return to the House on September 20.
That fits the timeline set earlier this month by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (DN.Y.), who also instructed his committee chairs to be ready with their respective reconciliation bills d ‘by September 15, with a floor debate to follow as quickly as possible. possible.
Hoyer ticked off several issues that will be factored into the legislative calculation, including meeting the strict Senate budget reconciliation requirements, known as the “Byrd rule,” by garnering the support of all 50 Democratic senators, as well as the impending expiration of September 30. federal surface transportation programs.
“We plan to pass these two bills by the end of September,” Hoyer said. “We are working very hard towards this end. “
Committee work begins
House lawmakers expect to start with reconciliation, especially with the Senate currently slated to be out of town until September 13. The committees are already looking to put increases on the calendar.
The House Ways and Means Committee, which will draft much of the bill and propose most of the offsets alongside Senate finances, is considering the week of September 6, according to President Richard Neal (D-Mass.) , who told reporters that the markup could last “four or five days with a break on weekends.”
Neal said he expected to find ways to pay the full $ 3.5 trillion bill, a potentially monumental task given President Biden’s pledge not to raise taxes on anyone who earns less. of $ 400,000 per year. The panel will also be the venue for extending clean energy tax credits, a high priority for environmental groups, but with many political hurdles to overcome.
Specifically, Neal supports the Growing Renewable Energy and Efficiency Now (GREEN) Act, HR 848, which would extend and expand major tax breaks related to clean energy. But Senate Finance Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) Has his own long-standing proposal to revise the energy tax code, the “Clean Energy for America Act,” S. 1298, which would consolidate the incentives. in technologically neutral production categories. clean electricity, transportation fuels and energy efficiency.
Neal has said he expects the “GREEN Law” to be the “starting point as we move forward.” Asked about Wyden’s proposal, Neal said that “we will both be aligned with what we can get and how we can get it.”
The House natural resources committee, meanwhile, landed on September 2 as the date to gross up its $ 25.6 million share of the reconciliation bill, two subcommittee chairs confirmed to E&E News yesterday. .
Democratic Representatives Jared Huffman of California, who oversees the Water, Oceans and Wildlife Subcommittee, and Joe Neguse of Colorado, who chairs the National Parks, Forests and Public Lands subcommittee, have both said they expected to work in their section. reconciliation next week.
The full chairman of natural resources, Raúl Grijalva (D-Arizona), said he did not think his allocation was nearly enough to deal with the scale of the climate crisis in the panel’s jurisdiction. Huffman nevertheless predicted that the markup would be “fairly straightforward”.
“I think there is some disappointment in the way these toplines were awarded,” Huffman said. “Everything in this process has been led by the Senate, largely without much input from us, so yes, that part is frustrating.”
Huffman is pushing for the repeal of language in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 that allowed the sale of two leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which had long been protected from the activities of extraction (see related story). Neguse is a champion of increasing funding for the Civilian Climate Corps, a green jobs training program that will receive funds from various accounts as part of the reconciliation program.
Grijalva also began drumming to reform the federal oil and gas drilling program, including increasing centennial royalty rates for onshore federal leases (Daily E&E, August 24).
The Energy and Trade Committee, perhaps the most important panel for climate policy, may also see some movement soon. E&C, which is responsible for a $ 486 billion share of the package, is expected to develop the Clean Electricity Payment Program, a version of a clean electricity standard Democrats believe they can get by the rules tight budgets that govern reconciliation.
The policy, supported very clearly by Senators Tina Smith (D-Minn.) And Ben Ray Luján (DN.M.), would offer direct payments to utilities that deploy clean energy and impose fees on those who do not. are not, with the goal of an 80% clean energy sector by 2030. The chair of the Special Committee on the Climate Crisis, Kathy Castor (D-Fla.), who also sits at E&C, said that lawmakers were working closely with Smith and Luján.
Although Castor acknowledged that the policy remains “a work in progress,” she said E&C is preparing its own markup. “The chiefs of staff met on a call to review the schedule for mid-September,” Castor said in an interview yesterday.
The bloc of moderates that blocked passage of the budget resolution signals that it plans to continue showing courage in the much-divided chamber of the House, but they could head down to an equally progressive voting bloc. powerful.
Rep. Jim Costa (D-Calif.) Said the moderate group of nine told Pelosi he will remain united as the reconciliation package is put in place. “We are not going to vote on a measure that does not have 51 votes in the Senate,” he said yesterday, dealing a blow to progressives in the House who want to leave their mark on the reconciliation package but must face Senate moderates including Joe Manchin (DW.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona).
Both senators have repeatedly expressed concerns about the $ 3.5 trillion price tag of the Senate budget resolution. These fears have forced this chamber to cut back on the more ambitious and costly plans being considered by the Liberals.
Costa also argued that the moderate rebellion forced the “dissociation” of the bipartisan Senate package and budget reconciliation, which he said the centrist bloc conditional support. But several progressives said yesterday that they did not see the two-track process being pursued by Democrats as untied at all.
“To be honest, this was all a fiasco,” Representative Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) Told reporters. “I really don’t know why they tried to get into something without having a real goal that they wanted to accomplish. It sounds like amateur hour.
On the contrary, progressives have said the September 27 infrastructure vote – specified in the debate rule passed by the House when the budget resolution was passed yesterday – is a target date that won’t mean much if the reconciliation is not concluded.
“We have long established that we vote together on reconciliation and the bipartisan infrastructure plan,” Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (DN.Y.) told E&E News yesterday. “If we can do it by the 27, so much the better, but the 27 is not a binding yes for me.”
Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) Also said the group’s position “remains unchanged”. The group could easily cancel the process if they voted in unison.
“We will work first to pass the Reconciliation Bill to Build Better so that we can deliver these unique, popular and urgent investments to poor and working families, and then pass the Infrastructure Bill to invest in our roads, bridges and waterways, ”Jayapal said in a statement.
Still, Pelosi has said she will pledge to “rally the support of House Democrats” for the infrastructure bill ahead of the scheduled vote on September 27.
“We must retain the privilege of 51 votes in passing the budget and work with Democrats in the House and Senate to come to an agreement for the House to vote on a Build Back Better law that will pass through the Senate,” Pelosi said in a press release yesterday.