The Sausage Making: Can The Reconciliation Bill Survive On Its Own?

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 28: Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) speaks to reporters (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
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November 9, 2021 5:41 p.m.

Your intermittent briefing on how negotiations over the reconciliation bill are going. This week, Congress is in recess.

After Friday’s marathon session, the House passed the bipartisan infrastructure bill by itself. 

The congressional progressive caucus put out a statement saying that its members had obtained a promise from their colleagues that they’d vote for reconciliation the week of November 15, and that it was enough for the progressives to give their votes to the bipartisan bill. The members of the squad voted no, insisting that the two bills actually move together. 

To those of us on the outside of those negotiations, the squad’s position makes sense. Nothing meaningful changed from the last time House Democrats had this standoff, in public anyway. Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) have made no promises not to gut or vote down the reconciliation bill. 

Perhaps most progressives thought that this was the best they could do, and chose to put the onus to deliver on the President and congressional leadership. But it’s a big point of leverage lost, with what appears to be a long way still to go to pass the reconciliation bill. 

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Leverage Points 

  • There is the simple fact that President Joe Biden hasn’t yet signed the bipartisan infrastructure bill into law. The White House told me Monday they didn’t have a date to share when that’ll happen, but pointed to Biden’s weekend comments about wanting the lawmakers who spearheaded the effort to be able to attend the signing ceremony. 
  • If that’s really all the delay is about, we’ll see him sign it next week. If he’s quietly maintaining his own leverage here, he’ll have to come up with a new excuse. 
  • And that’s pretty much it! Manchin and Sinema really hold the cards here. They made no public promises, and House progressives may have to swallow more bitter pills when the Senate sends back its version of the reconciliation text with probable Manchin-enforced cuts to things like paid leave. 
  • The most optimistic among Democrats would probably say that Manchin has come through with the critical vote on big pieces of legislation for his party before, and that he wouldn’t get this far into the process just to kill it. Sinema has not yet proven herself willing to be out on a branch alone on something as big as this, to be the sole “no.”

Coming Down The Pike 

  • The Congressional Budget Office says that scoring for pieces of the reconciliation bill will be available as soon as this week. Depending on the numbers, this could give moderates a reason to cause trouble. 
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) affirmed Tuesday from the climate summit in Glasgow that the House will be voting on reconciliation text the week of the 15th, as promised. 
  • There’s almost no chance now that the Senate won’t run into the other stuff it has to do while finalizing reconciliation. That list includes funding the government, dealing with the debt ceiling and passing the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act. As Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) told a group of us, he’s not making any nonrefundable holiday travel plans.
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