Dems Face Divorcing $3.5 Trillion Reconciliation Plan From Bipartisan Bill

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) indicated in a meeting with her colleagues that her and President Biden’s two-track plan for passing both the bipartisan infrastructure legislation and the sweeping $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill may be sunk.

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The Democratic leader told her caucus that she would still put the bipartisan bill to a vote on Thursday but reconciliation would not be ready to put on the floor this week despite her previous announcement. The decision to basically decouple the bills came after Democratic leadership realized they’d have to pare down the $3.5 trillion price tag for moderate Democrats who threw the two-track plan into jeopardy, according to multiple reports on the meeting.

While a failed vote on the bipartisan bill would surely produce a slew of “Dems in disarray” type headlines, it may be a saving grace for Democratic leadership. They’d have a few more weeks to finish reconciliation in a way that satisfies everyone, and heighten the chances of passing both bills then without the pressure of this arbitrary deadline.

Meanwhile, Democrats are scrambling to figure out how to fend off a government shutdown and a full-on disaster with the national debt caused by GOP senators who voted against the legislation to keep the government funded and suspend the debt limit.

Follow our live coverage below:

Pelosi Subtly Jabs At Centrists Who Started This Mess

The Democratic leader hinted at her frustration with the moderates who threw the two-track plan into chaos with sudden complaints about the cost of the reconciliation package as House committees were drawing up the legislation.

“Everybody worked on schedule,” Pelosi told reporters. “That’s what I was so excited about: Everybody was on schedule.”

“Then there was an intervention, as you know, in the past 10 days of saying ‘well, we can’t go there,’” she continued. “So we’ll see what that is, and hopefully it will reach the level that we need in order to pass both bills.”

Pelosi Hopes To ‘Go Forward’ With Reconciliation ‘In The Next Day Or So’

The House speaker emphasized on Tuesday morning that Democrats will continue to work on the budget reconciliation package.

“In the next day or so, we hope to come to a place where we can move forward on that,” she told reporters.

But progressives have made it clear that they aren’t accepting anything less than a full bill to vote on in conjunction with the bipartisan infrastructure legislation, and it’s unclear what that “place” where Democrats can “move forward” on reconciliation is.

Here Are The Democrats Plan B Options

Aside from adding the debt ceiling to the reconciliation bill, Democratic leaders have a few other alternatives to weigh.

According to Politico, here’s what Democratic leaders are considering:

  • Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) forcing Republicans to vote a second time on the House-passed continuing resolution that they killed yesterday
  • House leaders passing a spending bill that omits the debt limit and sending the Senate a standalone debt limit bill in the coming days

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) reportedly told Democrats that “there might be a timely vote” on the debt limit as soon as this week and asked if there’s anyone in her caucus “who will not vote to preserve the full faith and credit in the United States.”

Schumer Warns Dems Of Obstacles If Debt Ceiling Is Added To Reconciliation Bill

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) isn’t fond of the possibility of using the reconciliation package to raise the debt ceiling, now that Democrats are looking for a Plan B after Senate Republicans filibustered the bills last night.

According to Politico, Schumer has warned his caucus that throwing the debt ceiling into the reconciliation bill would be “burdensome and untenable.”

If Senate Democrats follow through with the gambit, they might need to cancel a mid-October recess in order to negotiate with the parliamentarian and reach some degree of cooperation from Republicans.

Reminder: Senate Republicans have made clear for weeks that they had no plans to help Democrats raise the debt ceiling.

Biden Held Call With Pelosi And Schumer On Debt Ceiling Strategy

Shortly after Senate Republicans made good on their threat to tank the continuing resolution last night — which would’ve funded the government for a bit longer and suspended the debt ceiling through the midterms — President Biden hopped on a call with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), according to Politico.

Biden reportedly raised the possibility of throwing the debt ceiling into the reconciliation bill, but no final decision was made.

Progressives Hold The Line In The Face Of Reconciliation Getting Blown Off-Track

They’re not budging.

After the caucus meeting with Pelosi, Congressional Progressive Caucus chair Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) signaled that she and her fellow progressives weren’t backing down from their threat to torpedo the bipartisan bill on Thursday if it gets put to a vote before reconciliation and thus derails the two-track process that moderates had initially agreed to.

“We are going to vote for both bills after the reconciliation bill is done,” Jayapal told reporters, per Politico.

Addressing concerns that crucial transportation programs would collapse on Thursday if the bipartisan legislation doesn’t pass, Jayapal argued that “nothing happens as long as we keep the appropriations going.”

This Washington Post piece lays out how Jayapal’s been carefully navigating not just the reconciliation plan, but progressives’ agenda as a whole after Biden took office.

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), who serves as the CPC’s vote counter, backed Jayapal on Monday night, telling reporters after the meeting that progressives would “absolutely not” go with the new plan. “A deal is a deal. We are not passing anything short of having the full Build Back Better agenda,” she said.

Thoughts On Why The Great Bill Decoupling Is Less Disastrous Than It Appears

I’ve said a few times that the bipartisan bill and reconciliation package will pass or fail together. I still think that — which is why this temporary decoupling doesn’t seem all that disastrous.

If the bipartisan bill fails Thursday thanks to progressives who reasonably want the reconciliation package to be further along before giving away their leverage, Democrats have essentially bought themselves more time. Pelosi can tell moderates that she tried, and then have a few more weeks to hammer out reconciliation and heighten the chances that both pieces of legislation pass then.

At that point, Democrats will be operating on the debt ceiling deadline instead of this arbitrary one set by some self-important House moderates. And based on the paltriness of the “framework” Democratic leadership announced last week, they need the time to pull together a reconciliation package everyone can live with.

To my mind, the biggest risk to the agenda is Republicans helping the moderates pass the bipartisan infrastructure deal, which I think would probably kill the reconciliation package. But that doesn’t seem to be their plan, per reports that GOP leadership is whipping members against it.

We Finally Have A Debt Ceiling Deadline

For the past couple of weeks, we’ve been operating off of the “experts say sometime in October” deadline for the debt ceiling. That’s not great for a whole host of reasons, including that Congress procrastinates like a college kid with a final paper due.

We now have a solid date from Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen: “We now estimate that Treasury is likely to exhaust its extraordinary measures if Congress has not acted to raise or suspend the debt limit by October 18.” She adds that there’s still some uncertainty around that date, urging quick action.

Read her whole letter to Pelosi here.

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