On Aug. 24, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to advance a $3.5 trillion budget resolution, which was embedded in a House rule that tied its advancement to both the Senate’s bipartisan $1.2 trillion infrastructure package—the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act—and H.R. 4, the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. The rule was approved by the House by a vote of 220-212, with all House Democrats supporting the rule and all Republicans voting in opposition.
The controversial passage of the joint rule moves the partisan budget reconciliation process, which will only require a simple majority of both chambers of Congress to be passed, forward, while also setting a Sept. 27 deadline for a House floor vote on the Senate’s bipartisan IIJA. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who has continued to call for passing the completed budget reconciliation bill before or in tandem with the bipartisan infrastructure proposal, committed to this Sept. 27 deadline in order to quell the concerns from a group of ten House Democratic moderates who are urging a vote on the IIJA before considering passage of the budget resolution.
Before the House voted on the rule, ABC sent a letter opposing the reconciliation package and expressing concerns about the impact of the partisan proposal’s tax hikes and labor requirements on the nation’s construction industry.
Of note, key votes for Senate Democrats, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., have made clear their opposition to the $3.5 trillion price tag on the current budget proposal, and their opposition will likely lead to further discussions among Democrats on a viable proposal that can pass through both chambers while still supporting the resolution’s core policies, many of which are represented in President Biden’s American Families Plan.
Notably, H.R. 4, the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, was immediately passed by the House of Representatives after the rule was advanced by a vote of 219-212. In 2013, key provisions enacted as part of the 1965 Voting Rights Act were invalidated by the U.S. Supreme Court, freeing up nine states to enact new election laws without federal approval in advance. House Democrats characterize H.R. 4 as seeking to restore voting protections for minorities as states implement new election laws, while the bill was opposed by Republicans who were concerned about federal overreach into the state-administered election process. Unlike the ABC-opposed For The People Act (H.R. 1/S. 1), this legislation is narrowly focused on the judiciary and avoids larger election reform issues supported by Democrats. H.R. 4 is not expected to gain traction in the U.S. Senate, as it is subject to the 60-vote threshold.
The House committees intend to mark up the $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill next week, with plans to assemble the full package by mid-September, ahead of the promised vote on the IIJA on Sept. 27. The Senate, which passed its respective budget resolution on Aug. 11, has also instructed its relevant committees to formulate its budget reconciliation bill, which will need to be combined with the eventual product from the House.
Congress now faces several critical deadlines at the end of September, including the expiration of the current surface transportation authorization and government funding for federal agencies, as well as the need to raise the debt ceiling.