Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday that House committees, working with the Senate, are “coming to closure on some of the particulars" of a $3.5 trillion reconciliation package with the expectation that all panels involved will report out their pieces of the legislation within three weeks.
“Some committees will be marking up before Sept. 15, but everyone by Sept. 15,” the California Democrat said at her weekly press conference. "We write a bill with the Senate because it's no use our doing a bill that is not going to pass the Senate."
Sept. 15 is the deadline spelled out in the fiscal 2022 budget resolution the House adopted Tuesday, as part of a rule for floor debate on separate legislation, including a Senate-passed infrastructure bill that could increase spending by another $550 billion. The deadline isn't binding, but House committees are racing to meet it so the Budget Committee can combine the various pieces into a package for floor action as early as the following week.
The bipartisan infrastructure bill spending would come on top of the $3.5 trillion topline Democratic leaders and the White House set for the reconciliation package in July. Some party moderates are wary of spending that amount and in particular raising taxes to pay for it.
Democrats have proposed offsetting some or all of the cost with tax increases on households earning more than $400,000 annually and on corporations, as well as with savings from lower prescription drug costs.
There’s more agreement on the general parameters of the policies that should be included in the package, like enhanced child care and education subsidies, a national paid family leave program, climate and affordable housing funds, an expansion of Medicare to cover dental, hearing and vision benefits, a pathway to legal status for undocumented immigrants, and more.
Pelosi’s remarks on the next steps in the reconciliation effort came after a brief but eventful two-day session during which the House adopted the budget resolution that allows the process of writing a filibuster-proof bill to move forward.
A flurry of negotiations between leadership and a group of 10 moderates who had threatened to withhold support for the budget without a vote on the infrastructure bill led to a procedural assurances the latter would get to the floor by Sept. 27.
They also secured a commitment from Pelosi that the House would coordinate with the Senate in drafting the reconciliation measure so they don’t have to pass something the upper chamber wouldn’t accept. Moderates said that includes assurances that language that wouldn't qualify under the Senate's "Byrd rule" — which prevents extraneous, nonbudgetary material —wouldn't be included in the House bill.
At her Wednesday press conference, Pelosi called the accommodation made to moderates setting a Sept. 27 deadline for the infrastructure vote "a clarification" considering surface transportation programs needed to be reauthorized by Sept. 30. "And so we're talking about a couple of days earlier," she said.
But the speaker acknowledged the dispute was not solely about moderates securing a vote on the infrastructure bill.
"There are those who would like to see the reconciliation be smaller and some of that from the outside had an impact on some of the debate," she said.
Pelosi said Tuesday’s adoption of the budget “was fraught with so much meaning” because it unlocked the reconciliation vehicle that will allow the Senate to pass Democrats' sweeping economic legislation with a simple majority vote in the Senate instead of the usual 60. It also enables committees to report their contributions to the Budget Committee to assemble "in a timely fashion," she said.
'We'll see what is possible'
The budget provides reconciliation instructions to House committees that combined allow up to $1.75 trillion in deficit spending. The tax-writing Ways and Means Committee has wiggle room to raise more, and Pelosi is among many top Democrats who hopes they can. “I'd like to have it totally paid for. We'll see what is possible," she said.
Pelosi specifically mentioned Ways and Means Chairman Richard E. Neal, D-Mass., working with the Senate “and others,” whom she declined to name.
"Members are making their views known on what the pay-fors can be,” she said. “Some are new. Some are pretty standard fare, but it’s just a question of how much.”
Neal said this week that he intends to pay for all of the package and that he’s in regular communication with Senate Finance Chair Ron Wyden, D-Ore., as they put together a wide array of potential revenue-raisers. “We made an agreement not to surprise each other,” Neal said.
Neal's panel has jurisdiction over large parts of the anticipated reconciliation bill, including tax credits for child care, lower-income workers and health insurance premiums; clean energy tax incentives; Medicare expansion and virtually all of the bill's offsets. Ways and Means is expected to spend several days starting Sept. 9 marking up their piece of the package, with a break for the intervening weekend.
Senate committees have been given their own Sept. 15 deadline to produce their reconciliation recommendations. Given that chamber's 50-50 split, there's an expectation that Senate panels likely won't mark up their own versions, but rather will work with their House counterparts on the package that eventually comes out of the House.
Laura Weiss contributed to this report.