Democrats may exclude the GOP from forthcoming infrastructure and drug-pricing bills to pass them with no Republican votes, report says

pelosi schumer
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) speak after a press conference on Capitol Hill on December 20, 2020 in Washington, DC.

  • Democrats may use the budget reconciliation mechanism to pass upcoming bills, Politico reported.
  • The mechanism would allow Democrats to pass infrastructure and drugs bills with no GOP votes.
  • It was used to pass the $1.9 trillion stimulus bill, upsetting Republicans and even some Democrats.
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Democratic leaders are considering bypassing Senate Republicans again to pass bills on infrastructure, green energy and drug pricing using the budget reconciliation process, Politico reported Sunday.

Top Democrats increasingly believe that Senate Republicans are determined to block President Joe Biden’s legislative agenda, and that they would have to use the budget reconciliation mechanism to get major bills passed.

The mechanism was used to pass Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus bill in February without a single Republican vote.

Under the rule, bills can pass with a simple majority vote in the Senate, meaning that Democrats can evade Republican filibusters and the 60-vote majority needed to pass bills under the usual rules.

The Senate is currently divided 50-50 between Republicans and Democrats, with Vice President Kamala Harris holding the tie-breaker vote.

This means that if Democrats try and get bills passed under the usual Senate they need the support of at least 10 Republicans, a tough ask amid deep partisan divides.

Insider reported on Sunday that Democratic plans for the infrastructure bill were running into a wall of GOP opposition. One roadblock is planned tax hikes to pay for the bill’s provisions.

According to Politico’s sources, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer haven’t yet settled on using the mechanism to pass the Biden administration’s next big legislative priorities: a huge green infrastructure bill, and a bill regulating drug pricing.

They are still seeking to secure GOP backing for the bills, but there are few signs that it could come.

The mechanism can only be used one more time before the mid-terms in 2022, because of time restraints and how complex it is to deploy.

Democrats could seek to pass the infrastructure, green energy, and drug-pricing measures all in one package, but then would be unable to try again for some time.

However there are problems with the approach.

West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin previously said that he would will block the infrastructure bill if no Republican support is secured.

Manchin is a moderate Democrat, representing a largely Republican-leaning state, and his comments highlighted the difficulty of gaining support for what goes into a second budget reconciliation bill across the Democratic caucus.

Given how tight the Senate numbers are, Manchin – or any other Democratic Senator – can block a bill by themselves.

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Not a single Senate Republican voted to advance the stimulus package that would give most Americans a $1,400 one-time check

Mitch McConnell
Kentucky Senator and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

  • The Senate voted Tuesday on a budget resolution that could speed coronavirus aid through Congress.
  • Not a single Republican Senator voted to advance the measure.
  • The phrase “No Republicans” was trending on Twitter following the vote.
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Senate Republicans issued a mass rebuke of President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion rescue package when not a single one voted to advance the stimulus package Tuesday night.

In a strict party-line vote, all 50 Senate Democrats voted to advance a budget resolution to speed the aid package through Congress without Republican support. Forty-nine Republicans voted against the resolution. Sen. Patrick J. Toomey, a Pennsylvania Republican, did not vote because he was delayed by snow. 

The phrase “No Republicans” was trending on Twitter following the vote.

“We are not going to dilute, dither or delay,” New York Sen. and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on the Senate floor. “There’s nothing about the process itself that prevents bipartisanship.”

The package on the line includes a round of $1,400 stimulus checks for most Americans, $350 billion to state and local governments, an increase in federal jobless aid to $400, and a proposal to increase the federal minimum wage to $15, among other aid.

All four measures have proven to be sticking points between the two parties.

Republicans want the checks capped at $1,000 and demanded they only go to people making less than $50,000 a year. They say the money for state and local governments isn’t needed and didn’t include any local funding in their counteroffer. They want the current federal jobless aid to remain the same and continue through June. Biden’s plan sees it increased and extended through September. And while some Republicans support increasing the federal minimum wage, few wish it to be as high as $15.

The bill also includes $130 billion to reopen schools, a major expansion of the child tax credit, $50 billion toward COVID-19 testing, and $20 million toward a national vaccine program in partnership with states, localities, and tribes.

The 50-49 vote on advancing the package kicks off the budget-reconciliation process in the Senate. It would allow Democrats to pass Biden’s plan with only 51 votes, instead of the 60-vote supermajority usually required of bills.

The GOP’s united opposition toward the resolution comes after Biden hosted Republicans Monday to discuss the party’s $618 billion counteroffer.

“[Biden] was very strong in emphasizing the need for a big, bold package,” Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said at a press conference Monday. “He said that he told Senate Republicans that the $600 billion that they proposed was way too small.”

According to The New York Times, some Republican senators considered Biden more receptive to compromise than his staff or Schumer during the meeting

“They’ve chosen a totally partisan path,” Kentucky Sen. and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told The Times about Senate Democrats. 

McConnell used reconciliation to pass both tax cuts during his time as Majority Leader. He also employed the measure in a failed attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act

Senate Democrats could approve the resolution as soon as Friday. 

According to Roll Call, the house will vote on its nearly identical measure Wednesday, then will have to vote again on final adoption of the joint measure after the Senate makes additions.

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