Biden’s budget won’t clear up congressional infrastructure limbo

“I don’t think you have to get rid of it” on infrastructure, said Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Who argued that it’s worth taking “the time to get it right. “.

The President plans to meet with Senate Republicans again next week and told reporters on Thursday that he informed GOP Senior Negotiator Senator Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia that “we need to finish this very soon.” .

The process is dragging into its third month after Biden first released his plans to revitalize roads and bridges, and members of Congress who recognize how much legislative work has yet to begin are starting to gently remind the House Blanche that the longer they wait, the longer they are. the president’s ambitious job creation plan will remain inactive.

Senator Bob Casey (D-Pa.) Said it was a “good dialogue” between all parties, “but we still have 85% of the work to do.”

“I think we’re really getting closer to the fish or reducing the bait time,” he said.

Liberals who say it’s time to start the obscure process that would allow them to pass an infrastructure bill without Republicans, a maneuver known as budget reconciliation, also point out how long it will take once that the Democrats will have decided to deploy it.

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (DR.I.) – a member of the budget committee tasked with getting reconciliation in motion – argued that using Biden’s 2022 budget to move forward now would put pressure on the talks bipartite.

“The sooner the better,” he said. “And I think it really helps the conversation stay real as we go the other way. Because once Republicans determine that by talking they can stop progress, it gives them this huge incentive to delay. “

The pace of progress on Biden’s infrastructure proposal, which would direct massive spending on clean energy, broadband, and childcare as well as more traditional real-world projects, looks a lot different from that of his first. taking office. Just four months ago, Democrats rushed to launch their first attempt at reconciliation with a clear mandate to provide trillions of dollars in pandemic aid to support a struggling economy.

Even so, Democratic leaders have a bit of extra time: Both Houses are out of town next week for the Memorial Day recess, and the House will not return until the week of June 14. Even when the chamber returns, President Nancy Pelosi and her lieutenants are unlikely to move towards reconciliation if Biden’s talks with the Republicans are still ongoing, according to several Democratic sources.

On the left, many Democrats are privately betting that the Biden-GOP talks will fail in the coming weeks, if not sooner. They note that the two sides are still separated from more than $ 1.5 trillion in new spending and argue that Democrats’ only chance to bring forward an ambitious infrastructure bill is to stop considering Republican proposals that would fail. that decrease.

“At some point we say it is not happening and we have to get this is done, ”said Senator Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) earlier this week. “So I think there are already discussions about the reconciliation process and what we could cover.”

If negotiations continue before the House returns in mid-June, the schedule would still be tight: Pelosi said she hopes to vote on infrastructure before the July 4 recess. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer also said this week that Democrats will “move forward” in July “regardless of the vehicle” – whether it is a bipartisan measure, a bill of reconciliation or an attempt to divide the massive proposal into several parts.

Many Democrats in the House have long predicted that their party would ultimately continue without Republicans, as they did with relief from Covid, as Biden and Senate Republicans stay miles apart on issues. central such as how to pay for the package. And they say Democrats will have to get out of the blocks soon in order to pass something before the August break.

Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.), A close ally of Biden, said he encouraged both sides to keep talking, but acknowledged that “the patience of my caucus with this process is running out. “

“We have to have a path to making a bipartisan deal or moving forward solely on the Democrats’ basis,” Coons said. “And I expect that in the week we are on vacation, our caucus leadership and White House leadership will assess that.”

Even if they move forward without the GOP, reconciliation is not a simple step. The process would begin with a floor vote on the Democrats’ budget resolution – a roadmap developed after the release of the White House budget on Friday that sets funding levels for the next fiscal year and will likely be difficult to pass given the margins party tight in both chambers.

This resolution would task congressional committees with so-called “instructions” that effectively authorize reconciliation, which will require hours and hours of committee work and debate in the House and Senate. The reconciliation also includes a pair of marathon “vote-a-rama” sessions – an all-night Senate process that virtually every member of Congress hates.

All of these steps will likely take weeks, and House Budget Speaker John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) Admitted last week that “it was getting late.”

“We never thought that the president’s budget would be so late and that they would negotiate with Republicans for so long,” Yarmuth said.

Biden, too, seems to be feeling the pressure. “We are going to have to close this soon,” he told reporters on Thursday.

Democrats have their reasons for moving slower than they have on coronavirus relief. Biden’s second legislative priority is less urgent than the first, which was largely focused on tackling a then raging pandemic. But his party also has a busy schedule this summer, which also includes a debt ceiling bill to pass and resolving the expiration of Covid-era unemployment benefits.

This comes in addition to the need for the Senate to continue upholding Biden’s candidates and his hopes to vote on the Democrats’ ethics and election bill.

Not all Democrats are prepared to wait any longer.

“You just can’t talk – month after month after month – and go nowhere,” said Senate Budget Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). “I think time is coming to an end. And if Republicans aren’t prepared to take resolving the major crises we face seriously, we are moving forward through reconciliation and doing it alone. “

Jennifer Scholtes contributed to this report.

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