Sep 14, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Senate leaving without finalizing reconciliation bill

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is seen speaking at the Capitol on Tuesday.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer addresses reporters on Tuesday. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Senate leaders are planning to hold final votes for the week on Tuesday night so members can fly home early for Yom Kippur, three aides familiar with the talks tell Axios.

Why it matters: Senate Democrats, who returned on Monday from their monthlong recess, are planning to leave town one day before Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer's (D-N.Y.) "soft" deadline for the House and Senate committees to finish drafting their portions of the $3.5 trillion infrastructure reconciliation plan.

  • However, many of the committees are still drafting details of the package, such as whether repealing the state and local tax deduction limits (SALT) should be included in the tax portion of the House Ways and Means bill.
  • They also have just over two weeks until the government runs out of money, and are close to the October deadline for when the U.S. is expected to default on its debt unless Congress raises the debt limit. As of now, it’s still unclear how, and when, they plan to do so.

Between the lines: The Senate was already scheduled to have a truncated week.

  • It planned to break ahead of sundown on Wednesday for those celebrating the Jewish holiday.
  • But ensuring the last votes for the week are held on Tuesday means Democrats also can avoid having to answer questions about whether they met the self-imposed Sept. 15 deadline.

What they're saying: Senate Democratic leadership aides insist the plan was never to have the finalized text by Sept. 15 but to have enough text that the caucus could discuss the contents during its weekly lunch meeting Tuesday — which it did.

  • Schumer said Tuesday morning he believes members met his deadline: "Working with our colleagues in the House, we will have met the target date of Sept. 15 set in the Budget Resolution for producing text to review."
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) also praised the committees in a Monday "Dear Colleague" letter, stating that by Wednesday, they will "meet the deadline to submit their legislative proposals to the Budget Committee."

Yes, but: Democrats are far from finalizing the $3.5 trillion bill.

  • They haven't even settled on a final price tag.
  • Moderates like Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) say they won't support such a steep price, while progressives like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) saying $3.5 trillion is the minimum.

Axios also spoke with several Democratic senators and their aides this week about the Sept. 15 deadline, and they gave wide-ranging answers about what was supposed to happen by Wednesday and whether it had been achieved.

  • The consensus, though, is they have a very long way to go before reaching a final deal.
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