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Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Senate Democrats are settling on an endgame for their bipartisan infrastructure negotiations: let them continue through the week after their Memorial Day recess, then forge ahead on their own if there's no deal.

Why it matters: President Biden said he hoped both parties could agree on a deal for roads and bridges before the holiday, but with the talks crumbling, Democrats are now readying to revert to Plan B — budget reconciliation — to get shovels into the ground.

  • Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) told Axios, “I think we are reaching the end of the period in which we have not seen serious Republican proposals. And sooner than later, we've got to make it clear that we are going forward to address the crises facing the market.”
  • Asked if he’s started working on a potential backup package, Sanders nodded and said “Yes.” An aide said later he was referring to a budget resolution.

What we're hearing: Some Senate Democrats are privately looking at the week of June 7, when their chamber reconvenes after Memorial Day, as the last-ditch period for finding common ground.

  • If the two parties are still as far apart on a deal by the end of that week as they are now, they predict Democrats will likely decide to move forward by themselves.
  • This loose timeframe comes despite President Biden's deadline for having a infrastructure deal struck before they leave town this week.

Between the lines: "I think they message the hell out of the difference this week and back home next week, market-test their umbrage," a Senate Democratic aide said of Democratic leaders.

  • White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday the administration is "not quite there" on giving Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) the go-ahead on a fast-track bill.
  • Nonetheless, Psaki emphasized this week is crucial, and said the ball is now "in Republicans' court."

The details: Schumer has begun meeting with Sanders, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, as well as the Senate parliamentarian about the reconciliation process to understand his tactical options.

  • Sanders has long said he thought reconciliation — with its 51-vote approval margin, rather than the standard 60-vote requirement — would be the ultimate vehicle for an infrastructure bill.
  • "There will likely be a dual path where Schumer sets up the Budget Committee to be ready to go if talks fall apart," a senior Senate adviser told Axios.
  • The Budget Committee would then set top-line numbers for the bill, and direct relevant committees such as the Senate Environment and Public Works and Senate Appropriations committees to report back with separate policy proposals.
  • Schumer's policy team is expected to be the ones who eventually write the final legislation.

Timing: Congressional Democrats, particularly the progressive wing of the party, are eager to get moving on a bill.

  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tentatively set July 4 as the date she wants infrastructure legislation approved in her chamber.

Be smart: Right now, all eyes are on whether Congress can pass Schumer's “United States Innovation and Competition Act of 2021.”

  • It combines proposals from senators from both parties to better position the United States against China and other global competitors.
  • Some Democratic lawmakers and their aides suspect that if this bill, which has involved a series of Republicans, can't pass, then the entire mood in the Senate will shift away from comity.
  • Under that scenario, Schumer would likely have a harder time convincing his caucus to continue trying to work with Republicans, aides told Axios.

Go deeper

Biden: "No question" Delta variant is to blame for poor jobs report

President Joe Biden speaking at the White House on Sept. 2. Photo: Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post via Getty Images

There is "no question" that the Delta variant is to blame for the disappointing August jobs report, President Biden said in remarks on Friday, a fact that he argued underscores the importance of continuing to vaccinate Americans and passing his economic agenda.

Why it matters: The U.S. economy added only 235,000 jobs last month, significantly lower than what economists expected in part because of the surge in new coronavirus cases driven by the Delta variant.

Sep 2, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Manchin to Democrats: "Hit the pause" on $3.5T reconciliation talks

Sen. Joe Manchin. Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Centrist Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) is urging his Democratic colleagues to "hit the pause button" on a $3.5 trillion spending bill, citing more urgent priorities like the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and a spike in COVID-19 cases.

Why it matters: Democrats plan to pass that legislation via the budget reconciliation process, paving the way for a massive infrastructure infusion without Republican votes. In a 50-50 Senate, they'll need every single Democrat's support, including Manchin's.

Democrats' next moves after a stunning SCOTUS loss on abortion

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Democrats say they're itching for a political fight over abortion rights — and that it will help them in the 2022 midterms. But even if they're right, they’re still losing the war.

The big picture: The Supreme Court appears to be barreling toward rulings giving red states significantly more power to restrict women's access to abortions, if not to ban the procedure outright.