The next date circled in red for Democrats working on President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion economic plan is Feb. 16, the deadline for congressional committees to produce the legislation to put the proposal into law.
“Next week, we will be writing the legislation to create a path to final passage for the Biden American Rescue Plan, so that we can finish our work before the end of February,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wrote in a letter to her Democratic colleagues Friday.
The letter came ahead of the expected House approval later in the day of the budget resolution approved by the Senate early Friday morning on a 51-50 vote, after a long night of wrangling over amendments called “vote-a-rama.”
The budget resolution gives instructions to several congressional committees to come up with legislative language to meet targets set in the resolution. That language is due by Feb. 16 and once consolidated into a single bill will be voted on by the House and Senate.
That reconciliation bill will be immune to the filibuster’s requirement to get 60 votes to advance and can be passed in the Senate with only 51 votes.
While the procedural path is clear, there are several hurdles that could easily trip up Democrats, not the least of which has been almost unanimous Republican opposition.
Another one is the fragile nature of their coalition, ranging from the liberal Sen. Bernie Sanders, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee and shepherd of the final bill in the Senate, to Sen. Joe Manchin, a moderate West Virginia Democrat.
Manchin has said he wants the final package to be bipartisan and he won’t vote for provisions in it that would violate the so-called Byrd rule, which limits what can go into a reconciliation bill.
In the House, a group of moderate Democrats called Blue Dogs have called for a narrower bill only providing money to ramp up coronavirus vaccination efforts to be passed before the rest of the Biden plan. A bipartisan group called the Problem Solvers Caucus echoed their request, asking for $160 billion in vaccine money to be voted on before the bigger bill.
On the other side of the ideological spectrum, Democrats may face restive progressives, who have wanted more in direct payments to households and a boost in the minimum wage to be in the reconciliation bill.
Budget experts are doubtful a minimum wage raise can be written in a way that would meet the Byrd rule, as Pelosi acknowledged Thursday in a weekly press conference.
“It’s not the last bill we’ll pass. This is the rescue package,” Pelosi said, adding a separate “recovery” bill is planned for later in the year.
“We’re legislators. That’s why we’re here. That’s what we do, and so we’re always getting ready for the next legislation,” she said.