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It was early November when Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., declared the Senate would consider the Democrats’ social spending bill during the week of Nov. 15.
The best-laid plans…
Of course, Schumer’s aspiration came before everything went haywire in the House of Representatives a few weeks ago. The House failed to approve the infrastructure bill. To push the latter through, the House Democrats had to separate the vote on the infrastructure bill from the social spending bill. This was despite House liberal demands that the Democratic leadership Velcro both measures together.
House moderates were then willing to vote on the social spending package — provided they had cost evaluations of the bill from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). They also wanted to see the bill in the House during the week ending November 15.
Schumer had no other choice than to punt.
Schumer gave an unsettling warning. Schumer warned senators this week that they should be flexible with their schedules for the remainder of the year. He added that dealing with the social spending package — to say nothing of averting a government shutdown and avoiding a collision with the debt limit in December — “will likely take some long nights and weekends.”
Schumer put Tuesday’s holiday calendar in sharper focus, focusing on the social spending program.
He stated, “We aim to pass them before Christmas.”
“Before” is the key phrase.
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But, just how much “before?”
The “Christmas recess,” for Congress, used to be sacred. The body now regularly incinerates the holiday vacation.
Congress is a madhouse for deadlines and weekends. Each December, both the Senate and House publish a congressional calendar that projects the calendar for the coming year. Many weeks and even entire weeks are blocked for the coveted “August recess.” But the House and Senate often make good use of this respite. Or, if Congress goes on August recess, the leaders will often recall Washington’s lawmakers during that time.
In recent years, Congress has made it a habit to convene on Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Last Christmas was a tough one for lawmakers. The new Congress began Jan. And we all know what happened Jan. 6.
The Senate approved the original version of Obamacare in a pre-dawn vote, which was held on Christmas Eve 2009. There was a flurry of Senate activity last New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.
The House and Senate were in session around the clock on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day in 2012-2013 in an effort to avoid “the fiscal cliff.” Biden, then-Vice President, arrived at the Capitol around 8:30 p.m. for negotiations. ET on New Year’s Eve, 2012. The Senate began voting on New Year’s Eve 2013 around 2:30 a.m. ET. ET.
Capitol Hill veterans and reporters who have had to endure multiple sessions of the congressional Yuletide sessions many times are susceptible to parliamentary PTSD.
Yours truly pressed Schumer this week as to why we wouldn’t expect the Senate to approve the social spending bill on Christmas or New Year’s Eve — if history is our guide.
“I’m not going to speculate on that,” replied Schumer.
WHY CONGRESS TAKES SO LONG TO ACT
You may recall the classic Bing Crosby holiday tune “I’ll Be Home For Christmas.” The song ends in a pathetic fashion.
“If only in mine dreams” is the final, melancholy line.
If the Senate struggles to pass the social spending package within a month, that line could be a sign of what is in store for Capitol Hill.
And we haven’t even gotten to what else could chew up late November and December on Capitol Hill. There is a frenzy over the possibility of a government shutdown being avoided on December 3. A donnybrook could also be facing lawmakers regarding lifting the debt ceiling. Janet Yellen, Treasury Secretary, wrote to Congress that lawmakers had until December 15 to address the debt limit.
It gets worse.
It’s inevitable that the Senate will change the social spending bill. That’s partly to comply with the “Byrd rule” (specialized Senate budget regulations) and to coax the yea votes from Sens. Joe Manchin, D.W.Va. and Kyrsten Silena, D.Ariz.
At some point, the Senate and House will have to come together. As the legislation transforms, expect to see a lot of Senate back-and-forth in December.
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Take a look at these:
The Senate doesn’t approve the social spending measure until Christmas — or later. The House must still approve the measure. And if the Senate doesn’t pass the bill until Christmas, that means the bill doesn’t head back across the Capitol Rotunda for the House to align UNTIL JANUARY.
It is possible to get pregnant in January, but it is not guaranteed.
The House Democrats took months to pass the infrastructure package. A more moderate social spending package, blessed by Manchin and Sinema, won’t sit well with the more liberal House. It could take several days to work out. Democrats still work with a small, three-vote turning circle.
In mid-January, that margin could grow to one. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick has just won the Democratic primary in her bid to succeed the late Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., which she lost. Cherfilus-McCormick will face Republican Jason Mariner in special election on January 11. The district favors Democrats. In 2020, President Biden won the district by 55 percent.
Democrats could need every vote possible. And as much time as possible.
Remember the Obamacare vote on Christmas Eve 2009? It took Senate and House until mid March 2010 before they finally agreed to the final version.
It could take the social spending enterprise a few more months to pass Congress.
Imagine that all of this would be over by September or August.
“I’ll be home for Christmas. You can count on my support. Please have snow. And mistletoe. And presents by the tree,” sang Bing Crosby.
This Christmas, are you at home?
Maybe everyone should shoot for Valentine’s Day.
Source: Fox News