Congressional Outlook This Week

October 20, 2021

With lawmakers back in Washington D.C. this week, and facing an Oct. 31 deadline for two major bills, Democratic leaders are working to find a compromise for the centrist and progressive wings of their party as it pertains to spending and infrastructure. This week, President Joe Biden is attending a series of meetings with moderate and progressive factions of the Democratic party, trying to unify the Democrats over the size and scope of a sweeping social spending package—also known as the reconciliation bill.

The Oct. 19 meetings come less than two weeks ahead of the self-imposed October 31 deadline for passing Biden’s Build Back Better plan. The plan, referred to as “human infrastructure” was originally going to cost $3.5 trillion. However, a few centrist Democrats have expressed concerns over the cost of the plan, forcing Democrats to renegotiate certain pieces of the plan with a target of reducing the size of the original package to something closer to $2 trillion.

Democratic leadership, including Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, met with nine House progressives Tuesday afternoon who are threatening to withhold support on a smaller package, indicating centrists’ push for a $1.5 trillion package is to small. The progressive caucus has said they will not support the bipartisan infrastructure bill already passed by the House unless there is some kind of spending agreement reached first.

Ultimately, Speaker Nancy Pelosi will make the final call about whether to hold the infrastructure bill vote before the end of the month. Currently, the deadline for both bills is October 31, but it is unclear what will happen if the Build Back Better bill is not finalized by then.