Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) warned that lawmakers may need to cut short their annual summer recess in order to pass two pieces of legislation aimed at overhauling the nation’s infrastructure system.
“Senators should be prepared for the possibility of working long nights, weekends, and remaining in Washington into the previously-scheduled August state work period,” he wrote in a letter to his colleagues on Friday.
Schumer reiterated his plan is to pass both the bipartisan infrastructure framework that President Joe Biden agreed to with a group of Republican senators last month, as well as another package containing additional Democratic provisions “on climate change, health care and the caring economy.”
The Democrats’ so-called “two-track” plan on infrastructure faces a critical moment. Progressives are sharpening their demands for additional investments to fight climate change as Republicans plot to exploit those divisions in order to derail passage of Biden’s American Families Plan, a proposal focused on bolstering “human” infrastructure.
Many Democrats have said they will only support the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure agreement, which invests in narrowly defined projects such as roads, bridges and waterways, if Congress also passes a bill that includes additional progressive priorities such as child care, elder care and green energy tax credits.
Democratic moderates in the Senate, however, have expressed their discomfort with a large, follow-up infrastructure bill that is not paid for.
“I want to make sure we pay for it. I do not want to add more debt on. So if that’s 1 trillion, or 1.5, or 2 trillion over a 10 year period, that’s what I would be voting for,” Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) told ABC last month.
Passing the second package will likely require all 50 Democratic votes in the Senate under a special budget process known as reconciliation, which Democrats used to pass the American Rescue Plan unilaterally earlier this year. That means getting every Democrat on board ― a tough task for a caucus that includes moderates like Manchin and progressives like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).
In addition to the intraparty debate over what kind of funding to include in the second infrastructure package, Democrats have varying opinions on how and whether they should pay for it. Those kinds of decisions have not been made yet, presenting another field of landmines for the party as members race to pass an infrastructure overhaul this year.
Biden, for example, has proposed increasing the corporate tax rate to pay for infrastructure investments. Democratic moderates support a corporate tax rate hike, but not as large as the one the president proposed. A group of House Democrats, meanwhile, are pushing demands of their own: They want to repeal the cap on federal deductions for state and local taxes put in place by the GOP’s 2017 tax cut law.
All those questions about what the reconciliation package will look like could get messy, but they need to be resolved soon if Democrats want to pass their infrastructure overhaul by the end of the year.