The big budget showdown isn’t over yet, even if Vote-a-Rama finally breathed its last a couple of hours ago. Kamala Harris cast the tie-breaking vote on Senate Democrats’ reconciliation action, but that only sets the stage for the next attempt at relief and stimulus by eliminating the filibuster on the final product.
Now comes the negotiations, and it might not be as easy as it seems:
The Senate passed a budget resolution very early Friday that is an important step to getting President Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief proposal approved. The 51-50 vote, with Vice President Harris breaking the tie, came after an all-night marathon “vote-a-arama.”
It included 41 votes. The Senate adjourned at 5:39 a.m. and is scheduled to return Monday afternoon.
One vote rejected a major component of the Biden plan — raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. In a voice vote, senators narrowly approved an amendment from Iowa Republican Joni Ernst that would ban the increase during a pandemic.
As CBS News notes, Republicans scored on a few other amendments, too:
Many of the amendments brought forward by Republicans were expected to fail. But others have bipartisan support, such as an amendment proposed by Republican Senator Roger Wicker and Democratic Senator Kyrsten Sinema to boost the restaurant industry, which was approved with a vote of 90-10. The Senate also considered a bipartisan amendment introduced by Democratic Senator Joe Manchin and Republican Senator Susan Collins to prevent “upper income citizens” from receiving stimulus checks, although “upper income” was not defined.
That’s not the only thing left ‘undefined.” Technically, these amendments — even the one stripping out the minimum wage — can be bypassed in the real budget bill that will follow. Think of reconciliation as an envelope for a budget bill; it allows the actual bill to pass the Senate on a simple majority vote later. That is when the legislative language will firm up, and that legislative language can potentially negate the amendments. In the meantime, though, Republicans forced Democrats to explicitly vote for a number of items — such as stimulus checks to illegal immigrants — that won’t play well in the next election cycle.
Just getting to a simple majority isn’t the end of the issue for Senate Democrats, however. The Washington Post reports that moderate Democrats in the House want a different kind of package, and that could be a problem for Nancy Pelosi and her nine-seat majority:
Signs of disunity were already emerging among Democrats. Members of the moderate-leaning Blue Dog Coalition caucus in the House released a letter Thursday to congressional Democratic leaders calling on them to move a stand-alone bill funding vaccine production and distribution before turning to the broader relief package. Biden has rejected the notion of breaking apart his relief package.
And even though one has to read almost three-quarters of the story to find it, the Post does do a fair bit of scoffing at Joe Biden’s claims of bipartisanship after last night’s attempt to shove this down Republicans’ throats:
Moving forward under the “budget reconciliation” process allows Biden’s relief bill to pass the Senate with a simple-majority vote, instead of the 60 normally required. That will allow Democrats to move forward with no GOP votes if necessary, although Democrats and Biden officials insist that they hope Republicans will join them.
Biden’s efforts to craft a bipartisan deal have been minimal, however. He met Monday evening with 10 Senate Republicans after they offered a $618 billion counterproposal, but the White House never indicated willingness to move off Biden’s $1.9 trillion top-line or seriously consider a bipartisan compromise. …
The few elements of Biden’s proposal that Democrats are looking at scaling back — including who would qualify for a new round of $1,400 stimulus checks — appear designed more to keep their own party unified than to attract Republican votes.
It’s been clear for two weeks that Joe Biden would follow Barack Obama’s “I won” precedent. The difference between then and now is that Obama had wide majorities in both chambers of Congress and could pull that off — until Obama burned himself in the overreach and lost the House in 2010. As I wrote two weeks ago, there’s a lesson to be learned for Biden in that, but he’s not much of a student.