Some moderate Democrats in the sharply divided House are raising concerns about a planned $3.5 trillion reconciliation package and don’t want its passage tied to the fate of a bipartisan infrastructure bill.
A draft letter obtained by CNN appeals to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to allow the House to vote on the Senate’s infrastructure bill without insisting that the Senate also pass the larger and partisan reconciliation measure.
“As soon as the Senate completes its work, we must bring this bipartisan infrastructure bill to the House floor for a standalone vote,” says the letter being circulated among moderate Democrats. “This once-in-a-century investment deserves its own consideration, without regard to other legislation.”
The Senate is expected to finish work this week on the infrastructure bill, which would provide $550 billion in new spending for road, bridges, waterways, broadband expansion and other concerns. The Senate voted 67-27 on Saturday to put a limit on debating the bill.
Once that bill is out of the way, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., has indicated he will release a budget resolution needed to prepare the way for the reconciliation measure, which won’t need Republican support to pass the Senate as long as all 50 Democrats are united behind it.
The reconciliation package is expected to provide increased funding for conservation programs and other climate policy concerns as well as social spending priorities while also sharply increasing taxes on the wealthy. Many environmental groups as well as some major farm organizations expressed support last week for the increased conservation spending.
But many farm groups are particularly concerned that the revenue sources for the reconciliation measure could include something like President Joe Biden’s plan to start taxing capital gains at death, creating a “transfer tax” that would nullify the benefits of stepped-up basis. Under Biden's proposal, the tax liability on farms and small businesses would be deferred as long as they stay in operation.
In their draft letter, the House moderates say they have concerns about “specific components” of the proposed reconciliation package but don’t specify those elements.
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“Before the House adopts a budget resolution, Members of Congress should be able to review a detailed scope of spending levels and revenue raisers,” the letter says.
“These specifics are crucial, particularly given the combined threat of using inflation, national debt, and the trillions recently, and appropriately, allocated to the COVID-19 emergency. We also must have the financial resources to respond to any new waves of the pandemic.”
A CNN reporter identified six Democrats as being behind the letter, including Kurt Schrader of Oregon and a senior member of the House Agriculture Committee, Filemon Vela of Texas.
Asked about the letter on CNN’s State of the Nation on Sunday, Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., declined to say what Pelosi should do.
She “has an extraordinary challenge," given the slim Democratic margin, Durbin said. House Democrats currently control the House 220-212.
Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., said Pelosi’s insistence on linking the infrastructure bill with passage of the reconciliation measure “tells you she doesn't have the votes for the $3.5 trillion package.”
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