Passing a far-reaching partisan social policy measure and a bipartisan infrastructure bill almost simultaneously will strain the abilities of congressional Democrats in the coming weeks, forcing them to hold their members together on complex and costly policy as they seek to thread a legislative needle.
But a similar feat was pulled off in 2010, to secure the last landmark Democratic legislation, the Affordable Care Act. Then, circumstances forced Democrats to pass the underlying legislation with a 60-vote Senate majority and an accompanying budget reconciliation bill that was filibuster-proof to complete the job. Now, completing the job means securing President Biden’s ambitious social welfare agenda.
And some of the same principals who were intimately involved then are still around, notably Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Mr. Biden.
“It’s like the 7-10 split in bowling,” Senator Edward J. Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts and a veteran of the health care fight, said about the precision, persistence and luck that would be required to pull off the legislative two-step. “It happens, but it happens rarely.”
the $3.5 trillion expansion of government programs outlined in the budget the Senate approved early Wednesday.
It also gives Democratic leaders some flexibility in addressing progressive Democratic complaints about shortcomings in the infrastructure bill, which was negotiated by centrists. They can try to add more climate change provisions and other elements seen to be lacking in the bipartisan bill to the budget measure that is protected from a Republican filibuster.
If House Democrats leave untouched the infrastructure bill the Senate passed Tuesday, they can approve it and send it to the president’s desk as is. In 2010, Ms. Pelosi engineered a similar approach to the Affordable Care Act, accepting unchanged the health care bill that passed the Senate with 60 votes before the seat of Senator Edward M. Kennedy, who died a year earlier, was unexpectedly taken by a Republican, Scott Brown.
Understand the Infrastructure Bill
- One trillion dollar package passed. The Senate passed a sweeping bipartisan infrastructure package on Aug. 10, capping weeks of intense negotiations and debate over the largest federal investment in the nation’s aging public works system in more than a decade.
- The final vote. The final tally in the Senate was 69 in favor to 30 against. The legislation, which still must pass the House, would touch nearly every facet of the American economy and fortify the nation’s response to the warming of the planet.
- Main areas of spending. Overall, the bipartisan plan focuses spending on transportation, utilities and pollution cleanup.
- Transportation. About $110 billion would go to roads, bridges and other transportation projects; $25 billion for airports; and $66 billion for railways, giving Amtrak the most funding it has received since it was founded in 1971.
- Utilities. Senators have also included $65 billion meant to connect hard-to-reach rural communities to high-speed internet and help sign up low-income city dwellers who cannot afford it, and $8 billion for Western water infrastructure.
- Pollution cleanup: Roughly $21 billion would go to cleaning up abandoned wells and mines, and Superfund sites.
She answered House grumbling about the Senate bill’s inadequacies with a follow-on, filibuster-proof budget bill that made tweaks to the health law and no longer needed 60 votes.
The prospect that Democrats could get both the infrastructure deal and their bigger package on health and social issues infuriates conservative Republicans. They complain that Democrats are having it both ways, claiming bipartisanship on the public works bill, then going full partisan to get the rest of what they want on the budget bill.
stalled a final vote on the infrastructure deal because of his objections. “There can’t be a bipartisan deal on infrastructure if its enactment into law requires tacking on all of the socialist wish-list items that got excluded from the deal.”
Though they did not plan the approach 11 years ago, Democrats found themselves in need of similar procedural gymnastics after Mr. Kennedy’s death. He was temporarily succeeded by Paul Kirk, a longtime Kennedy ally, who maintained the 60-seat Democratic majority that passed the Senate version of the Affordable Care Act in an extraordinary vote on Christmas Eve in 2009.