A Senate Democrat on Monday accidentally outed plans to pass an infrastructure bill without Republican votes — indicating President Biden’s talk of national “unity” is unlikely to apply to his major legislation.
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) told Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg at an event that Democrats intend to use the same budget reconciliation process that allowed for party-line passage of Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus bill, a statement he thought was private but was caught on a hot-mic.
“Ultimately, it’s going to be put together similar,” Cardin could be heard telling Buttigieg into a hot mic at a UPS facility in Maryland, unknowingly spilling the beans to a much larger audience.
Democrats “most likely have to use reconciliation,” the Senate Small Business Committee chairman said, adding that Republicans only “meet with you to a point.”
Reconciliation rules are rarely used to pass major bills. But the process allows for Democrats to pass legislation with a bare majority in the evenly divided Senate, rather than with the usual 60-vote supermajority required for bills. Vice President Kamala Harris breaks Senate ties in favor of Democrats.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has vowed to end the Senate’s recent history as a legislative “graveyard,” but two centrist Democrats — Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona — won’t agree to eliminate the 60-vote “filibuster” that applies to most legislation, leaving budget reconciliation as the primary path for bills that only have support from Democrats.
Reconciliation rules limit the provisions that are allowed in bills. For example, the Senate parliamentarian removed portions of the just-passed stimulus bill that would have increased the national minimum wage to $15 per hour and that provided $140 million for a rail project near House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s California district.
The White House has branded infrastructure legislation as part of a “Build Back Better” agenda for economic recovery following the COVID-19 pandemic. Former President Donald Trump frequently said he wanted a grand bipartisan deal on infrastructure, but one never materialized.
Republican opposition to Biden’s stimulus focused prominently on the national debt, allegedly wasteful provisions and fear of inflation.