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On the third try, House Democrats approved a $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation resolution, paving the way for September floor votes on the bipartisan Senate physical infrastructure bill and much of President Biden’s human infrastructure proposal. The House will be in recess until September 20.

The procedural vote on Tuesday climaxed days of tense backroom negotiations pitting the views of Democratic moderates against their progressive colleagues over the timing of final votes on both infrastructure measures, as Speaker Nancy Pelosi backed off her earlier pledge to schedule the vote on the human infrastructure bill first.

Passage of the budget reconciliation resolution was necessary before House committees can begin to put flesh on the bones of the package. The committee deadline for a floor-ready final package of bills to implement the resolution is September 15.

The trick will be to satisfy progressives without offending moderates, including Oregon Congressman Kurt Schrader, who have leverage because of the slim Democratic margin of control at 220-212. Republicans are unified in opposing the $3.5 trillion resolution, but they are mostly on the sidelines because the budget resolution legislative package is exempt from a Senate filibuster and can pass with only Democratic votes. The Senate earlier approved the budget resolution on a party-line vote.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told reporters after the vote that “everybody won”. He said the goal will be to pass the physical and human infrastructure measures in the House by the end of September. The budget resolution says the vote on the physical infrastructure bill must occur by September 27. The order of the votes isn’t important, Hoyer insisted, because both are going to pass.

Congressional leaders and the Biden administration reached agreement on the $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package in July. It contains enhanced childcare subsidies, a new paid family leave program, affordable housing investments, clean energy incentives and expansion of Medicare benefits. There also will be provisions creating a legal pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

The step forward this week doesn’t erase lingering concerns within the House and Senate Democratic caucuses. Moderates fret about the size of the package and would like to see it trimmed. Progressives don’t agree, and presumably Biden won’t either.

What will happen in the next three weeks, according to Democratic insiders, is quiet negotiations between House and Senate committee chairs to achieve advance agreement on whatever is brought to the House floor. Pelosi confirmed the so-called pre-conference approach. “We must keep the 51-vote privilege by passing the budget and work with House and Senate Democrats to reach agreement in order for the House to vote on a Build Back Better Act that will pass the Senate.”

Finding ways to pay for the new spending proposals might calm political jitters. However, there is disagreement over that, too. The latest estimate of deficit spending resulting from the budget reconciliation package is $1.75 trillion. House Ways and Means Chair Richard Neal promised to deliver more revenue offsets to cover the full cost of the budget package. “I intend, as the President requested, to pay for it,” he said. Ways and Means is scheduled to begin its mark-up September 9.

The step forward this week doesn’t erase lingering concerns within the House and Senate Democratic caucuses. Moderates fret about the size of the package and would like to see it trimmed. Progressives don’t agree, and presumably Biden won’t either.

There will be added suspense at the end of September because a vote is needed to raise or suspend the national debt limit, which Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has threatened to hold hostage, even though in the past he has resisted making the debt limit a political hostage that could lead to a partial federal government shutdown. Democrats are expected to approve a short-term debt limit extension, perhaps only until December, as part of a continuing resolution extending fiscal 2021 funding levels until 2022 appropriations bills are passed.

Before leaving time for a belated summer recess, the House passed the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act on a party-line vote. HR 4 would restore the pre-clearance formula from the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which the Supreme Court struck down in 2013 as unconstitutional. If passed into law, the provision would prevent election law changes going into effect without pre-clearance by the US Department of Justice.

In striking down the original Voting Rights pre-clearance provision, the Supreme Court invited Congrtess to craft an updated version “grounded in current conditions and needs” that targets jurisdictions with a history of voter discrimination or suppression. In revamping the original version of the bill named after Lewis, House Democrats developed a modernized geographic formula that relies on recent documented violations of racial discrimination in voting.

The updated version of HR 4 now goes to the Senate, where its fate is uncertain.