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The House returns to session September 20th and Senate returns on Monday, September 13th. Both a facing a full legislative agenda, creating multiple opportunities for Politics disadvantages.
$3.5 Trillion Stimulus
The Stimulus bill is the $3.5 trillion (to be spent over 10 years) that is likely to include a number of programs, including an expansion of Medicare, free community college, free pre-k education, a number of measures to fight climate change, and even a pathway to citizenship for the Dreamers. Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer have instructed their respective houses of Congress to each finish their versions of the $3.5 trillion stimulus by September 15th. The House hopes to bring it to the floor for a vote by September 27th.
If this bill passes, it will narrowly pass the House, where the Democrats have a small majority, and only pass the Senate if Kamala Harris breaks a tie, as there are currently 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans in the Senate and no Republicans are expected to vote for the measure. Assuming 50 Senate Democrats do vote for it, Vice President Harris will vote to break a tie.
There is obviously little room to spare to protect this bill, and Joe Manchin ((D) West Virginia) and Kristen Sienna ((D) Arizona) have already suggested they might not support it, though at least Manchin has made it clear that he’s persuadable. Democratic leaders are betting he’ll back-down. Anyhow, all eyes are on these two senators and a narrow band of more moderate House Democrats.
There is no bipartisan support for this bill (if it passes it will pass along party lines) and political capital is only relevant with Manchin, Sienna, and potentially a few moderate Democrats in the House. Most likely, passage of this bill will depend entirely on Manchin and Sienna. Most pundits say that what is critical to passing this bill is to keep the Democrats unified.
A version of this DA that includes economy and climate impact scenarios is available to our subscribers.
Note that this disadvantage may also be referred to as the Reconciliation Disadvantage, as if it passes it will pass through the process of reconciliation – a special voting process where only a majority vote is needed for legislation that will have a significant impact on the national debt rather than the regular majority needed to pass legislation in the Senate (60 Senators).
I do think this disadvantage could evolve in two ways and competitive debaters need to be prepared for the evolution.
First, some debaters may make the DA all about Manchin, arguing the plan alienates him and that he won’t go along with the large stimulus as a result. Similar arguments may be made about Sienna, though more of the news stories are about Manchin.
Second, there will likely be debates about what will be in the package and teams should be prepared to debate those specifics. Perhaps, for example, Biden’s political capital is critical to getting the immigration legislation included.
$1.5 trillion infrastructure
On September 27th the House is expected to vote on an infrastructure bill the Senate has already passed with Republican support.
Most pundits do not expect any opposition to this bill and for it to pass the House by healthy margins.
There is, however, one potential complication to the bill. Originally, liberal Democrats wanted both the Stimulus bill and the Infrastructure bill the pass as one package, but party leaders agreed to separate them out because they knew there was more support for the Infrastructure bill. Joe Manchin was one of the people who supported this compromise. With Joe Manchin threatening to not vote for the Stimulus now, liberal Democrats are threatening to pull their support for the infrastructure bill.
Scott Lillis & Mike Long, 9-9, 21, Democrats hit crunch time for passing Biden agenda, https://thehill.com/homenews/house/571418-democrats-hit-crunch-time-for-passing-biden-agenda
Last month, Pelosi and her leadership team struck a deal with House moderates guaranteeing a floor vote on the Senate’s $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill by Sept. 27, while liberals are warning they’ll sink that bipartisan proposal without assurances that the larger reconciliation package will pass the Senate. “Many members of the Progressive Caucus simply will not vote for Sen. Manchin’s infrastructure bill unless it is tied together with the Build Back Better Act so that we have an all-of-the-above approach,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Tuesday. “We aren’t saying it’s either your bill or our bill, but that both of these bills must move forward together — or neither will.”
As for what this means for the disadvantage, it is tricky. Probably the only thing that could impact the passage of this bill is the support of the $3.5 trillion bill. Infrastructure will easily pass the House (as noted, it has already passed the Senate) as long as support continues to exist for the Stimulus, though there is some evidence that political capital is generally important to secure passage.
A version of this DA that includes economy and climate impact scenarios is available to our subscribers. We also added the Dreamers/immigration impacts.
If you are running infrastructure, make sure you have a block that answers the argument that the $3.5 trillion stimulus will die, killing support for the infrastructure bill.
The other pressing issue on Congress’ plate is the Debt Ceiling. The Debt Ceiling is that total amount of money that the US government can borrow.
In order to continue paying the country’s bills, the US will need to borrow more money. IN fact, we have technically already hit the debt ceiling, but the government is essentially moving money around to keep paying bills. At the end of October, however, their ability to do this is expected to run out, causing the US to default on its debts. It’s widely assumed that if the US defaults on its debt, there would be a global financial calamity.
Is there any realistic chance that the US will default in its debt? Probably not, as it has never done so in the past, but there is a greater threat this time, as Republican Senators have pledged not to vote to raise the debt ceiling as long as Democrats push forward with passing the $3.5 trillion through reconciliation.
Democrats could decide to put a debt ceiling increase in the reconciliation bill, but Democrats don’t think the $3.5 trillion bill will pass before the end of October.
Will the debt ceiling debate wreck the $3.5 trillion stimulus? Will passing the stimulus wreck the debt ceiling?
Afghanistan and Hurricane Ida
The Biden administration is going to request emergency funding for both Afghanistan (mostly humanitarian aid) and Hurricane Ida relief. While these may not be especially controversial, Republicans are likely to highlight them in a way that draws attention to the failures of the Biden administration.
Technically, the government has no budgetary authority to continue to operate after September 30th, potentially triggering a partial government shut-down (essential operations would continue). Some have tried to make a Politics disadvantage out of this in the past, but it is hard to find a significant impact and Congress always passes a continuing resolution that allows the government to continue to operate,
Fillibuster, Court Packing, Abortion, Voting Rights
The Senate can always continue debate on a bill to prevent its passage through the use of the filibuster unless there are 60 votes move forward and pass the bill.
Since the Senate only has 50 Democrats, Republicans can always filibuster legislation the Democrats can’t get Republican support for (Democrats can only use reconciliation for bills that have significant impacts on the national debt and they can only use it for a limited number of bills).
This prevents the Democrats from adopting other legislation they would like to see passed (protecting abortion rights, potentially expanding the number of Supreme Court justices to offset the conservative majority, protecting voting rights)).
Some argue the Democrats should repeal the filibuster (they could do this with only 51 votes), setting the stage for passage of these other bills.
At this time, however, there is not enough support to repeal the filibuster, as some fear that it would undermine any hope of bipartisanship (in the future, there is none now) and would risk the passage of legislation that only Republicans support if they gain control in the future.
Anyhow, for now there is really no hope of making any politics disadvantages out of these arguments.
There is significant interest in Congress in limiting monopoly nature of the Bigtech (Amazon, Facebook, Google, etc). With the crowded agenda (see above), it is unlikely Congress will move on this in the near future, but this disadvantage has been run in the recent past.
There will be midterm elections in the fall of 2022, and given the current narrow majorities, either or both Houses could flip to the Republicans, resulting in significant changes to environmental policy and undermining Biden’s agenda.
While this is a bit far off, debaters have started making politics arguments out of this issue and we have included a midterms disadvantage.
There is good link evidence that says the Democrats need to be unified to protect their chances in the midterms.
What is the Status Quo in Regard to Legislation?
The status quo of individual bills has been discussed above. Infrastructure, which was popular at the first high school tournaments, is going to pass unless the stimulus fails. Political capital probably isn’t important to it at this point, though that will be difficult for debaters to explain debates.
Passage of the $3.5 trillion stimulus most likely entirely depends on Manchin and Sienna. Efforts to avoid alienating the two of them will likely have to be made. Political capital may matter here and it may matter with any House Democrats who are on the fence.
Congress will most likely pass a Continuing Resolution regardless of Biden’s capital.
The Debt Ceiling? Who knows, but there really isn’t any uniqueness evidence that indicates it will be raised now.
What’s Up with Biden’s Political Influence/Capital?
There are really just two open questions.
1. Does Biden have enough remaining political capital to get these agenda items (or a particular agenda item) through?
2.Does political capital not matter in a particular instance ($3.5 trillion stimulus) and the only relevant issue is if Biden avoids alienating key swing voters (Manchin, Sienna). And, generally, since Biden can’t get Republicans to go along with much, is maintaining Democrat unity important to protect bills that could potentially pass with reconciliation.
- Can Biden rebound a bit and rebuild his political capital?
What’s up with Bipartisanship?
Bipartisanship has collapsed; there is really not much else to say.
What’s Up with the Agenda?
What files are available from DebateUS!?
DebateUS! Has a number of files to get you started this year:
September 9th update that includes 35+ pages of updates on all of the arguments above
$3.5 trillion stimulus DA, with an additional Dreamers impact file (the internal link is in the update)
Of course, we always have our Daily Update. Check back daily for the most recent evidence.