Congress is back, with a huge infrastructure workload to get through before leaving again


He said that he wants votes the week of July 19—next week. “Senators should be prepared for the possibility of working long nights, weekends, and remaining in Washington into the previously scheduled August state work period,” Schumer warned. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi hasn’t similarly threatened her members, but should the Senate actually move this fast, they’d probably be called back in August as well. As of right now, they’re scheduled to be out the whole of August and the first three weeks of September.

The problem with all of this is that there isn’t any legislative text yet from the bipartisan group for the traditional infrastructure bill—roads, water, broadband. That means there isn’t a Congressional Budget Office score. If that legislative text actually happens in the next few days it is possible that it could all be ready for next week. Then there’s the parallel work on the much larger package that Democrats intend to pass through budget reconciliation, a bill that could pass with just Democratic votes. That would include the human infrastructure side of President Biden’s American Families Plan—funding for child care and home health care and education. It will also need to include the critical goals of the administration for combatting climate change, since the bipartisan bill can’t touch that—not with Republicans on board.

As of now, the administration is insisting that the reconciliation bill deal with climate. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm told CNN last week that a clean electricity standard has to be included.

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That makes Senate Budget Chair Bernie Sanders’ target of $6 trillion reasonable, but the “moderates” in the bipartisan group want to spend substantially less. Like about $4 trillion less, somehow not understanding that their obsession with not having their grandkids inherit a deficit is pretty pointless if their grandkids inherit a globe without potable water, and where heat, rising waters, and lack of clean air makes swathes of the land uninhabitable.

Sanders rejects the idea of a $2 or $3 trillion package—”That’s much too low,” he told The New York Times’ Maureen Dowd last week.

His justification is clear:

“Who denies the realities of what he is taking on?” Sanders says, digging into some eggs over easy and white toast. “Does anyone deny that our child care system, for example, is a disaster? Does anyone deny that pre-K, similarly, is totally inadequate? Does anyone deny that there’s something absurd that our young people can’t afford to go to college or are leaving school deeply in debt? Does anybody deny that our physical infrastructure is collapsing? Does anybody except anti-science people deny that climate change is real? Does anyone deny that we have a major health care crisis? Does anyone deny that we pay the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs? Does anyone deny we have a housing crisis? Does anyone deny that half the people live paycheck to paycheck?”

Republicans might not deny any of that, but they also don’t really give a damn. For all the back-and-forth that Democrats are engaged in on the bottom line, there’s the likelihood that Mitch McConnell blows the whole damned thing up by yanking the rug out from under the bipartisan negotiations.

“The era of bipartisanship on this stuff is over… This is not going to be done on a bipartisan basis,” he said last week in Kentucky. “This is going to be a hell of a fight over what this country ought to look like in the future and it’s going to unfold here in the next few weeks. I don’t think we’ve had a bigger difference of opinion between the two parties.”

It’s mostly about taxes on the wealthy and the health of the fossil fuel industry for Republicans, and they’ve got their own fight happening there. Which perhaps makes it fitting that the news is obsessed with two things: floods, record-breaking heat waves coupled with record-breaking drought, wildfires juxtaposed against multi-billionaires having a competition to see who can fly into space first. We should be imposing taxes on billionaire asshole competitions. That’d pay for a few hundred electric vehicle charging stations.

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