Everything old is new again. As the tragic scenes in Afghanistan remind Americans of the United States’ chaotic withdrawal from Vietnam, another example of history rhyming may well occur in the coming weeks. Recall this video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, speaking about Obamacare almost a dozen years ago:
Pelosi is already reprising her old tricks for ramming through Joe Biden’s $3.5 trillion spending spree. The measure House Democrats approved last Tuesday to set the stage for their budget reconciliation bill deemed the budget approved—the same way Pelosi wanted to use this “deem-and-pass” tactic in 2010 to enact Obamacare without Democratic members of Congress actually voting on it.
That’s just the beginning of the procedural chicanery to expect from Democrats in the coming weeks, which may make the passage of Obamacare, and its infamous backroom deals, look like a model of transparent legislating.
Jam Through in Weeks?
Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, have several reasons to try and ram the $3.5 trillion spending measure through both houses of Congress before the end of September.
As a concession to moderates, Pelosi included a provision in last week’s rule that the House would vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill (another bloated pork-fest, but that’s another story) by September 27. Progressives claim they will not vote to approve the infrastructure package unless and until the $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill gets enacted into law, giving Pelosi and Schumer every incentive to pass the reconciliation package before then.
Funding for the federal government expires on September 30. When they return after Labor Day, Democrats will likely propose a stopgap continuing resolution to extend government funding later into the fall at current-year levels, but at some point they will have to negotiate and pass the package of annual appropriations bills that comprise a good chunk of federal spending.
Congress also faces a debate over the debt limit this fall. The limit, which Congress suspended in 2019, returned on August 1. While Treasury has used “extraordinary measures” to fend off default temporarily, those measures will expire at some point in the fall.
Schumer and Pelosi pointedly excluded the debt limit from their reconciliation package—they had the opportunity to increase the debt limit using only Democrat votes, but failed to do so. As a result, Democrats will now need to obtain at least 10 Republican votes to pass any debt limit increase through regular order in the Senate.
To the extent that Democrats have articulated a strategy regarding the debt limit, it consists of 1) attaching a debt limit increase to the continuing resolution, in the hopes of sticking Republicans with the blame for both a government “shutdown” and a federal default or 2) passing the reconciliation bill before the debt limit deadline, and hoping Senate Republicans—46 of whom said they would not vote for an increase because of Democrats’ spending binge—cave when presented a fait accompli.
For all the talk amongst Democrats and socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, about how “transformative” this spending spree legislation will be, they don’t seem to have much time for an open process as part of that “transformation.” Committees in the House are instructed to report their reconciliation recommendations by September 15—before the House even returns to Washington. (The House is scheduled to have “committee work weeks,” conducted virtually over Zoom, between now and then.)
In other words, Democrats claim they don’t have time for such trifling inconveniences as legislative hearings, public comment, or input from stakeholder groups—except the special-interest groups Democrats decide to meet with behind closed doors. Instead, they want to jam $3.5 trillion in spending down the throats of Congress and the American people, with barely any time for a vote, much less a debate.
Will all the reporters and liberal commentators who attacked Republicans for not being transparent about their “repeal-and-replace” legislation in 2017 (and they weren’t) now write articles talking about the closed process and backroom deals in the Democrat spend-a-thon? Oh, right, who am I kidding?
But the American people should care—and will. Attempting to pass bills comprising thousands of pages, and trillions of dollars in spending, without letting people so much as read them will have unintended consequences—and Democrats will own each and every one of them.