Congress Returns to Take on Infrastructure, Biden Budget Request

Both chambers of Congress return to Washington, D.C., this week from a two-week recess, prepared to begin work on President Joe Biden’s American Jobs Plan, an approximately $2.4 trillion package to fund infrastructure investments, research and development, clean energy tax credits, and expansion of Medicaid coverage for long-term care services, among others. Biden is scheduled to meet with Republican and Democrat leaders to begin talks on achieving a bipartisan bill, but the White House and Democrats have signaled their intent to pursue the budget reconciliation process if bipartisan agreement is too difficult. Budget reconciliation allows legislation to pass the Senate with a simple majority, rather than the 60 votes usually required to avoid a filibuster.

Despite the procedural advantage Democrats enjoy through reconciliation, the slim margins of their majority means that near unanimous support from the progressive, centrist and more conservative wings of the party will be needed to pass a reconciliation package. Such negotiations could complicate advancing the bill without some concessions to Republicans in the House and Senate.

Last week, the White House also released the administration’s discretionary budget request for the fiscal year starting October 1, 2022. The $1.52 trillion in proposed spending would increase non-defense spending by 16% while limiting increases for defense spending at 1.7%. The request is a preliminary document outlining Biden’s policy priorities, with more detailed requests and explanations to follow, and is intended to kick off the annual appropriations process in Congress.