As election season heats up, Democrats assert there are still critical pieces of legislation they are looking to tackle ahead of the midterm elections.
While the legislative calendar shows a dwindling number of session days, with the House only expected to be in Washington 40 more days this year after they return from their May 10 recess, Democratic sources said they aim to pass substantial bills they can tout back home before November.
A senior Democratic aide told the Washington Examiner that leadership is looking to address appropriations bills in July, pass a conference China competition bill, and provide additional pandemic relief funding and Ukraine emergency supplemental bills to the floor. Leadership is taking strides to move the process on key priorities along, with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York confirming that negotiators are expected to begin the conferencing shortly on the America COMPETES Act.
The upper chamber is also looking at combining language about the Biden administration’s request for additional Ukraine support and $10 billion in COVID-19 relief funding, which has remained stalled despite bipartisan lawmakers striking a deal, hoping it will ease the passage of both priorities.
“We think that will maximize the chances of success of both,” Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia said on Tuesday following Senate lunches.
Despite centrist Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona blocking a sweeping social spending bill from moving forward last year, progressives hope they can use the reconciliation process to address climate policy.
“I think we have to do reconciliation that has climate,” said Rep. Ro Khanna, a California Democrat who is a prominent member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
Schumer and Manchin have floated using a fast-track process to raise the corporate tax rate to 25% and the capital gains rate to 28% in an attempt to combat inflation — a key area of concern for Republicans.
“Look, reconciliation is very, very important," Schumer told reporters on Tuesday. "I met with Sen. Manchin this morning. Our meetings were both preliminary and good, and we're going to continue to keep talking.”
Khanna added that he’s open to Schumer and Manchin’s proposal to use reconciliation, which allows Democrats to bypass the filibuster and pass legislation along party lines to unwind parts of the GOP’s sweeping tax reform bill.
“I think that'd be great to unwind the tax cuts for the very wealthy, I think that makes a lot of sense to me,” he said.
The senior Democratic aide confirmed that bills aimed at addressing mental health and opioid addiction, judicial ethics, and antitrust-related legislation had not been taken off the table despite lawmakers being pressed for time.
Far-left Rep. Ruben Gallego of Arizona said he wants to see a bill that provides cancellation of student debt come to the floor or the Biden administration move forward on addressing student debt by using executive power.
“I think having some type of student debt relief will be extremely important," he said. "I have friends of mine that are Republicans that are talking to me about it."
Gallego added that with gas prices becoming an increasingly prominent concern for voters, he wants Congress to take action to rein in costs that could be addressed before the election.
“I think there needs to be some type of gas relief," he said, adding that one of his ideas is "using CARES money to give, like, a direct $100 a month to families that make less than $70,000 a year.”
“I think there's tons of charismatic money in a lot of these states that still can be reallocated so that we don't have to even go back and like get your money, print new money, and things like that, which is anti-inflationary if we don't use new money," he said. "And lastly, you know, a very strong, aggressive messaging campaign about Ukraine issues, I think, could also be extremely well for us.”