What to Know in Washington: Senators Await Ruling Before Break

  • August exit in the air as Democrats push for budget deal
  • Parliamentarian reviewing text of bill before floor action

The Senate’s planned departure date next week is in question, as Democrats push to pass a tax, climate, and health care bill through the budget reconciliation process before leaving town until September.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) told fellow Democrats at a caucus meeting Thursday to prepare to work through next weekend, according to Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.). That would cancel at least the first few days of the August recess—not that Democrats, who are enthusiastic about achieving more of President Joe Biden’s agenda, were complaining.

“Congress should stay in session as long as it takes to get this bill to President Biden’s desk,” Sen. John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.) said.

The exact timing for passing the bill (H.R. 5376) is being driven by the factors necessary to use the extensive process, which requires only a simple majority, and by potential Covid infections, which hit the Democratic caucus again Thursday when Majority Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.) announced he’d tested positive.

The clock started on Wednesday night when Schumer submitted to chamber’s parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough the text of the 725-page spending and deficit-reduction package, which Schumer agreed to hours earlier with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.). MacDonough and her staff must pore over the text to ensure it comports with statutory rules that would allow Democrats to approve the legislation without the support of Republicans in the evenly divided chamber.

Democrats are still awaiting a response from MacDonough related to the previously submitted drug pricing provisions. But that process has taken weeks as Democratic staff went back-and-forth with her and GOP staff over how the legislation complies with the rules. Senators are aiming for a shorter ruling timeline on the measure’s expansive new provisions. Zach C. Cohen and Emily Wilkins have more.

Photographer: Eric Lee/Bloomberg
Schumer speaks during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday.

  • Green Bank: The launch of what would be the first U.S. green bank to help communities largely left behind by the clean energy revolution is back on track under the deal that contains $60 billion in new environmental justice funding, Dean Scott reports.
  • Insulin Provision Push: Senate Democrats are reviving popular provisions of their drug pricing bill aimed at lowering the cost of insulin, members said Thursday. Schumer told reporters on Thursday Democrats would include certain insulin provisions in their drug pricing package, but didn’t specify which ones would return. Read more from Alex Ruoff.
  • IRS Funding Goal: Biden is poised to see his goal of significantly increased IRS funding become a reality, with the funding boost forming a key portion of the reconciliation measure. The roughly $80 billion in additional spending on the agency is consistent with the amount the administration first proposed last spring. Read more from Naomi Jagoda.
  • 5G Fears: Broadband groups are sounding the alarm over a provision in the deal they say will hurt consumers and US competitiveness. The bill “represents an unintentional and significant tax on the cost of deploying 5G networks,” Meredith Attwell Baker, president and CEO of CTIA said in a statement. Read more from Maria Curi.

More Headlines:

Also on Lawmakers’ Radars


  • The House meets at 9 a.m. with votes planned on bills to address wildfires and protect big cats.

Three hostile foreign actors breached the federal courts document management system via “an incredibly significant and sophisticated” cyberattack more than 18 months ago, House Judiciary Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said on Thursday. Nadler said his panel learned in March of “the startling breadth and scope of the courts’ documents management system security failure.” He added the hack had a “disturbing impact” on both civil and criminal litigation. Katrina Manson has more.

Congressional passage of the chips bill validates Big Law’s decision to put lobbying muscle behind the legislation that aims to make US manufacturing more competitive against China. Covington & Burling, Arnold & Porter and Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld are among firms that each collected at least six-figure payments in the first half of the year from interests promoting the bill. The firms worked for companies including Samsung and Qualcomm. Read more from Justin Wise.

Sen. Josh Hawley wants the FTC to review how Amazon will manage health data after it purchases primary care provider One Medical for $3.49 billion. The Federal Trade Commission should press Amazon.com on whether it will establish firewalls between patient data and retail customer data, Hawley (R-Mo.) said in a letter. He posited that a certain medical diagnosis could fuel targeted ads for related drugs. Andrea Vittorio has more.

Around the Administration


  • Biden has no public events today. At 1:30 p.m. White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre will brief reporters.

Prosecutors at the Justice Department are preparing to fight in court to force former White House officials to testify about former President Donald Trump’s conversations and actions around Jan. 6, 2021, CNN reports, citing people briefed on the matter. DOJ’s preemptive move is clearest sign yet federal investigators are homing in on Trump’s actions as he tried to prevent the transfer of power to Biden, CNN reports. Read more.

  • Secret Service Chief: Secret Service Director James Murray will delay his planned departure for a post in the private sector while the agency faces scrutiny over missing text message from the days surrounding the Jan. 6 insurrection. He’ll remain indefinitely “to guide the agency through these multiple inquiries,” a spokesman said. Ellen M. Gilmer has more.
  • Former Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, responding to a Washington Post report that text messages regarding him and his deputy are missing for a period leading up to the Capitol insurrection, tweeted that he had complied with all data retention laws. The Post, citing four sources that it did not same, said the texts for former Deputy Homeland Deputy Security Ken Cuccinelli were also missing, Billy House and Max Zimmerman report.

A US delegation met with senior Taliban officials in Uzbekistan to discuss efforts to unfreeze some $3.5 billion in central bank reserves as the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan deteriorates, Philip J. Heijmans reports.

Policy experts within the Department of Education have started to study mechanisms to automatically forgive larger amounts of debt for low-income borrowers, according to two people familiar with the agency’s work. Read more from Nancy Cook, Jarrell Dillard and Janet Lorin.

FDA employees could start receiving layoff warnings by September if House and Senate leaders don’t reach a compromise to reauthorize the fees that help fund the agency by then, Commissioner Robert Califf said Thursday. Califf said during an Alliance for Health Policy webinar that the FDA will lack funding to pay employees and the agency’s “public health mission will be injured” without new legislation to replace the user fee agreement before it expires on Sept. 30. Celine Castronuovo has more.

The FTC’s challenge of Meta’s acquisition of a virtual reality gaming company revives a little-used argument against Big Tech’s classic acquisition playbook. Rather than only challenging the acquisition as harmful to competition now, the FTC is primarily alleging that Meta is seeking to eliminate a future competitor. Read more from Dan Papscun.

Consumers who let budgeting apps or payment platforms access their banking data shouldn’t feel as “powerless” about how that information is used if a pending regulation works as planned, said the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Rohit Chopra. The bureau is working to finish a long-awaited rule on sensitive data. Read more from Evan Weinberger and Andrea Vittorio.


  • Biden Defies CDC: Biden deviated from federal health guidance that people recovering from Covid-19 wear a mask for 10 days. He attended a briefing on Thursday indoors with several aides, including Treasury and Commerce secretaries Janet Yellen and Gina Raimondo, as well as Marriott CEO Tony Capuano, without a face mask. Read more from Josh Wingrove.
  • Alito Laments Irreligion: Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito decried what he called “hostility to religion” in his country and Europe, as he made his first public remarks since the release of his opinion overturning Roe v. Wade. Speaking in Rome at a religious-liberty summit, Alito said the decline of faith is leaving believers vulnerable to discrimination. Greg Stohr has more.
  • ACA Contraception Reminder: The administration issued guidance to reinforce Obamacare requirements that health plans cover contraceptive coverage at no cost to participants. The guidance from the Labor, HHS, Treasury departments follows an executive order issued by Biden on July 8 to boost reproductive health care access. Read more from Sara Hansard.
  • Patent Deputy: Attorney and IP consultant Derrick Brent will begin serving as the US Patent and Trademark Office’s deputy director on Aug. 1, the agency announced Thursday, Riddhi Setty reports.

To contact the reporters on this story: Brandon Lee in Washington at blee@bgov.com; Michaela Ross in Washington at mross@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Giuseppe Macri at gmacri@bgov.com; Loren Duggan at lduggan@bgov.com