In the final weeks before the midterm elections, Senate Democrats are playing it safe by pledging not to allow a government shutdown over Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-W.Va.) contentious permitting reform bill or any other divisive issue that could give beleaguered Republican candidates a second wind.
They are avoiding partisan squabbles over a marriage equality bill, an insulin price cap, legislation to rein in powerful tech platforms like Apple and Amazon, and a proposal to prohibit members of Congress from owning and trading stocks.
This pivot follows a productive summer in which Democrats passed a number of high-profile bills.
Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) has scheduled votes this week on a broadly bipartisan treaty amendment to reduce climate-warming hydrofluorocarbon emissions, as well as a previously considered measure requiring dark money groups to publicly disclose their donors.
The Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, which was signed in 1987 to protect the ozone layer, was easily approved by a vote of 64 to 30 on Tuesday. On Wednesday, it is expected to receive the 67 votes required for ratification.
The Disclose Act, which would require organizations that spend money on federal elections and judicial nominations to reveal their donors, has already been voted on several times in this Congress as part of broader election reform legislation.
The bill has been sponsored or co-sponsored by every member of the Democratic caucus. It is not expected to garner any Republican votes.
Next week, Schumer will focus on a bill to fund the government, which he will try to keep as clean as possible in order to avoid a last-minute squabble that could force the shutdown of federal departments and agencies.
After the election, Schumer has promised to bring the Respect for Marriage Act, which passed the House with an overwhelming bipartisan majority in July, to the Senate floor.
He has also promised to move a contentious proposal drafted by Manchin to expedite the permitting of fossil fuel and other energy projects, which he agreed to do as part of a deal to secure Manchin’s vote for sweeping tax reform and climate legislation in August.
However, House and Senate Democrats have stated that they will not allow it to derail the funding bill, which must be passed by September 30 to avoid a government shutdown. Democrats say they will support Manchin’s permitting reform proposal to keep the federal government running, or they will vote against it if it jeopardizes the Republican support needed for the funding stopgap to pass the upper chamber next week.
A second Democratic senator, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss behind-the-scenes discussions, said House progressives would likely back down and accept Manchin’s permitting reform proposal if it was included in the short-term funding bill.
Democratic candidates allied with former President Trump have failed to meet fundraising expectations and/or have struggled in the polls, according to political handicappers.
Democrats, feeling more confident about retaining their majority, are opting for conservative play calls in the final weeks of the election, similar to a football team running the ball in the fourth quarter to wind down the game clock.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who warned in an April New York Times op-ed that Democrats in Congress needed to enact more bold reforms to maintain their majority in 2023, said Tuesday that Democrats have a strong enough list of accomplishments going into Election Day.
Schumer has agreed to hold a vote on the Disclose Act, which is expected to fall neatly along party lines and fall short of the 60 votes needed to break a filibuster. However, the Democratic leader has already told negotiators that a vote on a stock trading ban, which has divided Democratic lawmakers, will not take place before the election.
Furthermore, Schumer has not scheduled a vote on a bill sponsored by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) to limit the market power of major tech platforms such as Apple and Amazon before November. Picking a fight with the well-funded tech industry just weeks before the election is viewed as a risky political move, according to Democratic senators.
Instead, Schumer announced on Tuesday that the Senate will reconvene in Washington following an early October recess to debate the annual defense authorization bill. Passing the bill a few weeks before the election will blunt Republican attacks on Democrats’ national security credentials.