House Democrats scrambling to secure a few last-minute wins ahead of the midterm elections say they’re close to reaching deals on two elusive issues — a stock trading ban and police funding — that would free them to vote on both items this month.
While most of the focus of the short September session is on the must-pass legislation to keep the government running beyond Oct. 1, a number of vulnerable front-line Democrats are hoping also to move the other two high-profile bills before November’s elections.
While neither the stock ban nor the policing legislation has a chance to pass through the Senate within that short window, House lawmakers in tough reelection contests want to tout those victories on the campaign trail in their districts.
“Both are still very much in play, and we’re kind of working on some final details. I’m not sure when they’d be brought up, but I know they’re both still being talked about,” Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), chairman of the Rules Committee, said Monday evening.
“I know they’re getting close.”
House lawmakers were expected to vote on the package of police funding bills in July, alongside legislation to ban assault weapons. But the last-minute opposition from a large group of liberals — many of them members of the Congressional Black Caucus — caused Democratic leaders to yank the law enforcement funding from the calendar while the sides sought a resolution.
Supporters of the package are hoping to use it to boost their pro-police bonafides — and symbolically reject the “defund the police” mantra on the far left of the party. The liberal critics are wary of increasing funding for state and local law enforcers without including new guardrails designed to rein in police abuse, which affects minority communities disproportionately.
Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio), the chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, has been heavily involved in the talks, as has Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), a co-chairman of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, who’s pushing hard to secure a vote this month.
“We’re making very good progress,” Gottheimer said.
Another source familiar with the talks predicted that they’re far enough along that a vote on the police package could come by Thursday.
“It’s got to go [this month],” the source said.
The stock ban legislation — which would prohibit lawmakers from owning or buying stocks to eliminate conflict-of-interest concerns — is also making progress, according to several people familiar with the discussions.
Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the House Administration Committee, is working to finalize a proposal, piecing together elements of several existing bills.
“We are working hard to get final [agreement],” Lofgren said.
“Getting consensus on something that a lot of people want more or less has not been that easy,” she added, but said “I think we’re very close.”
Meanwhile, the debate over the broader issue of how to fund the government beyond Oct. 1 yielded no major revelations as Congress returned to Washington on Monday.
Party leaders, including President Biden, had promised centrist Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) a vote on legislation to fast-track energy infrastructure projects — a vow that won Manchin’s vote on a much larger health and climate bill that Biden signed into law last month.
That promise made, Democratic leaders in both chambers are now struggling for a way to include Manchin’s “permitting reform” provision in the government funding bill in a manner that can both win GOP support in the Senate — where 60 votes are needed to elude a Republican filibuster — and doesn’t alienate so many House liberals that the package can’t pass in the lower chamber.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee, made clear Monday that she wants the short-term government funding bill, known as a continuing resolution, to extend to Dec. 16. But as far as developments in the talks? “Nothing new,” she said.
“It’s always my hope that we can move sooner than later.”
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) deferred questions about the continuing resolution to DeLauro, while House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) suggested the House is simply waiting to see if Senate Democrats can bring their Republican colleagues to support a funding bill with the Manchin language attached.
“I think it’s still undecided in that the Senate is still trying to figure out what they can do,” Hoyer said, adding that “we can pass it” in the House.
As the debate drags on, Hoyer made this much clear: Any hope that the House will wrap up its work in time to cancel next week’s scheduled session is likely gone.
“No, no,” Hoyer said. “We’re going to be here.”