Becker’s Washington Weekly: Week of August 9, 2021

Becker’s Washington Weekly: Week of August 9, 2021

The Senate

The Senate moves closer to passing the $550 billion bipartisan infrastructure package this week. After a weekend of debate, 18 Senate Republicans joined all 50 Democratic Senators to limit further debate on the bill, indicating bipartisan support for the bill’s passage.

During discussions, the Senate debated proposed amendments, one of the most notable of which concerns language requiring cryptocurrency entities to report their transactions to the IRS. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) announced that he and his colleagues had reached a bipartisan agreement on the matter after debating two competing amendments. However, if the Senate ultimately fails to adopt a cryptocurrency amendment, the original language will remain upon final passage and could be reconsidered when the House takes up the bill.

Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-TN) has delayed final passage of the bill by denying the unanimous consent needed to speedily pass it. However, passage has only been delayed, not precluded. A vote on the bill is slated for early Tuesday morning when it will likely pass.

After passing the bill, the Senate will move into its August recess. Upon its return, the Senate will quickly shift focus toward two measures: (1) a $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation spending measure and (2) extending the debt limit.

The large spending bill would be passed via budget reconciliation with only support from Democratic Senators and would encompass social welfare and other language that did not make the final cut of the bipartisan infrastructure bill. However, unanimous Democratic support is not guaranteed – Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) has already announced her opposition to the price tag. On Monday morning, Senate Democrats released text for the budget resolution, which does not include language to increase the debt limit.

The Senate will need to extend or suspend the debt limit to prevent defaulting on upcoming scheduled debt payments. While “extraordinary measures” can be invoked to continue financing the government, without action taken on the debt limit, the Treasury would likely run out of cash in October or November. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen urged Congress to extend the debt limit on a bipartisan basis, emphasizing that without extending the debt limit, the U.S. will default on its obligations which could cause an economic catastrophe. While Democrats could go it alone through the budget reconciliation process, they prefer not to. However, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has rejected Democratic efforts to recruit Republican help in this effort.

The Administration

Last week, the Administration issued two extensions of key pandemic-related moratoriums. First, the CDC extended its eviction moratorium for 60 days after it had initially expired. The moratorium has been the subject of several lawsuits, causing President Biden to hesitate in extending it. The latest extension is currently being challenged in court by landlords.

The Biden Administration also announced that it would extend the freeze on student loan payments through the end of January 2022. The moratorium was originally set to expire next month. The Administration justified the extension due to the continuing economic hardship caused by the pandemic as the Delta variant spreads throughout the country.

The House

The House is not in session this week as it begins its month-long August recess. However, the chamber will meet for a pro forma session on Tuesday morning.

Becker’s Federal Lobbying Team will continue to monitor these developments as they evolve and will share with you as soon as information becomes available.