Last Thursday – the end of the previous fiscal year – Congress staved off an impending government shutdown by passing a temporary stopgap measure to keep the government funded at current levels through December 3rd. In the interim, lawmakers will continue to negotiate various appropriations bills containing the President’s budget requests that failed to pass before last week’s government funding deadline.
Congress now turns its attention to the federal debt limit, which must either be raised or suspended to prevent the government from defaulting on its debts before the Treasury Department runs out of money on October 18th. To learn more about the debt ceiling’s history and purpose, please read Perry Adair’s comments during his recent interview with CNET.
President Biden and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) are accusing one another of dragging the nation closer to default. Leader McConnell refuses to extend the debt limit in a bipartisan manner, even though Republicans joined Democrats three times during the Trump Administration to suspend the limit.
Now, Democrats are searching for an alternative path. One such option is to use budget reconciliation to extend the debt limit, which would take about two weeks. However, President Biden has been adamant in opposing this cumbersome process, preferring instead that the Senate hold a simple floor vote on the matter. Under that plan, 10 Republicans would need to vote with Democrats to end an inevitable filibuster, thereby allowing all 50 Democrats and Vice President Kamala Harris to vote to suspend the limit.
Separately, Congress has not yet passed the Senate-backed Bipartisan Infrastructure Plan and the $3.5 trillion tax-and-spend, social safety-net budget reconciliation plan. Speaker Nancy Pelosi missed the self-imposed September 27th deadline to pass the bipartisan deal after competing Moderate and Progressive factions couldn’t agree over whether to pass it before the Senate first passes the reconciliation plan.
Those intra-party fractures were heightened when moderate Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) demanded that the $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill be cut by over half its amount. President Biden travelled to the Hill last week in hopes of easing the divide, but to no avail. Instead, lawmakers passed a 30-day extension of surface transportation funding in the hopes that a broader agreement can later be reached.
HAPPENING ON THE HILL
The House and Senate will conduct numerous hearings this week. One that will attract several headlines is the House Oversight and Reform Committee’s hearing on Arizona’s controversial election audit, which recently re-affirmed President Biden’s 2020 victory by an even larger margin than previously counted. Others include:
- The Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee, which will consider the broad effects of the Taliban’s takeover in Afghanistan;
- The Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee’s Consumer Protection, Production Safety, and Date Security Subcommittee, which will hear testimony from the Facebook Whistleblower, Frances Haugen; and
- The Judiciary Committee, which will discuss renewing the Violence Against Women Act and will continue considering voting rights legislation.
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.