We hope you enjoyed the Thanksgiving holiday. The Senate is back to work today, and the House is returning tomorrow. At the top of lawmakers' to-do list is passing a bill to fund the federal government, which expires in 18 days (or December 16).
Federal government spending takes center stage as leadership is mulling a week-long extension to December 23, providing additional time for negotiations centering around top-line spending numbers. The extension would occur through a one-week continuing resolution (CR) and, hopefully, end with an omnibus spending bill. Currently, there is no agreement funding levels and several policy riders. In addition, the Senate’s process for passage will take multiple days, given the need for bipartisan support. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will prove critical to negotiations, deciding whether to clear 10 Republican votes to break a filibuster on an omnibus package. Many believe the potential, while still slim, is growing for a year-long CR, which would fund the government at prior fiscal year funding. Many leaders outside of Congress have called for an omnibus spending package in lieu of a CR. Defense Secretary Llyod Austin wrote a letter to Congressional leadership that a failure to pass a full-year government funding bill would “result in significant harm to our people and our programs and would cause harm to our national security and our competitiveness.” The White House is pushing to include several policy riders, including $37 billion in assistance for Ukraine, $10 billion for COVID-19 aid, and hurricane and other natural disaster relief. Republican support for funding to Ukraine and COVID wanes as calls for spending accountability grow.
This week, the Senate plans to vote on the Respect for Marriage Act (HR 8404), codifying the right to same-sex marriage. The upper chamber will then shift back to the annual defense authorization package, a must-pass bill with significant bipartisan, bicameral support. The bipartisan Electoral College reform package may be added to the NDAA or the omnibus package.
The House will consider 19 bills under suspension of the rules, including the Senate-passed Protecting Firefighters from Adverse Substances (PFAS) Act (S 231), which would require the Department of Homeland Security to develop guidance for firefighters and other emergency response personnel on training, education programs, and best practices to protect them from exposure to PFAS. The House will also vote on another Senate-passed bill, the Law Enforcement De-Escalation Training Act of 2022 (S 4003), for law enforcement training on alternatives to using force, de-escalation, and mental and behavioral health crises. House Democrats will meet Wednesday morning to vote on their leadership for the 118th Congress. Expect a unanimous consent vote for new leaders in the top three positions, Representatives Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) as Minority Leader, Katherine Clark (D-MA) as Minority Whip, and Pete Aguilar (D-CA) as Caucus Chair. Long-serving member of leadership Jim Clyburn (D-SC) will remain as the fourth-ranked House Democrat. House Democrats will also vote on 11 rules for how their caucus will operate, but will delay voting on top spots for committee posts. Also, on Wednesday, House Republicans will vote on the remaining 12 amendments for the Conference tabled in the last vote. Included in those amendments is a motion submitted by Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) to reinstate the ban on earmarks. These motions, many produced by Freedom Caucus members within the House, will prove critical for Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) as he continues courting members to secure the 218 votes he will need to secure the role of Speaker of the House.
Various House and Senate committees will hold several hearings for the remainder of the week, including a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on “Putting the Bipartisan Infrastructure law to work, focusing on the private sector perspective.” The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing to examine multiple bills addressing energy and land resources. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will meet Tuesday to vote on Shailen P. Bhatt’s nomination to lead the Federal Highway Administration. Additionally, this weekend, early voting started in the Georgia’s runoff election between incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock (D) and his Republican challenger Herschel Walker.