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Federal Legislative Update: Week of December 13, 2021

Congressional Outlook

The Senate is in session this week, with the House in recess as it awaits the Senate’s vote on the debt limit to fly-in and vote before returning to recess.

Congress is poised to raise the federal debt ceiling by the Treasury Department's Wednesday deadline and the Senate is set to pass the FY 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA; S. 1605) this week, clearing a path for the Senate to potentially finish President Joe Biden’s social and climate bill, the Build Back Better (BBB) Act by Christmas.

On Tuesday, Congress is expected to raise the debt limit, with the Senate acting first followed by the House. President Biden signed legislation on Friday allowing the Senate to raise the debt limit with a majority vote, avoiding any potential Republican filibuster. Once passed, Congress won’t need to act on the debt limit again until after the midterm elections next year. Democratic leaders have yet to announce the total increase of the debt limit, but it is expected to be at least $2 trillion. The annual must-pass FY22 NDAA is also expected to receive final passage from the Senate this week. Last Tuesday, the House passed the $770 billion bill by a bipartisan vote of 363 to 70, with 194 Republicans voting in favor and 51 Democrats voting against. Once passed, President Biden is expected to sign the legislation into law, which authorizes defense and national security programs and raises service member pay by 2.7%, among other provisions.

Simultaneously, the Senate will continue ongoing negotiations on the BBB Act. On Saturday, the Senate Finance Committee released updated text for the BBB tax provisions, a total of 1,180 pages. Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR) stated that “the Finance Committee has made targeted improvements to the Build Back Better Act, and is ready to move forward in this process.” As previously reported, the State and Local Tax (SALT) deduction remains an unresolved issue as lawmakers will have to decide if they will accept the House-passed proposal, which raises the deduction cap from $10,000 to $80,000. President Biden is expected to speak with Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) today, at the earliest, to gauge his level of support for the legislation and sway him on any concerns. Sen. Manchin is currently expected to be the lone holdout among Senate Democrats even though he has had a major role in drafting much of the legislation. This week the Senate’s parliamentarian, Elizabeth MacDonough, will make rulings on several issues within the BBB Act to decide if the provisions adhere to or violate rules allowing them to be included in a reconciliation bill. The process, known as the “Byrd bath,” is expected to impact drug pricing and immigration language. A path to resolving many of these BBB Act-related issues by Christmas exists, but many believe there is just too many roadblocks to pass the bill this year, pushing action to 2022.

For the remainder of the week, several Senate committee hearings include: a Commerce Committee hearing on “Oversight of the U.S. airline industry”; a Banking Committee hearing on “Disaster Recovery Assistance - Authorization of the Community Development Block Grant”; and a Commerce Committee hearing on the nomination of Steven Cliff to be Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The House Oversight and Reform Committee will hold a hearing on “The urgent need to accelerate vaccinations around the world.” The House is also expected to vote on “multiple vote series and late votes,” according to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), including legislation on the debt limit.

Last Week

  • This week: Democrats try to clear deck for Build Back Better READ MORE
  • Biden’s 2,700-Item To-Do List Targets Climate, Mental Health READ MORE
  • CBO: Fully extended reconciliation bill could cost $3 trillion READ MORE
  • Senate passes resolution to end COVID-19 shots-or-test rule READ MORE
  • Democrats face time crunch as they race to finalize Biden plan READ MORE 
  • Debt limit, Byrd bath, and Manchin meetings READ MORE
  • House passes bill authorizing $770 billion in Pentagon funding and setting Defense policy READ MORE
  • Senate passes bill to raise debt ceiling, avoid filibuster READ MORE
  • As Dems sprint against the clock, child tax credit might slip away READ MORE
  • U.S. House passes oversight bill reining in presidency, unlikely to pass Senate READ MORE
  • Biden sets zero-emission goals for federal buildings, vehicles in executive order READ MORE
  • House passes bill to strengthen shipping supply chain READ MORE
  • Biden to tour tornado damage in Kentucky on Wednesday READ MORE
  • Manchin raises red flags over Dems' agenda ahead of Biden talk READ MORE