The House and Senate are in session this week.
Congress faced a December 3 deadline to pass a stopgap Continuing Resolution (CR) to prevent the federal government from shutting down. On December 2, following political posturing from Republicans regarding vaccine mandate and enforcement funding, Congress passed the Further Extending Government Funding Act (P.L. 117-70) to keep the federal government open through February 18, 2022. The House passed the CR by a vote of 221-212, with Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) as the only House Republican voting in favor. The Senate then passed the bill by a vote of 69-28, with 19 Republicans voting in support. On Friday, President Biden signed the bill into law. This temporary CR includes $7 billion to continue supporting Afghanistan evacuees and an extension of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) authorization, among other items. Negotiations between House and Senate Democratic and Republican leaders will continue into January and February 2022 on all twelve FY 2022 Appropriations bills.
Congress will now shift its focus to two time-sensitive legislative items leading up to the end of the year: the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and the debt limit. This afternoon, leaders in the House and Senate are set to release the compromise version of the NDAA, with votes expected as soon as this week. Lawmakers have yet to agree on how to handle the debt limit issue. Janet Yellen has stuck to her December 15 timeline for Congress to raise or suspend the debt ceiling while a notable think tank, the Bipartisan Policy Center, estimates the default date to arrive between December 21 and January 28. This change comes as both House Majority and Minority Leaders said last week they had little faith in passing the NDAA bill with the debt limit attached.
Regarding President Biden’s social spending plan, the Build Back Better Act (BBB), the Senate parliamentarian continues to have informal conversations with Senate committees regarding changes that need to be made to the House-passed version of the BBB in order to conform to Senate “Byrd” rules. Considering the loaded legislative agenda and end-of-year time constraints, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) outlined a path forward for the plan in today’s dear colleague letter saying, “there are more long days and nights, and potentially weekends, that the Senate will be in session this month.” He also noted, “8 of the 12 Senate committees that were given Reconciliation instructions submitted their final Senate text to the Parliamentarian, the Congressional Budget Office and the Senate Republicans.” However, negotiations still remain on key issues in the reconciliation package, and many Democratic Senators believe the hopes of passing the spending package are dwindling away.
The House will also consider 30 bills under suspension of the rules, including the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act (H.R. 1667), which provides grants to help improve mental and behavioral health and prevent burnout among health care providers. The House may also consider the Protecting Our Democracy Act (H.R. 5314), legislation that includes “a sweeping package of reforms that will strengthen America’s democratic institutions against future presidents, regardless of political party, who seek to abuse the power of their office for corrupt purposes.” Legislation for the Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 NDAA, debt limit, and end-of-year healthcare provisions are also listed for possible consideration. The Senate will consider several nominations this week and may vote on a resolution, S.J. Res. 29, that would block the vaccine-or-testing mandate for large employers issued by the Biden administration using the Congressional Review Act.
Several House committees will hold important hearings this week, including a House Science, Space, and Technology Committee hearing on “Forever Chemicals: Research and Development for Addressing the PFAS Problem”; a House Financial Services Committee hearing on “Ensuring Equitable Delivery of Disaster Benefits to Vulnerable Communities and Peoples – GAO Findings on the CDBG Program”; and a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on “The Future of Biomedicine: Translating Biomedical Research into Personalized Health Care.” Regarding important Senate committee hearings this week, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on “Examining Federal Efforts to Address PFAS Contamination” and the Senate Finance Committee will hold a hearing on “Promoting Competition, Growth, and Privacy Protection in the Technology Sector."
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