This week, Congress is out of session. While lawmakers won’t be on Capitol Hill, there are many items of importance that members and their staff will be working on behind the scenes. Next week, we expect President Joe Biden to announce his Supreme Court nominee, President Biden will deliver his State of the Union address, and Congress should finalize a Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 omnibus package.
President Biden has begun interviews with Supreme Court candidates to replace outgoing Justice Stephen Breyer. On the campaign trail, President Biden vowed to select an African American woman to serve on the Supreme Court if given a chance to nominate someone. He plans to name a successor by the end of February, a deadline he placed on himself.
Congress has 17 days left to agree on an omnibus spending package until government funding runs out on Friday, March 11, the expiration date of the recently enacted three-week Continuing Resolution (CR). This three-week CR provides lawmakers additional time to negotiate and agree to a government spending bill for the remainder of FY 2022, which ends on September 30, 2022. Officials are feeling the pressure to bring the full-year funding plan to completion. Congress has now passed three CRs during FY22 thus far. When asked about the potential of a fourth CR, Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Patrick Leahy (D-VT) said, “good Lord, no,” as he hopes to negotiate a package successfully. The 12 House and Senate Appropriations subcommittees have been given top-line spending numbers and are working to finalize their parts of the package.
Plans for President Biden’s Build Back Better (BBB) Act has remained fairly silent over the past few weeks. Many advocates believe the White House should play a more active role in negotiating a new BBB Act after the $1.75 trillion climate and social package failed to advance in the Senate after Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) announced he wouldn’t support the bill in late December 2021. The challenge is that the window for any legislative action on a version of the BBB Act with trimmed down or targeted items prior to the midterm elections taking place in November is quickly closing. Recently, the BlueGreen Alliance, an advocacy organization uniting labor unions and environmental groups, sent a letter to President Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) urging action on the BBB Act. The White House reports they are working with “a wide range of lawmakers” to negotiate differences, while Sen. Manchin emphasized last week that no formal talks were happening.
Much of the Biden Administration’s focus has shifted to the situation in Ukraine, as President Biden canceled his recent weekend travel plans. The White House shifted its tone and has decided to refer to the situation as an “invasion” after aggression by the Russian government persisted at the Ukrainian border. Western countries continue their strategy to pressure President Vladimir Putin with harsh sanctions, including the blockage of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline as the Russian president recognized two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine while ordering the deployment of troops there. Congressional lawmakers on both sides of the aisle support sanctions.
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