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Federal Legislative Update: Week of November 22, 2021

Congressional Outlook

The House and Senate are in recess for the Thanksgiving holiday this week. The House will consider the Protecting Our Democracy Act (H.R. 5314) when the chamber returns to Washington during the week of November 29. The legislation 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.”

On Friday, the House passed the $1.85 trillion Build Back Better (BBB) Act (H.R. 5376), by a vote of 220-213, with Jared Golden (D-ME) being the lone Democrat voting against. House Democratic moderates upheld a promise made to their progressive colleagues by agreeing to vote for the bill following the release of a full CBO score. House passage of the bill clears the first major hurdle in a long road for the BBB Act, which now awaits changes to be made by the Senate and passage by that chamber. The Senate will return to Washington next week to work on their version of the bill. Given the various factions on the issue, many speculate significant changes will occur to the bill, with uncertainty over whether Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) will ultimately support the social spending package. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) shared her belief in the House version of the BBB Act, saying “what’s in the bill is 90 percent agreed to with the House, Senate, and White House.” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) sent a press release following House passage of the bill with a focus on moving “as quickly as possible to get this bill to President Biden’s desk,” although some have stated Senate action on the bill may likely drag on closer to Christmas. The Senate will take on several issues in the House-passed version of the legislation, including immigration, the State and Local Tax (SALT) deduction, paid family and medical leave, and drug pricing, making for an interesting return following the Thanksgiving break.

After a week of meetings, the Senate is delaying the voting process on the Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA; H.R. 4350). The amendment process has bogged down any potential of quick passage for the $768 billion defense policy bill. Senate Armed Services Committee Chair Jack Reed (D-RI) faced challenges from seven Republicans, who blocked votes because their amendments were not included in the process. A main challenge for the FY22 NDAA came as Leader Schumer decided to delink the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (USICA) from the annual defense authorization bill. Next week, the Senate will take up the remaining 19 amendments and debate the bill as the deadline looms, while a rollcall vote is scheduled on Monday, November 29.

Government funding is set to expire on Friday, December 3, 2021, forcing Congress to pass another short-term Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund federal agencies and avoid a government shutdown. Congress will have four legislative workdays to pass a CR following the holiday recess. The CR will likely last for two weeks, through Friday, December 17. Additionally, Wrightson ICAP, which tracks the debt limit very closely, now says it believes the Treasury Department has until the middle of January 2022 before the nation hits the borrowing cap. This news is coupled with today’s announcement from President Joe Biden to nominate Jerome Powell for a second term as Chair of the Federal Reserve. President Biden’s move immediately drew frustration from progressives in his party, namely Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR). Senators Whitehouse and Merkley called for a “Fed Chair who… shares the Administration’s view that fighting climate change is the responsibility of every policymaker,” in a joint statement before the announcement.

Last Week

  • Biden signs the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill into law READ MORE
  • Biden taps former New Orleans mayor to oversee implementation of massive infrastructure bill READ MORE
  • House passes Build Back Better bill after overnight delay READ MORE
  • Five takeaways: House passes Biden's sweeping benefits bill READ MORE 
  • What's next for Biden's social spending bill: The Senate struggle READ MORE
  • EPA moves to erase Trump-era WOTUS rule READ MORE
  • Biden’s push for Senate passage of his spending bill marks a career-defining moment READ MORE
  • Biden admin. flags funds to aid Americans with home heating costs READ MORE 
  • Senate punts defense bill until after Thanksgiving as debate hits roadblock READ MORE 
  • FDA authorizes Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna boosters for all adults READ MORE
  • OSHA suspends enforcement of COVID-19 vaccine mandate for businesses READ MORE 
  • Biden renames Powell to lead Fed, risking the left’s wrath READ MORE 
  • How the House spending bill would expand health care benefits READ MORE