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Federal Legislative Update: Week of November 29, 2021

Congressional Outlook

The House and Senate are in session this week. Congress is facing urgent deadlines to avoid both a federal government shutdown and a debt limit default, pass the annual defense authorization bill and finalize President Joe Biden’s signature social spending bill, the Build Back Better (BBB) Act.

The most pressing matter lawmakers face is a Friday, December 3 deadline to pass a stopgap funding bill to keep the federal government open. House Appropriations Committee Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) told reporters recently that she would like a short-term Continuing Resolution (CR) that would set up another deadline later in December, which would keep the pressure on lawmakers to negotiate a full-year funding package. But with government funding set to expire on Friday, many speculate that House lawmakers will offer a short-term CR through January 21 or 28, 2022, with a House vote later this week. Lawmakers will also need to act to raise or suspend the debt limit later in December. In a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen projected that Congress faces a deadline as early as December 15 to suspend or increase the debt limit in order to avoid defaulting on the nation’s debt. While some Republicans backed a short-term deal in October to avoid a default, they have said that Democrats need to act on their own to find a long-term debt limit solution, including attaching the debt limit increase to a budget reconciliation bill. House Budget Committee Chair John Yarmuth (D-KY) has said that path would take roughly two weeks, forcing a decision by December 1. “If we’re dealing with a possible December 15 deadline, we can’t wait any longer than that,” he said.

The Senate will vote tonight to finish debate on the annual must-pass Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA; H.R. 4350). Democrats and Republicans will work through disagreements regarding the amendment process, which led lawmakers to leave the NDAA vote until after the Thanksgiving recess. The vote to invoke cloture on an amendment by Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), is currently scheduled for Monday evening. Senate Democrats, led by Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), also hope to advance President Biden’s $1.85 trillion BBB Act by Christmas. While the House passed their version of the bill on November 19, Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) have taken aim at various provisions they wish to have added or removed from the House-passed version of the bill. Major points of contention remain, including: the State and Local Tax (SALT) deduction, paid family and medical leave, drug pricing, and immigration language. Of all the legislative items Congress hopes to complete by the end of 2021, the BBB Act has the most challenging path to completion, even with Majority Leader Schumer’s Christmas goal.

The House will also consider 24 bills under suspension of the rules, including the Future Uses of Technology Upholding Reliable and Enhanced (FUTURE) Networks Act (H.R. 4045), which establishes a “6G Task Force” to study the sixth generation of mobile technology and assess potential uses and limitations of the technology with regards to supply chain and cybersecurity. The House may also consider the Protecting Our Democracy Act (H.R. 5314), legislation which 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 Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 Appropriations, which would fund the government past Friday, is also listed for possible consideration.

For the remainder of the week, several House committee hearings include: a House Financial Services Committee hearing on “Pandemic Response from the Treasury Department and Federal Reserve”; a House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hearing on “The Evolving Cybersecurity Landscape”; and a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on “The Future of Federal Work.” Regarding Senate committee hearings this week, the Senate Banking Committee will hold a hearing on “CARES Act oversight: Building a Resilient Economy”; the Senate HELP Committee will hold a hearing on the nomination of Lisa Gomez to be Assistant Labor Secretary for the Employee Benefits Security Administration; and the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will vote on Christopher Frey to be Assistant Administrator for Research and Development at the Environmental Protection Agency.

Last Week

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