Legislative Update - January 17, 2023
Following Martin Luther King Jr. Day, both chambers are in recess until next week. The Senate returns to Washington Monday, the 23rd, and the House on the 24th. Leadership and staff will continue to finalize committee assignments for the 118th.
The debt limit will remain in the spotlight even as both chambers of Congress are in recess. The U.S. will likely hit the $31.4 trillion debt ceiling on Thursday. In a letter to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said that the agency would begin “extraordinary measures” after the U.S. reaches its statutory borrowing limit. Following the increase to the debt limit on December 16, 2021, via P.L. 117-73, the Secretary advised that those measures to prevent a default will likely exhaust near the beginning of June. The debt limit issue features a history of tense negotiations among lawmakers. In 2011, Congress fiercely fought over what concessions to agree to, and many are speculating whether this year’s debt ceiling debate might be worse. Speaker McCarthy urged conversations to start on debt ceiling compromises, telling reporters there is no reason to wait until the last minute. In a joint letter, Democratic leaders Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) called for Congress to move quickly to pass a legislative solution for the debt limit and “prevent a disastrous default.” Both sides have publicly stated their desire to achieve an expeditious fix to the debt limit, but first, Republicans must agree on what concessions they will want from Democrats who are currently unwilling to compromise.
118th Congressional Committees
The House will now pivot to settle committee assignments. Today, the Republican House Steering Committee is working on completing committee assignments for the party’s conference. Speaker McCarthy and Minority Leader Jeffries agreed to ratios on the four “A” committees: Appropriations, Energy and Commerce, Financial Services, and Ways and Means. The agreement for the most sought-after committees makes minor changes to the ratios within each committee, maintaining the balance Democrats used in the 117th Congress. Minority Leader Jeffries told Democrats in a dear colleague letter that he expects to end negotiations on the ratios for the remaining committees by the end of this week. While House Republicans finalize their committee rosters this week, Democrats will “complete the committee assignment process this month upon our return to Washington,” Jeffries said. On Wednesday, House Republicans announced the selection of the 12 subcommittee chairs for the powerful Appropriations Committee.
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