Welcome to the Senate year-end to-do list: “It’s gonna be a train wreck”


Each of those four bills could take several days of Senate time, not to mention the myriad of negotiations that remain to chop Biden’s national GOP-free agenda with Sen. Joe Manchin (DW.Va.), who wants to slow them down. things. Already, some senators anticipate a short-term government funding patch for a few weeks, potentially until Christmas. And in the worst-case scenario, the debt limit should be raised around the same time, which Republicans say they won’t help.

“It’s going to be a train wreck,” said Senator John Thune (RS.D.), the minority whip.

Of course, last year’s Republican Senate was hardly any better – passing a spending deal in late December and having to work on New Years Day 2021 to complete the defense clearance bill. But the best parallel to this year’s smut vacation season might be 2009, when then Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) Used the vacation to pass the Affordable Care Act. Christmas Eve. That included holding a session on Saturday during a snowstorm, the type of job that prompts lawmakers to leave Washington as soon as possible.

While Democrats still seem optimistic about shutting down their social safety net and climate measure by Thanksgiving, 2022 could be the real tough deadline. That’s when the Democrats’ expanded child tax credit expires anyway – and when lawmakers are really, really desperate to return home after months of protracted negotiations.

“We will complete most of our work by December 31,” said Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.).

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer was publicly considering on Monday when his chamber would pass the welfare spending bill. But that timeline is no longer achievable, after House Democrats pushed back their vote on the long-awaited bill until this week, amid demands from moderates for a Congressional Budget Office score.

Ahead of leaving for this week’s recess, senators acknowledged that it was possible they might consider the Defense Policy Bill before the Social Spending Bill instead, given some of the hiccups they were getting. are facing to complete Biden’s program.

Already, the Senate is delaying the defense bill much later than usual. It is one of the few pieces of legislation that regularly passes Congress each year, usually with a strong bipartisan vote. And some senators have spoken to Schumer about their concerns about the delay.

Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) Said the defense bill would be introduced “on the first day we return” next week, “which is good.”

“We will go to the reconciliation bill one day,” Tester added. “But I think it’s going to take a while.”

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (DR.I.) speculated that “if something opens up … you might see Schumer making the smart decision to call the [defense policy bill], give it ten days on the ground, let everybody move it forward, pass it through. And when it’s done: Boom, go to the “social spending plan”.

Democrats are still confident they will tick everything off their list, even if it requires late nights, weekends, and possible vacation work. But there could still be casualties; most likely to fund the government through a regular order.

One idea under consideration to close out the year is to incorporate a U.S.-China Competitiveness Bill, which focuses on reviving the domestic computer chip manufacturing industry, into the U.S.-China Competitiveness Bill. defense policy. This competitiveness law was passed by the Senate earlier this year, but has stalled in the House – including it in the defense bill would ensure it gets done and quickly.

“Everything is achievable,” said Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii). “We have a reasonable path to adopt Build Back Better. We will do the defense bill. I think we will adopt at least some or most of the [the competitiveness bill] in the defense bill. And then the open question is [appropriations]. “

It takes 60 votes to fund government, and Democrats and Republicans are nowhere near a deal to meet those expenses until September 30, the end of the fiscal year. This means Congress is almost certainly on a palliative, as both parties focus on the defense bill and Democrats attempt to squeeze their $ 1.75 trillion investment in climate action, universal kindergarten, child care, and higher taxes on the rich and on business. .

“We’re at a stalemate right now,” said Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), His party’s top member on the Appropriations Committee. “Dec. 3 is coming, I think we will either do a short term [bill] maybe until Christmas and try to get us there and get some attention. Or we’ll be launching it until February.

With such a full plate, Democrats aren’t even talking about how they’ll approach the debt limit just yet. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell insists Democrats will have to raise the party-specific debt ceiling this time around, after agreeing to a short-term patch. It means using the so-called reconciliation process to escape GOP obstruction.

But Schumer has so far given no indication that he plans to change course from his repeated pleas for Republicans to provide the 10 votes needed to move forward. And McConnell ended up providing 11 GOP votes last month in a similar dynamic.

The Treasury Department says it can cover the country’s balance sheet until at least December 3, the same day the government runs out of funds. But the Bipartisan Policy Center, which provides for the threshold for the debt limit, predicts that the date could instead be mid-December to mid-February, giving lawmakers more time.

The December weather crisis might as well be a holiday tradition at this point. Last year, the Senate left just before Christmas Eve, after funding the government and passing a $ 900 billion coronavirus relief bill. And even after leaving Washington, then-President Donald Trump held Congress on suspense as to whether he would sign this bill. He eventually did, but also vetoed the Defense Policy Bill, sparking the rare New Year’s Day session.

And three years ago, the government partially closed its doors on December 22, triggering the longest government shutdown in history. These recent events have caused Senators to prepare for flexible travel schedules, as they enter another busy winter that is starting to get quite routine on Capitol Hill these days.

“I’m not making any non-refundable travel plans,” said Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.).

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