Oct 17, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Congress begins yearend sprint

Illustration of the Congressional Dome disappearing in an hour glass

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The House and Senate face an onslaught of deadlines key to fulfilling members' campaign promises and keeping the government afloat as they return from recess this week.

Why it matters: The next few weeks will be pivotal to enacting President Biden's agenda — and determining how the Democratic Party fares in the midterm elections.

The latest: The main focus for the remainder of this month will be to wrap up negotiations on Biden's social spending package, which is being trimmed from $3.5 trillion to closer to $2 trillion.

  • Leaders on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue are losing patience and are eager to strike a detailed framework — at a minimum — allowing House Democrats to finally pass the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill.
  • As of now, moderate and progressive factions within the House Democratic caucus are still far apart on key provisions, including prescription drug reform, climate change and Medicare expansion.
  • They also haven't agreed on a top-line number.

Between the lines: This will be crucial for reaching a compromise, if members want to meet their Oct. 31 deadline. Without an agreement, a reconciliation vote will likely slip to late November or December.

  • Congress also will have its hands full with meetings and subpoenas by the House select committee on Jan. 6.
  • The Senate faces a backlog for confirming key ambassadors.
  • Both chambers must address national defense funding and a looming government shutdown and debt ceiling crisis.

What we're watching:

Oct. 19: The Jan. 6 select committee will vote on whether to hold former Trump adviser Steve Bannon in contempt for defying its subpoena.

Oct. 20: Biden's nominees for ambassador to China (Nick Burns), Japan (Rahm Emanuel) and Singapore (Jonathan Kaplan) will testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during their confirmation hearings.

Oct. 20: The Senate will vote on the Freedom to Vote Act, a voting rights bill backed by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.).

Oct. 21: Attorney General Merrick Garland will testify before the House Judiciary Committee during a hearing about oversight of the Justice Department.

Oct. 31: A 30-day extension of funding for surface transportation programs expires. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) also has set this date as the new deadline to vote on the Senate-passed, $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill.

  • Progressives insist they can always issue another short-term extension if they need more time to negotiate the scope and cost of the social spending package — something they say needs to be finished before voting on the infrastructure bill.

Nov. 8-15: The House and Senate are on recess for one week.

Nov. 19-29: The House and Senate recess for Thanksgiving.

Dec. 3: The short-term government funding bill expires. Congress must pass another funding bill to avoid a government shutdown.

Dec. 13 through the end of the year: The House and Senate are on recess for winter holidays.

Mid-December: The government will default on its debt unless Congress raises the debt limit.

Before the end of the year: Congress must pass the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

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