A Big Agenda and Lots of Uncertainty: The Rest of the Year in Congress

Charles Cooper

With an emerging focus on the 2022 election, Congress and the White House have an ambitious agenda for the rest of the year. Signal’s Charles Cooper discusses what to expect over the next five months.

As there is already an emerging focus on the 2022 election, which could once again shift the balance of power in Washington, Congress and the White House have an ambitious agenda for the rest of the year. With an increasing divide between Republicans and Democrats, there is reason to be skeptical about getting it all finished, but there are enough “must pass” items that will likely help some “nice to have” items cross the legislative finish line. Below is a preview of what to expect over the next five months:
Bipartisan Infrastructure Package: DC is not a town with a great sense of humor, but the running joke about the seemingly years long “infrastructure week” never seems to get old. This week will, again, be an infrastructure week as the Senate likely comes together in a rare moment of bipartisanship to pass a $1.2 trillion infrastructure package delicately crafted by moderates on both sides of the aisle. House Democrats understandably would like their own fingerprints on this legislation, which will take some time and Speaker Pelosi has recently adjusted the scheduling to likely advance this in the Fall.
This legislation will have a diverse range of infrastructure priorities, with a good portion of the package including the reauthorization of surface transportation which must be passed or extended by September 30th.
FY 2022 Appropriations: The House has aggressively drafted their appropriations bills – seven of which will pass along partisan lines this week. The remaining bills also cleared the Committee and will be ready to move through the House separately (some of which could also move this week).
Without much movement in the Senate to date, the September 30th deadline for appropriations bills to be signed into law will not be met. A continuing resolution will likely be needed to buy some more time for a potential end-of-year omnibus spending package, but the need for a continuing resolution into 2022 may be necessary if bipartisanship cannot be found in the funding process.
Budget Reconciliation: Democrats have been preparing for moving a large infrastructure package through reconciliation since the new Congress began. They continue to aim for the fall and while initial discussions were focused on human services, the reach of the bill will expand well beyond that to include a large climate focus, among others. While there is lots of excitement among Democrats over the opportunities that exist here, securing the 50 votes needed for passage is not guaranteed. The size of the legislation and the revenue sources to pay for it (likely to include tax increases) will require a delicate dance that answers the call from progressives for robust spending and moderate concerns around corporate tax increases.  This is not guaranteed to pass yet, but Democrats will spend the August recess working on the details and securing the support.
Increasing the Debt Ceiling: The most challenging part of the agenda may be the need to increase the debt limit, which is likely coming in August or early Fall. Republicans are unlikely to provide many (or any) votes for this, especially while standing in opposition to the looming $3+ trillion budget reconciliation package where it might eventually be added to. Adding to the political complexity, Republicans will use this as an opportunity to highlight spending initiatives as economically reckless. While this will eventually get done, it will not be without pain and some interesting legislative maneuvering.
National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA): The NDAA has been done on time (prior to the end of the year) consistently without exception and generally advanced with strong bipartisan support – sort of an anomaly in today’s policymaking landscape where delays and extensions are the norm and bipartisanship rare. This year will be no different.

Join the Conversation
Don't miss out, sign up for Signal's latest insights and events.

    Secured By miniOrange