Charles Cooper, Managing Director & Chair of Advocacy discusses the outlook on policy when Congress returns in January and the major efforts driving the agenda in 2022.
Congress will return from the holidays in January with a full policy agenda to consider. While policymakers may arrive in DC with a renewed hope to advance major policy in 2022, all the headwinds from 2021 are likely to remain in place — continued partisanship, growing intra-party divisions, and a significant election on the horizon.
There are several major legislative efforts that have momentum moving into 2022, while others have a tougher road ahead. All have well-positioned champions that will work tirelessly to get their policies moved to the top of the agenda before everyone pivots to the 2022 election. Next year could be a policy-heavy year and these will be driving the agenda:
Fiscal Year 2023 Budget: President Biden is expected to send his proposed Fiscal Year 2023 Budget to Congress on February 7th, which will be followed by a series of committee hearings on individual pieces of the budget and a potential mark-up of the budget in March. While the President’s Budget may be of little consequence this year, it will highlight the White House’s priorities going forward and areas of focus that will be amplified on the campaign trail. Any budget discussion will likely be an early venue for the political debate to come throughout the year.
Well-positioned to advance…
China Competition Legislation: The Senate-passed United States Innovation and Competition Act (S. 1260) may be the marquee bipartisan win of 2022. Both Republicans and Democrats have a strong interest in passing legislation focused on China and House and Senate leaders have begun conversations on developing final legislation that could pass next year. While many provisions will need to be ironed out, there is momentum behind this bill and engagement from Republicans, Democrats, and White House. This bill may very well upset traditional thinking that election years do not produce bipartisan legislation.
Marijuana Legislation: While nothing made it to the President’s desk around marijuana legalization in 2021, enormous progress was made in getting legislation positioned for passage in the House and Senate. The bipartisan coalition of support on Capitol Hill is growing and legislation has been very close to the finish line (most recently as part of the National Defense Authorization Act). Congressional watchers will likely see legislation that addresses the complexities around banking within the marijuana business as well as other adjacent issues.
Water Infrastructure Legislation: Congress is expected to advance the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) in 2022, but it is somewhat unclear at this point whether that will only include Army Corps of Engineers projects exclusively or also include EPA projects. Additionally, the bill could serve as a vehicle for water projects in Build Back Better should that legislation fail to move. Water is a core priority for Congress and WRDA is well-positioned to reach the President’s desk next year.
Possible, but a tough journey ahead…
Budget Reconciliation Legislation: The $1.75 trillion bill that has long been the priority of Democrats continues to struggle to get the needed number of votes in the Senate to move. This bill will remain at the top of the President’s agenda early next year, but Senator Manchin’s (D-WV) continued opposition to the bill (in a Senate where every Democrat is needed to pass this legislation) places a significant hurdle to passage. While it would be premature to say a final deal is impossible, momentum is headed in the wrong direction at the moment.
Fiscal Year 2022 Funding: Current federal funding has been extended to February 15th and members of the Appropriations Committee in the House and Senate are focused on advancing an omnibus spending bill early in 2022. Democrats are hoping to advance their first spending bill under the Biden Administration, but current spending levels were signed into law by President Trump, and it is unclear how motivated Republicans will be to pass new legislation under Democratic leadership. Significant negotiations will be needed to find a compromise Republicans will be supportive of.
Voting Rights Legislation: Like Budget Reconciliation, voting rights legislation is both a top priority for Democrats and faces logistical hurdles in the Senate. Without significant support among Republicans (which is not expected), Democrats would need to adjust Senate rules to allow for a simple majority vote for passage. However, Sen. Kirsten Sinema (D-AZ) has said she would not support a change to the 60 vote threshold in place, which effectively ends the potential for moving voting rights legislation. Of course, this could change as the year progresses. While this legislation will be a key focus of the agenda in 2022, a path to passage is not likely at this time.