Washington Update - October 10, 2021

Billy Moore    Dc2

Last week, the Senate advanced legislation to increase the debt limit by $480 billion on a bipartisan vote. On Tuesday, the House will agree to the proposal, clearing it for President Joe Biden’s signature, thus avoiding a default on Treasury bonds. Senators also confirmed 19 nominations and passed another 18 measures, mostly by bipartisan votes.

None of which diminishes the bitter partisanship that stymies Congress. A series of legislative cliffs litter the calendar ahead. Democratic leaders have set October 31 as the deadline for House action on the Senate-passed bipartisan $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill and Senate action on the partisan reconciliation bill likely to spend and tax between $2 and $3 trillion. December 3 is the deadline for new appropriations, most likely another continuing resolution. The deadline for the next debt limit bill depends on spending rates and tax receipts; an increase could be due as soon as December 3 or as late as the end of January. The Defense authorization should be enacted prior to the session’s adjournment around Christmas.

Meeting the deadlines depends on Democratic moderates and progressives reaching agreement. A deal on reconciliation is the key item on the list; compromise will probably require several weeks, making postponement of the October 31 deadlines likely.

Each agenda item has political implications for both parties. Republicans want to limit the number of accomplishments President Biden and congressional Democrats can claim, and hope to sow legislative chaos for which Democrats would take blame. Democrats seek to maximize concrete accomplishments that will improve people’s lives and minimize their losses in the 2022 mid-term elections.

Meanwhile, coronavirus infections have fallen 43 percent in the last month and immunization rates have increased as a result of President Biden’s mandates, improving hopes for economic growth.

The economy added 194,000 jobs in September while the unemployment rate fell to 4.8 percent.