House. The House this week could pass several pieces of significant legislation…or it may not. In his Friday notice outlining the House schedule, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said the House would consider the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and could possibly consider legislation “related to the debt limit” and “related to end of the year healthcare provisions.” The healthcare provisions are expected to deal with averting scheduled across-the-board cuts to Medicare providers – a 2% reduction that would be effective Jan. 1 and a 4% cut that would take place in mid- to late-January. It is unclear how long the suspension of the 2% cuts would be or how the cost would be offset, but the legislation could be unveiled as soon as Tuesday.
Senate. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is optimistic that the House will pass a new NDAA bill and that the Senate will take it up this week. Until then, the Senate will continue to take up various nominations, including that of Jessica Rosenworcel for another term at the Federal Communications Commission. Rosenworcel, who is currently Acting FCC Chair, will take the title of Chair once she is confirmed. The Commission, though, will remain split 2-2 between Democrats and Republicans. Gigi Sohn has been nominated for the vacant Democratic seat, but the Commerce Committee has not yet voted on her nomination.
Defense Bill. The NDAA bill that Hoyer and Schumer are referring to would be a compromise between the House and Senate versions even though the Senate has not yet passed its bill and there has been no formal conference committee convened to work out differences. Schumer has been trying for days to find agreement on which amendments can be offered to the Senate bill, but disagreements with Republican Senators, in particular, Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), have blocked a path forward.
In an effort to speed up the process, key Democrats and Republicans from the House and Senate are crafting what they hope will be the final version of the NDAA. There is speculation that this compromise version could be released early tomorrow afternoon, clearing the way for a House vote soon. The House is planning to use a previously passed Senate bill, dealing with an unrelated topic, as the vehicle for the NDAA language. This maneuver will allow the House to send the measure to the Senate as “a message,” which, in turn, will provide a way for Schumer to get around Rubio’s objections. The bill will still need 60 votes to clear parliamentary hurdles, but the Senate is hoping to move quickly once the House passes the new version. However, the House may not be able to vote as quickly as planned due to the sticky matter of the debt limit.
Debt Limit. Democrats have been floating the idea of adding language dealing with the debt limit to the NDAA bill. Schumer and Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell have been engaged in private conversations to find a solution to the debt ceiling problem, but no details have been released. One possibility is that the NDAA bill would include language that would limit the time for Senate debate and amendments if Democrats were to use a separate reconciliation bill to raise the ceiling. Without an agreement in hand, though, no one knows whether the votes are there in the House to approve an NDAA/debt limit bill.
The Treasury Department is continuing to push for action on the debt limit before Dec. 15, and on Friday, the Bipartisan Policy Center added its voice to those urging action as soon as possible. While the Center projected that the government will no longer be able to meet its obligations sometime between Dec. 21 and Jan. 28, it added that “Congress would be flirting with financial disaster if it leaves for the holiday recess without addressing the debt limit.”
Build Back Better. There is growing skepticism that the Senate can pass the Build Back Better reconciliation bill before Christmas, but Majority Leader Schumer says that remains his goal. In a Dear Colleague letter today, Schumer discussed the ongoing review of the measure by the Senate parliamentarian.
“On Friday and Saturday,” Schumer wrote, “8 of the 12 Senate committees that were given Reconciliation instructions submitted their final Senate text to the Parliamentarian, the Congressional Budget Office and the Senate Republicans. The committees with the two largest pieces of the bill – Finance and HELP – are set to have their final Democratic-only briefings on Monday and Tuesday with the formal bipartisan Byrd Bath meetings to follow. Our goal is to finalize the remaining committees over the course of this week and next.”
On Sunday, Democratic staff from the Senate Finance Committee met with the parliamentarian, and today’s meeting with the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee’s Democratic staff focused on health care provisions, including proposals dealing with drug pricing.
Committee Action of Note: