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Legislative Update

House. The House this week could consider as many as 10 of the 12 appropriations measures for FY 2022, leaving the Defense and Homeland Security measures off the agenda for now. The first minibus will package seven bills – Labor-HHS-Education, Agriculture-FDA, Energy-Water Development, Financial Services, Interior-Environment, Military Construction, and Transportation-Housing-Urban Development. The three other bills that could be considered are Commerce-Justice-Science, Legislative Branch, and State-Foreign Operations. The House is scheduled to recess at the end of the week, returning Sept. 20, but the recess could be interrupted if Members need to return to vote on a Senate-passed budget resolution.

Senate. The Senate is considering nominations this week, and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is hoping that he can begin debate on a bipartisan infrastructure deal.

Bipartisan Deal. There’s a lot of finger pointing going on as Democratic and Republican negotiators blame each other for failure to reach final agreement on a bipartisan infrastructure deal. For example, Democrats say Republicans want to alter the traditional split of resources that earmarks 80% for roads and bridges and 20% for mass transit, giving less to mass transit. Republicans counter that Congress has approved “an unprecedented $69 billion in COVID spending [for mass transit] over the past 18 months,” 56% of which has not yet been obligated. And that’s just one of the conflicts yet to be resolved. In addition to the outstanding policy issues, the Congressional Budget Office will still need to score the deal to see if it is fully paid for.

While there are 22 Senators who support the outlines of the bipartisan agreement, there is a subset of 10 Senators trying to hammer out the details. That group of 10 will meet again this evening. Meanwhile, President Biden remains optimistic that a deal will come together, and White House officials today speculated that legislation could be on the floor this week. If so, the Senate could meet through the weekend in order to hold a final vote by next week.

Should the Senate pass the bipartisan bill, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi remains in no hurry to take it up. On Thursday, she said, "We will not take up the infrastructure bill until the Senate passes the reconciliation measure." She reiterated that stance on Sunday, saying she would not put the bipartisan bill on the House floor “until we have the rest of the initiative.”

Budget Resolution. The reconciliation bill that the Speaker refers to is dependent on both chambers passing an FY 2022 budget resolution. It is Senate Majority Leader Schumer’s intent to bring that measure to the Senate floor after the vote on the bipartisan deal. The Senate is scheduled to begin its summer recess on Aug. 6, and Schumer would like to wrap up action on both the bipartisan deal and the budget resolution by then.

However, it could well be the week of Aug. 9 before the Senate finishes its work. If the Senate passes the budget resolution in the coming weeks, the House is expected to return from its recess to vote on the Senate-passed measure. House passage would, in turn, clear the way for staff to begin work on the reconciliation bill.

Debt Limit. The 2019 budget agreement suspended the debt limit through this Saturday, July 31. On Aug. 1, the debt limit will be reset to the previous ceiling of $22 trillion plus the borrowing that has occurred since then. (As of June 30, an additional $6.5 trillion had been borrowed.) The Treasury Department will immediately begin to take extraordinary measures to provide extra time for Congress to act to raise or suspend the debt limit. However, Congressional action will be needed by October or November, according to a July 21 Congressional Budget Office estimate.

For its part, the Treasury Department is “not able to currently provide a specific estimate of how long extraordinary measures will last,” Secretary Janet Yellen wrote in a July 23 letter to Speaker Pelosi. “However, there are scenarios in which cash and extraordinary measures could be exhausted soon after Congress returns from recess.”

Committee Action of Note:

  • Tuesday, July 27:
    • Senate Finance Committee Hearing to examine implementation and enforcement of the United State-Mexico-Canada Agreement, focusing on one year after entry into force.
    • House Financial Services Subcommittee on National Security, International Development, and Monetary Policy Hearing: The Promises and Perils of Central Bank Digital Currencies.
    • Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Hearing to examine building on lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, focusing on the path forward.
    • Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Hearing to examine pipeline cybersecurity, focusing on protecting critical infrastructure.
    • Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee Hearing to examine cryptocurrencies.
    • House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy Hearing: The Changing Energy Landscape: Oversight of FERC.
    • House Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on National Security Hearing: Defending the U.S. Electric Grid Against Cyber Threats.
    • House Financial Services Subcommittee on Housing, Community Development, and Insurance Hearing: NAHASDA Reauthorization: Addressing Historic Disinvestment and the Ongoing Plight of the Freedmen in Native American Communities.
    • House Rules Committee Meeting: H.R. 4346—Legislative Branch Appropriations Act, 2022; H.R. 4373—Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2022; H.R. 4505—Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2022.
    • Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Policy Hearing to examine protecting student loan borrowers and the economy in the upcoming transitions.
  • Wednesday, July 28:
    • House Financial Services Committee Markup of various measures.
    • Senate Foreign Relations Hearing to examine the nominations of Kenneth Salazar to be Ambassador to the United Mexican States, Jessica Lewis to be an Assistant Secretary (Political-Military Affairs) and Donald Lu to be Assistant Secretary for South Asian Affairs, all of the Department of State, and Marcela Escobari to be an Assistant Administrator of the Agency for International Development.
    • Senate Finance Committee Hearing to examine building on bipartisan retirement legislation, focusing on how Congress can help.
    • Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing: Beefing up Competition: Examining America’s Food Supply Chain.
  • Thursday, July 29:
    • House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis Hearing: Financing Climate Solutions and Job Creation.
    • Senate Judiciary Committee Business Meeting on legislation related to prescription drugs (S.1388, S.1425, S.1428, S.1435).
    • House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Hearing: Assessing the Federal Government’s COVID-19 Relief and Response Efforts and its Impact.
    • House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, Energy, the Environment, and Cyber Hearing: Renewable Energy Transition: A Case Study of How International Collaboration on Offshore Wind Technology Benefits American Workers.
    • House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health Hearing on “The Path Forward: Advancing Treatments and Cures for Neurodegenerative Diseases”

Political Update

Latest House Count. On Tuesday, two Republicans will face each other in a special election runoff to replace the late Republican Rep. Ron Wright in Texas’ 6th District. The race pits Wright’s widow, Susan, against Jake Ellzey. Once the winner is sworn in, there will be 220 Democrats and 212 Republicans in the House, with three vacancies (2 Ds, 1 R) that won’t be filled until months from now.

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