Happy new year! The Senate is in session this week but has postponed votes until tomorrow due to the Washington, D.C. snowstorm. The House will remain in a “District Work Period” until the chamber returns on Monday, January 10. As lawmakers return to Washington, several key legislative items loom large. Congress will work to address full FY 2022 government funding, the Build Back Better (BBB) Act, voting rights legislation, potential filibuster reform, and more before the November mid-terms.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) shared a Dear Colleague letter Monday morning outlining immediate priorities of the 2nd session of the 117th Congress for the Senate. Chiefly, Majority Leader Schumer cited his plans to change the current filibuster rules in order to pass voting rights legislation. Schumer stated that he would like to change the filibuster for voting rights legislation to a simple majority: “we must adapt. The Senate must evolve, like it has many times before. The Senate was designed to evolve and has evolved many times in our history.” The letter notes that the Senate will consider the rules change on or before Monday, January 17. This comes as Senate Democrats Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) have remained staunchly opposed to changing the filibuster rules. The plan seems to center on bringing key legislative items to the Senate floor for a vote in order to find out where Senators stand on the issue, driving a debate on the filibuster. Regarding which specific voting rights legislation will be considered, the Senate will likely vote to consider advancing the Freedom to Vote Act, which is supported by all 50 Senate Democrats but will likely be blocked by Senate Republicans.
Regarding the BBB Act, negotiations will continue to occur behind the scenes between Sen. Manchin, the Biden Administration, and Senate Democratic Leadership. Before the holiday recess, Sen. Manchin said he could not support the current version of the $1.7 trillion BBB Act, pivoting dialogue to a new bill, which would be a paired down version the House passed on November 19. The new bill is sure to feature many elements from the House-passed version of the bill, however, it’s uncertain how much the Senate will ultimately change, and when the chamber will act. As debate continues, many have sought to outline what provisions may stay in and which will be eliminated, as Sen. Manchin has still not yet made public all of his demands.
Congressional appropriators have a deadline of Friday, February 18 to address funding for the federal government for the remainder of FY 2022, which ends on September 30, 2022. Currently, there is no agreement on what policy riders will be included or removed. Additionally, dates for President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address are being reported as either February 1st or March 1st.
Both Democratic and Republican leaders acknowledged the upcoming anniversary of the January 6th U.S. Capitol riot. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said in a Dear Colleague letter of his own that “our Capitol should never be compromised and those who broke the law deserve to face legal repercussions and full accountability.”
For the remainder of the week, several Senate committee hearings will be held on Wednesday, including: a Banking, Housing, and Urban Development Committee hearing on “Exploring How Community Development Financial Institutions Support Underserved Communities” and a Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing on the nominations of David Weil to be Administrator of the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor, Lisa Gomez to be Assistant Secretary for Employee Benefits Security Administrator at the Department of Labor, and Robert Califf to be Commissioner of Food and Drugs for the Food and Drug Administration.