September 4, 2021 – Insights
The Biden Administration and the Democratic-led Congress return from Labor Day weekend with a lengthy to-do list. The persistency of Covid-19 and the increase of the Delta Variant has created greater uncertainty for the business community and the public at large, and the administration has pointed to September 20th as the date when booster shots will become available to the public. It will be critical for the administration to communicate a clear plan for the booster shots to gain the confidence of the public and to make a meaningful public health impact.
The Administration’s Build Back Better campaign relies on passage of the bipartisan infrastructure package and a reconciliation bill that includes a range policy proposals including provisions related to childcare and other “human” infrastructure policies as well as tax changes and pay-for measures to finance the ambitious agenda.
The bipartisan infrastructure package, passed by the Senate in mid-August, includes significant new government spending for priorities for a variety of traditional and modern infrastructure spending on highways and roads, bridges, ports, and broadband infrastructure.
Separately, throughout August Congressional committee chairs have been leading work to develop specific policy proposals that would be incorporated into the $3.5 trillion FY2022 Budget Reconciliation package outlined by the Biden Administration, the Senate Budget Committee, and Congressional Leadership. These proposals are due from each Committee by September 15, a nonbinding deadline that is being prioritized by Democratic leadership.
In addition, the debt ceiling was automatically reinstated on August 1 after a multi-year suspension. The Department of the Treasury issued a “debt issuance suspension period” giving Congress until September 30 to increase the debt ceiling or risk default. Historically, Treasury exercises some last-minute “extreme measures” that can extend the debt-ceiling until Congressional action takes place.
Democrats will have to decide whether to attach the debt limit to a short-term spending measure, raise it in a stand-alone vote, (Republicans have threatened to vote against the measure) or use some other legislative maneuver. If the most likely tactic - adding the debt-limit increase to a continuing resolution spending bill – fails, there could be a government shutdown.
Congress will also face expiring safety net provisions that were expanded to help deal with the economic impact of COVID-19. For example, expanded unemployment benefits expired over the holiday weekend and questions remain about the viability of eviction moratorium.
In addition to these pressing priorities, Congress faces additional statuary deadlines set to expire on September 30th including the National Flood Insurance, Surface Transportation Authorization, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and the increased SNAP Benefits.
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