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Wake Up To Politics - August 6, 2021

Wake Up To Politics: Looking down the horizon for Congress
Wake Up To Politics - August 6, 2021

Good morning! It’s Friday, August 6, 2021. Election Day 2022 is 459 days away. Election Day 2024 is 1,187 days away.

Looking down the horizon for Congress

Congress is in the midst of a busy summer and fall. Here’s a look at what legislators have to look forward to in the weeks and months ahead:

Infrastructure. The Senate stayed in session until just after midnight this morning as lawmakers attempted to strike a deal to expedite the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package. However, a deal failed to materialize, which means the chamber will return on Saturday for a cloture vote to advance the package.

Senate leaders from both parties were hoping to secure unanimous consent to hold the cloture vote on Thursday, but Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-TN) stood in the way. In refusing to expedite the measure, Hagerty pointed to a new report by the Congressional Budget Office, which found that the package would add $256 billion to the deficit over the next 10 years — contrary to claims by the bill’s authors that it was fully paid for.

“It didn’t just come up short, it came up a quarter of a trillion dollars short,” Hagerty said in a statement. “Despite this news, I was asked to consent to expedite the process and pass it. I could not, in good conscience, allow that to happen at this hour.”

So the Senate will come back on Saturday to advance the package (which still has broad backing in both parties), and likely hold a vote on final passage early next week. The legislation will then go to the House, where Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is threatening to sit on it until the Senate acts on the second half of Democrats’ “two-track” spending strategy — the $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill.

The reconciliation process is a long one, and Democrats have still yet to settle on the price tag and provisions of their go-it-alone spending bill, so the “two-track” process is expected to stretch into fall — with plenty of pitfalls still in the Democrats’ way.

Debt ceiling. Technically, the U.S. hit the debt ceiling — which limits how much debt the federal government can borrow — last week. But the Treasury Department is able to deploy “extraordinary measures” that buy Congress some time before the $22 trillion debt limit must be raised or suspended. (If neither happen when those “extraordinary measures” run out in October or November, the nation would no longer be able to borrow and would eventually default on its debt, which would have serious economic ramifications.)

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) declared Thursday that Republicans would oppose a debt ceiling increase this fall. “If our colleagues want to ram through yet another reckless tax and spending spree without our input, if they want all this spending and debt to be their signature legacy, they should leap at the chance to own every bit of it,” McConnell said, referring to the $3.5 trillion reconciliation package.

McConnell said Democrats should include a debt ceiling hike in their reconciliation bill. But they have indicated they are unlikely to do so, which means they would need Republican votes for the maneuver.

Democrats are hoping to avoid a repeat of the 2011 debt ceiling showdown, when the nation came to the brink of default and the U.S. credit rating was downgraded before Republicans extracted promises of across-the-board spending cuts in exchange for agreeing to raise the debt limit. But moderates are expected to push back on attempts to include a debt ceiling increase in the already-massive reconciliation bill, so Democrats may have to return to the negotiating table with Republicans — or risk plunging the nation into crisis.

Mitch McConnell is threatening to oppose any increase to the debt ceiling. (Patrick Semansky / AP)

Other priorities. What else is on Congress’ docket in the near future? In addition to the debt ceiling, there are a slew of other deadlines coming up soon — including the end of the student loan freeze on September 30 and of the CDC’s new partial eviction moratorium on October 3. Watch for Democratic lawmakers push for votes to formalize both policies in legislation before they expire, although they will face an uphill fight.

And then there is the government spending deadline on September 30: Lawmakers will likely have to pass a continuing resolution to keep the federal government open past that date. This fight could end up being tied to the debt ceiling debate, if Democrats try to include a debt ceiling increase in the stopgap spending bill; they would need 10 Republican senators to go along with the gambit.

Finally, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is expected to schedule another vote on election legislation later this month, before the Senate leaves for its summer recess. Democrats have been working to draft a revised version of the For the People Act (which failed in the Senate earlier this year) that would aim to expand voting rights, address partisan gerrymandering, and push back on efforts to allow election results to be overturned. Such a proposal would also need 10 Republican supporters in the Senate to advance.

The Rundown

More top stories to know.

CORONAVIRUS: “The Biden administration is considering using federal regulatory powers and the threat of withholding federal funds from institutions to push more Americans to get vaccinated — a huge potential shift in the fight against the virus and a far more muscular approach to getting shots into arms, according to four people familiar with the deliberations.” Washington Post

  • “The White House, worried that coronavirus vaccination rates among young people are lagging as the school year approaches, is enlisting pediatricians to incorporate vaccination into back-to-school sports physicals and encouraging schools to host their own vaccination clinics as part of a new push to get students their shots.” New York Times
  • Nearly 864,000 coronavirus vaccine doses were administered on Thursday, more than on any day since July 3. According to the CDC, 58.2% of the country has had at least one vaccine dose and 49.9% are fully vaccinated. See the climbing number of vaccine doses administered each day:
Sen. Bill Hagerty blocked the Senate from advancing the bipartisan infrastructure bill on Thursday. (Bill Humphrey / AP)
(Source: Our World in Data)

EXECUTIVE ACTIONS: “President Joe Biden on Thursday announced a set of actions intended to cut greenhouse gas emissions and pollution from cars and trucks, moves that would reduce planet-warming emissions from the No. 1 sector contributing to climate change in the U.S.” ABC News

  • President Biden on Thursday signed an order enabling some Hong Kong residents to remain in the U.S. rather than return to the Chinese territory, citing Beijing’s crackdown on political freedom there.” Wall Street Journal

CUOMO: “State lawmakers told Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday that their ongoing investigation of his conduct in office is almost done and gave him a deadline of Aug. 13 to provide additional evidence as they moved toward what seemed like an increasingly inevitable impeachment battle.” Associated Press


What’s happening in Washington today. (All times Eastern) Executive Branch
President Joe Biden will receive his daily intelligence briefing at 9:30 a.m. Then, at 10:30 a.m., he will deliver remarks on the July jobs report, which showed the economy add 943,000 jobs and the unemployment rate drop by 0.5%. At 11:45 a.m., Biden will travel to Wilmington, Delaware, where he will arrive at 12:30 p.m. and spend the weekend. At 2 p.m., he will virtually receive his weekly economic briefing from Wilmington.

Vice President Kamala Harris will virtually receive the economic briefing at 2 p.m. as well.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki will hold her daily press briefing at 1 p.m.
Legislative Branch
The Senate is not in session until Saturday. Many senators will travel to Gillette, Wyoming, to attend the funeral of the late Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY), who died last month at age 77.

The House will convene at 12 p.m. for a brief pro forma session.
Judicial Branch
The Supreme Court is not in session until October.

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