New Year, Same Uncertainty?
The Senate returns to Washington this week with no more clarity on the fate of the Build Back Better Act (BBB). In a somewhat surprising move, after months of negotiation with party leaders and the White House, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) officially announced on December 19, 2021, that he could not support the bill in its current form. Shortly thereafter, the Senate concluded for the year with disappointment across the caucus. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has stated his willingness to continue negotiations. However, Schumer has also indicated that he will force a vote on BBB, with changes as put forth in December by Senate committees, with or without a Manchin deal. All this said: don’t expect these talks to resolve themselves quickly.
Voting rights legislation may move soon. In the absence of a clear path forward on BBB, the Senate is resuming discussions on voting rights legislation. The Freedom to Vote Act has the support of all 50 Democratic senators and no Republicans. The legislation will require 60 votes to pass under regular order, so it will fail when brought to the floor. However, this will jump-start conversations over changing the filibuster. Sens. Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) have been resolute about maintaining the procedure, so Democratic leaders continue to debate modifications to the process instead.
Negotiations to fund the government for the current fiscal year are ongoing. The current continuing resolution expires on February 18, 2022. While there is some debate over top-line spending levels, the real concerns are over policy “riders,” including those related to abortion and family planning. Democrats would like to see an omnibus funding bill rather than an extension of the continuing resolution because agencies are currently operating under Trump Administration funding levels.
There is also real potential for an emergency supplemental funding bill. This package would likely include funding for relief in response to the tornados that ravaged parts of the South and Midwest, and the fires that destroyed parts of Colorado. The supplemental could also include an extension of the monthly child tax credit that expired at the end of 2021, and COVID-19 relief items.
Bottom line: It remains to be seen how and whether major health priorities will move forward in Congress this year, through BBB or other means.
As snow falls in the nation’s capital, The Senate returns to Washington this week with no more clarity on the fate of the Build Back Better Act (BBB). Debbie Curtis and Rodney Whitlock return to examine the Democrats’ Congressional Agenda in 2022.