Congress returns this week with a long list of issues that need some form of resolution before the end of the year—or maybe not. The House will take up the reconciliation bill now that the infrastructure bill has been sent to the President. There was a commitment in some form on the part of more moderate Democrats that they would vote on/for the measure once the Congressional Budget Office finished their budget calculations. Whether CBO can complete all their work this week is unclear.
Hopes that the Senate leadership would take up reconciliation measure before the Thanksgiving break now appear to be fading meaning that the Senate won’t act until they return after the November holiday but then the pressure is on to get it done before Christmas. The hope is that the House will complete action before Thanksgiving.
There is also a need to address FY 2022 appropriations that have temporary funding through December 3, 2021. To this point no real negotiations have taken place between the two sides in the Senate on what to do with the 12 bills. There appears to be limited possibility that the Senate will deal with appropriations before they deal with the reconciliation. That means there will be another continuing resolution on December 3, with the real question how long the next CR will go: until the end of December or maybe even next February as Appropriations Committee member Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) has suggested as another possibility.
Every CR extension means that funding is frozen at the FY 2021 levels and that would bypass many of the significant increases in the House and Administration proposals which may be the motivating force behind the Senate Republican strategy.
As part of appropriations the Senate needs to pass a Defense Reauthorization. This is an annual authorization bill that has become an annual part of passing the 12 appropriations bills. That debate, which can take some time, may be taken up by the Senate as early as this week. Finally, Congress may have to address a debt ceiling increase again. That could be done through a separate reconciliation bill (separate from the Build Back Better Reconciliation) measure that would only address the debt ceiling. It would bypass the need for Republican votes and has been a route Senate Majority Charles Schumer (D-NY) has resisted to this point, but it would be a sure way to avoid another budget ceiling cliff.