Last Tuesday, December 7, 2021, congressional leaders came to an agreement on how to raise the federal debt ceiling that should be adopted and finalized this week.  The process is a two-step bill strategy that first allowed Congress to adopt a bill to suspend Medicare cuts along with a temporary procedure allowing the Senate to raise the debt ceiling on a simple majority vote.

In effect it avoids a filibuster and avoids a full-fledged reconciliation process.  Fourteen Republican senators voted for the bill on Thursday that clears the way to raise the debt ceiling while claiming they didn’t vote to raise the debt ceiling.  The measure received 64 senate votes. It prevents several reductions in Medicare that were scheduled to go into effect at the end of this year including some reductions in Physician Fee Schedule rates.

The House acted quickly on the measure after the Tuesday deal while the Senate approved the first bill on Thursday, December 9, 2021.  The second bill should pass this week clearing the ceiling and avoiding another 11th hour emergency.

After the ceiling is raised this week, it should open the Senate process up to deal with the Build Back Better reconciliation bill.  This past week involved ongoing discussions with the Democratic leaders with the Senate parliamentarian making sure various parts of the bill and potential changes do not violate the reconciliation Byrd rule.

As those discussions proceeded, the hope is that actual debate and votes will begin the week of December 20 putting final votes close to Christmas (and applying pressure on senators not to stall the process).

Behind the scenes there are larger discussions involving Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) and just what he will accept or veto as well as discussions to meet spending requirements and limitations.  Key Senate Democrats, led by Senator Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY) are pressing Manchin on keeping in some form of family and medical leave—something CWLA has long supported.  He has said he supports a family leave policy but would like to do it separately and on a bipartisan basis but there are wide differences between the two parties on what is covered, the form it would take and how they pay for the plans.   If the Senate can keep to the timetable and garner the swing votes they need to reach fifty votes, it would presumably go to the House quickly.

If the Child Tax Credit (CTC)’s monthly payment option is extended the IRS will need to have known by December 28, 2021, to assure the monthly checks can still be delivered by January 15th.

Whatever happens with the CTC, families will still be eligible for the January through June 2021 half of the CTC so next year’s tax filing will be critical to millions of families.  Look for additional information here and in other CWLA communications on how you can assist families to file their tax returns in2022 to get the second half of the credit.  This will be especially important for low-income families who may not file tax returns because of their low income.

The latest analysis from the Center on Poverty and Social Policy at Colombia University on the impact of the Child Tax Credit (CTC).