Congress Has A Busy Summer Ahead

by Laura Walling, Senior Director of Government Relations, Goodwill Industries International

As lawmakers return from a July 4th recess, deadlines loom that will make for a busy summer. Suspension of the debt ceiling is set to expire July 31 and there is not a clear path forward as to whether Congress will let it expire or extend the suspension. The debt ceiling is the maximum amount of money the government can borrow to pay for its bills. After a recent short-term extension, the nationwide eviction moratorium ends on July 31 as well.

The House recently passed a $715 billion surface transportation and water infrastructure bill including provisions from President Biden’s American Jobs Plan (the initial infrastructure proposal). A bipartisan agreement on a framework to provide $1.2 trillion in infrastructure over an eight-year period has since been reached between a group of Senators and Biden. The 58 members of the House Problem Solvers Caucus has also come out in support of the framework.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is expected to bring both a bipartisan infrastructure bill and budget resolution to the floor in July. The infrastructure package could be on the Senate floor as early as the week of July 19th. However, lawmakers are still struggling with how to pay for the bill as the text is being written.

The budget resolution is the first step in setting the stage for a reconciliation bill that will include the components of Biden’s American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan that are not covered in the bipartisan infrastructure deal. White House staff has referred to these items as the remainder of Biden’s Build Back Better plan and include universal pre-k, free community college, paid family leave, expanded childcare, investments in long-term care, workforce development, housing supports, and additional tax credits. Using the reconciliation process will allow Democrats to pass major legislation through the Senate with a simple majority. A top-line spending amount for the reconciliation bill has not been agreed to, with some progressive Democrats wanting to go as high as $6 trillion while some moderates would prefer to keep it around $2 trillion.

Democratic congressional leaders in the House and Senate aim to adopt the same budget resolution before the August recess. Furthermore, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has said the House will not take up the infrastructure bill until the Senate also passes a reconciliation bill. The bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus believes the two bills do not need to be tied together.

Lastly, lawmakers hope to also reach a deal on police reform by August as the House and Senate are scheduled to be on summer recess for most of that month. We’ll continue to keep our advocates informed of new developments as all of these priorities move forward over the next several weeks.