January 7, 2022
What to expect in Washington (January 7)
The Senate this week voted only on Wednesday before breaking for a memorial of the events of January 6, 2021, as well as individual memorials for former Senators Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and Harry Reid (D-NV). President Biden delivered remarks at the Capitol regarding January 6, 2021.
No movement has been reported on the Build Back Better Act (BBBA) since Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) said January 4 that "there [have] been no conversations after I made my statement" December 19, sinking the bill for the time being, and "there [are] no negotiations going on at this time." Democratic leaders and the White House have insisted there are efforts to forge a path forward on the bill. Meanwhile, the Senate is expected to focus next week on possible changes to filibuster rules, which could allow for a simple majority vote on voting rights legislation. Senator Manchin, however, appears unlikely to support that effort either, calling for such institutional changes to be bipartisan. The House returns to session next week.
Politico Playbook said the White House may be looking to Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) — a friend of Manchin's and noted dealmaker on the 2021 infrastructure bill and in general — to move the BBBA negotiations forward. The report noted that Manchin is currently pessimistic on the talks in the absence of a "reset" from the Administration. Senator Manchin has repeatedly suggested that he was rankled by late-2021 White House statements mentioning him by name. The report noted, "the White House has discussed repackaging BBB by breaking off a piece or pieces of policy to revive the talks, a senior Senate source said, adding that negotiations are still ongoing."
Punchbowl reported this morning that the focus on voting rights could be unsuccessful, and, like other news outlets, called the President's legislative agenda "stalled." On the BBBA, the report said, "The issue that has dominated Washington for the last six months has suddenly disappeared from the legislative radar screen."
COVID — Amid the Omicron surge, there have been discussions led by Sens. Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Roger Wicker (R-MS) regarding relief funds for hard-hit businesses like "restaurants, performance venues, gyms and even minor league sports teams," according to the Washington Post. The pair has "huddled with members from both parties, including Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), [Warner] and Susan Collins (R-Maine), in an attempt to build support."
Bloomberg reported of the pair of senators: "They said the cost of the bill is still under discussion. Cardin said lawmakers are still discussing legislative vehicles — including the possibility of a measure to fund the government past the Feb. 18 deadline — but that he expects the bill would be strong enough to pass on its own. Wicker said his focus is on restaurateurs who were eligible for aid under previous coronavirus relief packages, but who didn't receive it because the appropriated money ran out."
Congress — The next Senate roll call vote will be at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, January 10, on a Commerce Department nomination. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has said the Senate will debate and consider changes to its rules by January 17 to try to clear voting rights bills opposed by Republicans. The Senate is then scheduled to be in a State Work Period until January 24 (the House is scheduled to be in that week, though). The February 18 government funding deadline will follow soon after.
Government funding - "Leaders of the House and Senate Appropriations panels are attempting to forge a deal to fund the Pentagon and other federal agencies for the rest of the fiscal year," Politico reported January 4, adding that leaders of both parties must approve a deal on funding levels for agencies and on contentious policy riders. "House Democrats are committed to negotiating an omnibus that meets the needs of communities across the country and protects our national security. We are ready to negotiate toplines, including for defense, with our Republican colleagues … " Appropriations Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) said.
Punchbowl reported Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Patrick Leahy (D-VT) as saying, "Whether we do BBB or not, we have to have an omnibus. And I think we can have it before next month." The report said, "There has been some suggestion of pairing additional Covid relief funding and other social spending with an increase in Pentagon funding as a centerpiece of a broader budget deal. While lawmakers on the left and right would object, some senior appropriators in both chambers believe enough votes could be found to push a package through the House and Senate."
EY webcasts next week include: