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Tipsheet

Democrats Face Funding, Debt Ceiling Deadlines As Congress Returns to Capitol Hill

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives return to Washington this week following a long Thanksgiving recess and, as December begins, so do gridlocked Democratic caucuses in both chambers start work on cleaning up messes they previously created.

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Among the most pressing issues is the matter of funding the federal government — after passing a short-term extension funding package earlier in the fall, the deadline to pass another extension hits on Friday, December 3rd. Despite members of Congress having a good chunk of time from the last deadline to the current one, legislators were busy — especially in the House — getting enough votes together to pass President Biden's budget also known as the Build Back Better Act. Because of the lack of work on a longer extension on government funding, it's likely anything passed this week to avert a shutdown going into the weekend will be just another limited extension into the first month or two of 2022. 

Another deadline currently facing Congress is the debt ceiling, something for which they also passed a short-term fix with an estimated deadline, according to Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen, of December 15th. If something isn't done to increase the debt ceiling yet again, the U.S. faces a default.

Then there's the previously mentioned Build Back Better Act which passed the House previously but still needs to be taken up in the Senate where an incredibly narrow Democrat majority needs all its member to get on board with the massive and woke budget reconciliation package. Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) have expressed reservations about President Biden's budget, including what it could do to worsen lasting inflation and add to the federal deficit.

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Even though government funding and the debt ceiling may be seen as more of a priority, the Biden administration and Democrat leadership in the Senate will be putting more focus on the Build Back Better Act and pressure on their caucus to get in line and give the president a legislative win to close out 2021 as his first year in office nears its end. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has said previously that he will bring Build Back Better to the floor for a vote before the end of the year, and more recently said he's confident it will be passed before Christmas. But that same kind of confidence was seen from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) in several unsuccessful attempts to get the president's budget passed through the lower chamber. 

Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie (KY) warned Americans and Republicans in Congress of what Democrats may try to do as they work furiously to meet the deadlines they created: roll multiple issues into one to try to get even unpopular items passed because of the supposedly "must-pass" items to which they're attached. 

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As Massie explains, the "biggest lie" from Washington politicians is that it all has to be funded or none of it will get done. And, as Massie also points out, it's probably going to take more than just Democrat votes in the Senate to get some of the impending issues addressed and passed. Unless Schumer uses reconciliation, he'll need to get 60 yes votes — which requires at least 10 Republican votes — to overcome a filibuster.

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