Key Issue Tracker

GOVERNMENT FUNDING

AKA: Appropriations, Continuing Resolution, Government Shutdown

STATUS: Funded until Dec. 3, 2021

SUMMARY

Congress needs to pass 12 annual appropriations bills to provide funding for federal agencies and the legislative branch prior to the start of the new fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1. If Congress has not passed one or more of these appropriations bills, it needs to pass a "continuing resolution" that keeps government agencies running.

CONSEQUENCES OF INACTION  

Any federal agencies that are not funded would need to cease operations and furlough workers until Congress passes a short-term or fill-year funding bill.

LATEST DEVELOPMENTS

Sept. 30

President Biden signed into law a continuing resolution (CR) late Thursday that keeps government operations running through December 3, preventing a government shutdown that would have started Oct. 1.   The bill includes $28.6 billion in additional disaster relief spending and an additional $6.3 billion to support Afghanistan evacuees. 

DEBT CEILING

AKA: Government Default

STATUS: Treasury Department estimates government will run out of borrowing authority by December 2021

SUMMARY

The debt ceiling is the statutory limit on how much the federal government can borrow to pay its obligations. Congress can vote to suspend the debt ceiling for a set period of time, or it can raise the debt ceiling by a specific monetary amount. 

CONSEQUENCES OF INACTION  

The federal government could default on its debts, which would likely shake international markets. The government would not be able to pay out Social Security and other benefits, pay federal workers and military personnel, or keep operations running. It also could lead to a reduction in the United State's credit rating..

LATEST DEVELOPMENTS

Oct. 11

The House cleared a Senate-passed bill to raise the debt ceiling by $480 billion, which is estimated to run out in early December. The vote came after Senate Republican Leader McConnell offered some GOP support for a temporary ceiling increase; 11 Republican Senators joined with all Democrats to break a filibuster and pass the increase. However, following the vote, McConnell wrote to President Biden and said Republicans would not help Democrats raise the ceiling when it is reached later this year.

INFRASTRUCTURE

AKA: Bipartisan Infrastructure Plan, "Hard" Infrastructure Bill, Surface Transportation Reauthorization

STATUS: Senate passed bill in August; current surface transportation programs authority extended until Oct. 31.

SUMMARY

The infrastructure bill is one part of President Biden's Build Back Better agenda. it provides $1.2 trillion - including nearly $600 billion in new spending - on roads, bridges, transit, water, broadband and other "hard" infrastructure elements. The package was successfully negotiated by the White House with a bipartisan group of Senators, and the Senate passed it in August. However, progressive Democrats have said they will not vote for the bill until both chambers approve the larger, $3.5 trillion social infrastructure bill. Speaker Pelosi promised House moderate Democrats a vote on the bill this week, but without a deal on the larger bill, it might not pass. 

CONSEQUENCES OF INACTION  

The bill reauthorizes the federal surface transportation program, which provides funding to state DOTs for roads and other functions. A short-term expiration of the authorization will not likely have major consequences, but that could change if the delay drags on. Beyond that, the consequences of inaction are more political, as President Biden and Democrats would like to have a policy victory under their belt going into the challenging 2022 mid-term elections. 

LATEST DEVELOPMENTS

Sept. 30

Speaker Pelosi postponed a vote Sept. 30 on the infrastructure bill due to opposition from progressive Democrats. Subsequently, both chambers approved an extension of the surface transportation authorization until Oct. 31. Pelosi has targeted that date as when she wants the House to approve both the infrastructure bill and the reconciliation bill.

RECONCILIATION

AKA: "Soft" or "Human" Infrastructure Plan, Build Back Better Plan, Social Spending/Safety Net Bill, Climate Legislation

STATUS: House Budget Committee approved $3.5 trillion package Sept. 25 for House floor consideration, which has not been scheudled. Senate Democrats are negotiating.

SUMMARY

This is the $3;5 trillion package that includes much of President Biden's "Build Back Better" domestic agenda, including everything from universal pre-Kindergarten and expanded health care access to a permanent Child Tax Credit and far-reaching provisions to addess climate change. Democrats say the package is fully offset by tax increases on corporations and higher earners, although some analyses say it will still add to the deficit. Democrats are using the "reconciliation" procress to advance it, because that enables them to bypass a filibuster. However, with just 50 Democrats in the Senate, they need every vote, and at least two Democrats - Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) - have said they can't support the package at its current size (with Manchin suggesting something in the $1.5 trillion range). Progressive Democrats, however, argue that they already came down from their initial $6 trillion package, and therefore do not want to see any more cuts. The White House is currently negotiating with Manchin and Sinema to find a package that all sides could live with. 

CONSEQUENCES OF INACTION  

The consequences of failing to pass the bill are mostly political, as it would deal a major blow to Democrats' agenda. Failure to act also could send a signal that the United States is not serious about combatting climate change and improving the social safety net. On the other hand, opponents of the bill argue that passing it would have the more dire consequences in terms of increasing the budget deficit and slowing the economic recovery with higher taxes. 

LATEST DEVELOPMENTS

Sept. 30

Negotiations continue, as Manchin reiterated his top line amount of $1.5 trillion, a number that progressives say is far too low. Speaker Pelosi has said she wants a vote on the bill, along with the bipartisan infrastructure bill, by Oct. 31.