Good Morning from the Nation’s Capital…
Like many of us, Congress returns to work this week and, also like many of us, Congress faces an end of the year crunch, just with more consequences. There are only 38 days to go until the end of the year and Congress needs to deal with the annual defense spending bill, avoiding a potential government shutdown, and potentially catastrophic defaults on the nation’s debt at a date not yet certain over the next two weeks. All that before any consideration of the Biden Administration’s priority: the Build Back Better Act.
First up, the Senate will likely spend most of this week deliberating on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Last week, the Senate voted 84-15 to start debate on the floor. Senators and U.S. allies are sounding the alarm bells as this would be the first time in decades the Senate failed to pass the bill: “There are consequences for our security and our standing in the world if we can’t pass the NDAA and [pass an appropriations bill] this year,” said Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.).
- The current Continuing Resolution funding the government passed in October expires on Friday, potentially triggering furloughs and a federal government shutdown just before the holidays. Senate Democrats and Republicans are eyeing a two- to three-month continuing resolution that would again punt final decisions on fiscal 2022 appropriations, this time into February or March 2022. However, it is not clear that Democrats across both House and Senate Caucuses are unified behind that strategy, with some internally pushing a much shorter stopgap measure running for two weeks, to December 17.
- Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen says the new deadline to raise the debt ceiling and extend the nation’s borrowing authority or face catastrophic defaults is just over two weeks away, December 15th. For the time being, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) are holding collegial talks, but there is no clear path forward. Republicans still want to force Democrats to tie the debt ceiling to Reconciliation and raise it on a party line vote, while Democrats are searching for a bipartisan solution.
- And finally, as we have been discussing the past few weeks, the Senate still has to take up the Build Back Better (BBB) Act or “Reconciliation Bill,” the centerpiece of the Biden Administration’s agenda and what many see as critical for Democrats’ midterm success (or more likely, as their only chance to stave off catastrophic losses). Christmas (really, home for Christmas, so likely December 23rd or earlier) is the deadline for passing the BBB in the Senate. Democrats are not expecting the Senate to take up the social spending bill until the second week of December. Given the disconnect within the Senate Democratic Conference, expect fireworks.
Back in New York…
Governor Kathy Hochul made more appointments to her Administration this week, including former Chief of Staff to Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and former Manhattan State Senate Candidate Micah Lasher as Director of Policy, long time Senate Program & Counsel Staffer to the Democratic Conference Lonnie Threatte as Deputy Director of Policy, and long time Staffer to Speaker Carl Heastie and the Assembly Majority Rhay Guillen as Director of Legislative Affairs. Read the full list of recent appointments here.
- Congressman Tom Suozzi, fresh off a victory in the House on SALT, turned down an appointment as Deputy Mayor of New York City and will likely announce today if he is running for governor.
- On the heels of sharp criticism over the weekend of Hochul’s COVID-19 response, AG Letitia James also unveiled a multi-point plan for how she would address the COVID-19 pandemic as Governor, pledging to use the state’s buying power for more home testing kits, expanding outreach outside major cities, and offering $200 to vaccine holdouts to get their shots.
- For her part, Hochul continued to poll strongly last week, maintaining a healthy 36-22 lead over James in a poll released by New Data for Progress.
The Assembly Judiciary Committee will meet this week after last week’s release of their 46-page report detailing misconduct by ex-Governor Andrew Cuomo, including sexual harassment allegations, nursing home data, health response failures, and his controversial $5.1 million pandemic book deal. The report has renewed calls for the Governor’s impeachment, and debate whether or not it’s possible. “The impeachment process, I don’t believe, is just to remove someone from office. It’s also to reject this behavior, reject what this governor was doing and was using his office for. We also have to set an example here,” said Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, a Democrat who represents Montgomery County and parts of Schenectady and Albany Counties.
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