Congress meets for dramatic December with deadlines to reduce the debt limit and increase defense funding

McConnell's office has not provided any updates on the key debt ceiling talks.

Congress meets for dramatic December with deadlines to reduce the debt limit and increase defense funding

Members of Congress returned from Thanksgiving with a host of urgent deadlines ahead of them. These include two bills to prevent economic crises and the largest piece of President Biden's economic agenda.

Here are the challenges facing the Senate and House in high-stakes December.

Government shutdown

The deadline for the government shutdown is the most urgent deadline Congress faces, but it is also likely to be the easiest obstacle to overcome.

The Friday Dec. 3 deadline for government funding means that Congress must pass a continuing resolution to ensure the government is funded. This failure will have the same consequences as previous shutdowns: federal workers will be furloughed until Congress passes a continuing resolution to keep the government funded.
Both the Senate and the House Democrats supported the September continuing resolution. They are expected to support it again.

However, there could be political grandstanding as when House "Squad” members blocked Iron Dome missile financing for Israel in the last continuing resolution. But congressional leaders are likely find a way to overcome this.

Debt ceiling

Because a default on the debt ceiling would have severe economic consequences, it is one of the most important issues Congress will face in December.

Janet Yellen, Treasury Secretary, stated that the government has enough money to pay its expenses up until December 15. She may be able extend that timeframe even further, but it's not clear how.

Republicans had demanded that Democrats pass a debt limit increase on their own earlier in the fall, without any GOP votes. They would have to use reconciliation in the Senate. Republicans claimed that this was fair since Democrats are using the same process as Republicans to avoid a filibuster, and to pass their huge spending bill on party lines. Democrats strongly opposed this and demanded a bipartisan vote.
As Congress was marching towards a possible government shutdown, with Democrats refusing, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) changed his stance, and found some Republican votes for raising the debt ceiling. He said that Republicans would not allow Democrats to raise the debt limit.

McConnell stated in an October statement that "This will moot Democrats’ excuses about their time crunch and give the united Democratic government more time to pass standalone debt limitation legislation through reconciliation."

He said, "If Democrats stop trying to ram through yet another historically reckless taxing or spending spree that will hurt family and help China and instead focus on governing more traditionally bipartisanally, it could be possible."

Senator Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), hasn't changed his stance that any increase in debt should be approved by 60 bipartisan votes in Congress. McConnell's office claims it doesn't have any updates on the debt ceiling talks.
Some Republicans claim they will make it easy for Democrats to reconcile the process to increase the debt limit. McConnell, however, has not made too many exaggerated statements about the debt limit in recent weeks.

McConnell's handling of the debt limit issue last time was not well received by other Republicans. It is unclear if McConnell has the votes to pass another debt limit bill, if he decides to change his stance.
Or the U.S. will be heading for economic disaster. It's not obvious who this will be.

Reconciliation bill

After blowing past the deadlines at October's end and September's end, House Democrats passed their huge reconciliation spending bill earlier in the month. Democrats now hope to bring the bill through before Christmas.

They will face a significant hurdle in the Senate, however, because they didn't "pre-conference” the bill. This is a process in which both the House and Senate consent to a bill being voted on before it goes to the Senate.

This is a significant vote like the Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) have yet to agree to vote for anything - but they can veto the bill in the 50-50 Senate.
"I have a lot of concerns," Manchin told Fox News' "Special Report" earlier this month. "They're working off the House bill. That's not going to be the bill I work off of." 
Manchin raised inflation concerns earlier in the month, and had previously stated that massive spending would raise inflation.
Defense spending bill

The National Defense Authorization Act is a massive bill that Congress passes each year to establish the United States' military priorities. It was passed by the Senate late in the year. Both chambers now have one month to resolve their differences and pass it.

Many Republicans will likely use the bill to pass as a way to pressure Democrats to vote tough. There are likely to be some policy disputes over issues raised by women in the draft for Israel. Progressives may also object to the overall funding level.

Since 1961, Congress has passed an NDAA each year. This year, lawmakers will be motivated to pass it again.

More drama

Further complicating matters is the fact that there are many other issues that legislators will be interested in before the end.
It is possible that Democrats will remove Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) from her committee assignments due to comments she made about Rep. Ilhanomar (D-Minn.), for which she later apologized.

The Jan. 6 House committee is trying to seize documents and testimony from ex-Trump officials. This week, it is in a case over executive privilege and will vote contempt votes for Trump officials who ignore subpoenas.

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