Congress has a long to-do list this summer

Schumer warns of shortened August break; House in committee mode

Workers remove security fencing surrounding the Capitol on July 10. The fencing was erected after the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)
Workers remove security fencing surrounding the Capitol on July 10. The fencing was erected after the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)
Posted July 12, 2021 at 9:23am

Congress begins what will be a likely busy midsummer legislative push, with action expected on a host of priorities like the evolving infrastructure package, appropriations bills and a budget resolution. And lawmakers and staff returning to the Capitol on Monday will notice one big change: No more fencing around the grounds, for the first time since the Jan. 6 attacks, after workers removed it over the weekend.

The House is not in session this week, but appropriators in that chamber will be busy Monday marking up four big-ticket spending bills.

The Senate, meanwhile, returns from a two-week recess at 3 p.m. to resume consideration of Uzra Zeya’s nomination to be an undersecretary of State. At 5:30 p.m., the Senate is expected to vote on a motion to invoke cloture on the Zeya nomination.

At the White House, President Joe Biden will meet on Monday with Attorney General Merrick B. Garland and local leaders, including Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams — the Democratic nominee in New York City’s mayoral election and a former police captain — to discuss strategy to reduce gun crimes.

House appropriations

The full House Appropriations Committee will take on the Defense and Homeland Security spending bills on Tuesday, the Commerce-Justice-Science and Labor-HHS-Education bills on Thursday and the Energy-Water and Transportation-HUD bills on Friday.

House appropriators are wrapping up subcommittee markups of fiscal 2022 spending bills today, with four markups scheduled:

Labor-HHS-Education (11 a.m., 2118 Rayburn): The draft bill includes $253.8 billion in discretionary funding, a 28 percent bump, with sizable boosts for medical research, child care and job training. The draft doesn’t include two longstanding riders putting restrictions on abortion.

Energy-Water (1 p.m., 2118 Rayburn): The draft bill would allocate $53.2 billion, or $1.47 billion more than the enacted spending levels for fiscal 2021. It would boost funding for federal energy research, water projects and drought prevention but leaves funding for electricity and renewable energy projects short of what the White House wanted.

Commerce-Justice-Science (3 p.m., 2118 Rayburn): The draft bill would provide $81.3 billion in discretionary funds, an increase of $10.2 billion. It would boost funding for a variety of programs meant to address police misconduct, voting rights and gun violence, according to a summary.

Transportation-HUD (5 p.m., 2118 Rayburn): The draft bill would provide $84.1 billion in discretionary spending, or $8.7 billion above fiscal 2021 enacted levels. It aims funding at programs for three of Biden’s top priorities: infrastructure, climate change and racial equity.

Senate warning

Even before the Senate had returned from its two-week break, Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer gave senators what’s become a familiar scheduling warning: The Senate won’t recess for its summer break without considering the budget resolution and bipartisan infrastructure bill, he said.

“Senators should be prepared for the possibility of working long nights, weekends, and remaining in Washington into the previously-scheduled August state work period,” he said in a statement Friday.

Committee hearings

Coming up this week, Labor Secretary Marty Walsh is testifying before the Senate Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee on Wednesday (10 a.m., 138 Dirksen). Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell is joining a House Financial Services hearing on Wednesday (noon, remote) and a Senate Banking hearing on Thursday (9:30 a.m., 538 Dirksen).

Also on Thursday, the nominees to lead the Census Bureau and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement are testifying before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (10:15 a.m., 342 Dirksen).

One more debt thing

Congressional leaders are still weighing how to deal with the expiring debt limit suspension.

Lawmakers have not yet settled on a strategy for approving another suspension or increasing the debt limit once the current suspension expires on July 31. Unusual circumstances this year are making it hard to predict when the Treasury will run out of money.

The Bipartisan Policy Center said the “X Date,” the day on which the country could no longer meet all its financial obligations, would likely arrive in the fall, “a broader range than normal for this point in the forecasting process,” said Shai Akabas, the center’s economic policy director.

COVID-19 relief disbursements and the pace of economic recovery are hampering the organization’s usual, more specific predictions.

In a hearing last month, Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen urged Congress to “raise or suspend the debt limit as soon as possible,” preferably before July 31.

Erin Bacon and Jennifer Shutt contributed to this story.