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Congress faces jampacked end to 2021
Congress faces a jampacked end to 2021 as Democrats look to pass the Build Back Better Act.
WASHINGTON — Congress will confront a packed agenda when it returns from Thanksgiving recess, from facing hard deadlines to keep the federal government running to passing President Joe Biden's $1.7 trillion safety net and climate legislation.
"When I look at this drama in the next month, I break it down into a miniseries. And the first part is the defense bill and a bridge to the budget. Vast majority of senators support that. We’ll get that done," Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said Sunday on ABC's "This Week."
"Second thing, the debt ceiling. If the Republicans want to scrooge out on us and increase people’s interest rates and make it hard to make car payments — go ahead, make that case. We're going to stop them from doing that," she said before mentioning voting rights and Biden's social spending bill. "And, finally, what we just talked about, the Build Back Better bill. We can get this done."
The newly discovered omicron variant of the coronavirus, which has caused alarm and led to some new travel restrictions to the U.S., is also likely to be a hot topic.
Here are the big issues facing Congress in the final weeks of 2021.
Funding the government
Government funding runs out Friday, and it remains uncertain whether the parties can agree to a yearlong appropriations bill in time. But neither side wants a shutdown, so Congress could fall back on another stopgap measure to preserve funding at current levels.
The federal government is already functioning at levels agreed to during the Trump administration after Congress passed a stopgap bill in September. Democrats are eager for a new budget, but they need Republican support, because the legislation is subject to the 60-vote filibuster rule in the Senate.
"I am guessing what we may end up doing is a short-term extension. I’m not sure what that end date will be," Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., said Thursday on MSNBC. "I’ve heard some in the Senate say February, which would be a gift but, I suspect, unlikely to be able to happen."
Authorizing the military budget
Congress plans to expand the military budget. The House voted 316-113 in September on a bipartisan basis to pass a massive $778 billion Pentagon policy bill, known as the National Defense Authorization Act. The Senate plans to pass the legislation by the end of the year.