Public Policy Update - October 2021
Each month, SECF provides members with monthly updates on the latest public policy developments in Washington and state capitols around the region, analyzing their possible impact on the charitable sector. If you would like to see an issue featured in a future Public Policy Update, contact Jaci Bertrand, SECF's vice president of member engagement, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wrangling Continues Over Reconciliation, Infrastructure Bills
Democrats in the House and Senate are continuing to negotiate a path forward on two bills that form the bulk of President Biden’s domestic agenda: a $1 billion bill to invest in roads, bridges and other infrastructure, as well as a larger package addressing a range of issues including education, health care and climate change.
The exact size and scope of the second bill remains the key sticking point. The White House and Democratic leaders in Congress had proposed a $3.5 trillion package, but key moderates in both chambers have called for that number to come down. While negotiations are fluid, the latest reporting indicates a $2 trillion measure is more likely at this point. The bill is being considered through the reconciliation process, which prevents Senate Republicans from filibustering the legislation but also requires almost total unity from Democrats, who have slim majorities in both chambers – including no votes to spare in the Senate.
Progressives in Congress have balked at holding a vote on the infrastructure bill until they have assurances the larger bill will pass. Meanwhile, moderates have insisted the infrastructure bill, which already passed the Senate with bipartisan support, should get a vote without preconditions.
Kentucky Rep. Yarmuth Announces Retirement
Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY), who represents the Louisville area in the House, announced today he would not seek re-election. The decision will deprive the region of an influential voice in Congress – Yarmuth currently serves as chairman of the powerful House Budget Committee.
Yarmuth is the fifth House Democrat to announce his retirement, along with five others who have announced runs for another office.
While Yarmuth’s own district has a strong Democratic lean, his retirement while holding such a powerful post may indicate pessimism about his party’s chances of holding control of the House following the 2022 elections.
Congress Dodges Debt Ceiling Until December
Later today, the House is expected to pass a bill, already passed by the Senate, to raise the nation’s debt limit by $480 billion, allowing the government to continue paying its debts into December. Doing so prevents, for now, the possibility of the country defaulting on its debts – an action that experts warn would have a devastating impact on markets and the economy.
The measure being acted on today represents only a temporary fix and the issue is likely to re-emerge as a political sparring point at the end of the year.