What to Know in Washington: Time Running Out for Democrats’ Plan

Democrats’ goal of passing President Joe Biden’s roughly $1.75 trillion tax and spending package by the end of the year is facing a time crunch, as a busy legislative agenda of must-do items has meant the plan could slip to 2022.

Here’s what Bloomberg Government is tracking for Monday.

Biden’s Schedule:

  • Biden will receive a briefing at 11 a.m. on the federal response to Friday night’s tornadoes from Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell and Homeland adviser Liz Sherwood-Randall. Tornadoes ripped across several states, killing more than 70 people in Kentucky. Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D) declared a state of emergency and activated the National Guard following a slew of storms that killed people in at least five states. Biden approved an emergency declaration in Kentucky, mobilizing federal assistance efforts for 15 counties, Jacqueline Poh and Francesca Maglione report.
  • Biden will sign an executive order on government services at 1:15 p.m.

Congress Agenda:

  • The Senate today meets at 3 p.m. to work on Biden’s judicial nominations.
  • The House meets for a pro forma session today, with business to begin tomorrow.

Biden’s Economic Agenda Risks Languishing

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) insists the Senate will pass President Joe Biden’s nearly $2 trillion tax-and-spending package before Christmas, but there’s still much work to do and time is running short.

A delay into the new year risks slowing momentum for Democrats who need this legislative victory behind them as they fight to maintain narrow majorities in the House and Senate in the 2022 midterm elections. The signature bill includes spending on Democratic priorities such as child care and climate change and drastically changes the tax cuts Republicans won under President Donald Trump.

“There is no way they’re going to be ready to vote on their big bill,” Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), the No. 2 GOP leader, said on Thursday. Democrats “probably need to nip that fairly soon because it’s just not practically going to happen,” he added.

Key pieces are still under negotiation, including a House-passed provision for four weeks of paid family and medical leave that moderate Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) opposes. His vote is crucial for passage without any Republican support.

“As majority leader, I am fighting tooth and nail to make this happen,” Schumer said.

The White House says the stakes for most American families are high as the expanded child tax credit, which provides as much as $300 a month per child, expires on Dec. 31. Without an extension of that credit in the bill, families’ monthly budgets will take a hit just as they grapple with rising costs on everything from gas to groceries. Read more from Laura Litvan and Laura Davison.

  • The Senate Finance Committee released an unfinished version of Biden’s tax plan as Democrats race to meet an end-of-year deadline to pass a roughly $2 trillion tax and spending package. The panel’s portion of the legislation released on Saturday contains key elements of the bill, including an extension of the child-tax credit, about $1.5 trillion of tax increases on wealthy Americans and corporations and a drug price-reduction plan. The measure didn’t include the Senate’s plan to expand the state and local tax, deduction, despite weeks of talks. Laura Davison has more.
  • Increased funding for labor enforcement, job training and health care are all part of an updated proposal published on Saturday by a Senate panel as part of a massive tax and spending bill that could see floor action over the next few weeks. The updated text from the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee for the most part mirrors language the House passed last month. Its release precedes a chamber vote on the broader tax and spending bill that encompasses much of Biden’s economic and social spending agenda. Read more from Paige Smith.
  • Biden cast his Build Back Better legislation as a cost-of-living cut for millions of Americans Friday, as he sought to tamp down concern about inflation in his first appearance as president on a late-night TV show. Read more from Alex Wayne and Jennifer Epstein.
  • Canada is threatening to retaliate with targeted tariffs on U.S. goods if tax incentives for electric vehicles produced by unionized American workers aren’t pulled from the Biden administration’s Build Back Better Act. Brian Platt and Keith Laing have more.
Photographer: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg
Republican’s have seized on higher inflation as a warning for Democrats to abandon their plan.


  • Biden’s pick to lead the FDA will face questions on his longstanding ties to the pharmaceutical industry and the agency’s role in combating the Covid-19 pandemic at a key confirmation hearing tomorrow. Robert Califf, who previously led the Food and Drug Administration in the final year of the Obama administration, will detail his qualifications for the position at a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing—a crucial step in his path toward reassuming the reins of the agency. Read more from Alex Ruoff and Celine Castronuovo.
  • Former White House trade adviser Peter Navarro was warned he’ll be considered in “willful noncompliance” with a congressional subpoena if he won’t testify on Wednesday to a House committee investigating the Trump administration’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Chair James Clyburn (D-S.C.) didn’t specify possible consequences in a letter to Navarro on Saturday. Navarro told the panel in a letter dated Dec. 7 that he won’t testify due to “a direct order from former President Donald Trump.” Read more from Billy House.

Politics & Influence

BGOV Redistricting Webinar: Redistricting will have a major impact on the political landscape heading into 2022 and on the balance of power in the House for the next decade. Bloomberg Government’s Greg Giroux, Kyle Trygstad, and Brenna Goth will be joined tomorrow at 1 p.m. by Wendy Underhill, the director for elections and redistricting at the National Conference of State Legislatures, for a conversation on redistricting. Find more information on the virtual event and register here.

South Texas Rematch Pits Centrist Incumbent Against Progressive: The first consequential midterm primaries include a South Texas rematch between the lone anti-abortion House Democrat and a progressive attorney who almost unseated him two years earlier. The March 1 contest between nine-term Rep. Henry Cuellar, a member of the Blue Dog Coalition of centrist Democrats, and Jessica Cisneros, once an intern for Cuellar, stands out as an early test of national progressive groups’ ability to increase their influence in the House Democratic Caucus. Read more from Greg Giroux.

Around the Administration

Homeland ‘Nerve Center’ Chief Seeks Broad Policy Sway: A low-profile office in the Homeland Security Department can steer the Biden administration’s major decisions on immigration, cybersecurity, and other vexing matters. Much will hinge on how its new leader exerts his influence. Robert Silvers has been on the job just four months as DHS’s undersecretary for strategy, policy and plans, a role Congress elevated in 2016 to strengthen headquarters’ coordination. It’s a potentially significant but untested title—going largely unfilled during the Trump administration. Read more from Ellen M. Gilmer.

Biden ‘Very Concerned’ by Abortion Verdict: Biden said he was “very concerned” after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Friday to leave Texas’ abortion ban after about six weeks of pregnancy in force while clinics and doctors pursued a legal challenge against state officials. “While it is encouraging that the court ruled that part of the providers’ lawsuit may continue, this ruling reinforces that there is so much more work to be done,” Biden said in a statement Friday. The president said the Texas law has “significant consequences” for both women and the rule of law.” Justin Sink has more.

  • Texas abortion providers have few options for challenging the state’s law. The legal challenge now presumably returns to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, where it originated. How much the federal trial court can do once it gets there remains unclear. Read more from Mary Anne Pazanowski.
  • California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) has called for a new state law that will effectively bar the manufacture and sale of assault rifles in the state, modeled on Texas’s victory in the U.S. Supreme Court. Newsom has directed his staff to work with the state legislature and Attorney General Rob Bonta to create a law that would allow private citizens to sue manufacturers, distributors and sellers of assault weapons, according to a statement Saturday, K. Oanh Ha reports.

Biden ‘Troubled’ by Kellogg Plan to Fire Strikers: Biden said he’s “troubled” by Kellogg’s plan to permanently replace striking workers, according to a statement Friday from the White House. “Permanently replacing striking workers is an existential attack on the union and its members’ jobs and livelihoods,” the president said. “I have long opposed permanent striker replacements and I strongly support legislation that would ban that practice.” The call from the White House increases pressure on Kellogg to find a solution to a labor impasse that has persisted since early October. Jonathan Roeder has more.

G-7 Warns Russia Over Ukraine: Foreign ministers from the Group of Seven nations yesterday warned Russia to de-escalate its activities around Ukraine or face “massive consequences.” In a joint statement, the ministers said they were “united in our condemnation of Russia’s military build-up and aggressive rhetoric towards Ukraine.” “We call on Russia to de-escalate, pursue diplomatic channels, and abide by its international commitments on transparency of military activities,” the ministers said in the statement after a meeting in Liverpool, England. Read more from Kitty Donaldson and Peter Martin.

  • Biden warned Russia of crippling economic penalties if it attacks Ukraine and said more U.S. and NATO troops would be sent to defend allies. If Russia “moves on Ukraine, the economic consequences for his economy are going to be devastating,” Biden said this weekend in Delaware. Nancy Cook has more.
  • Putin told Biden in their video conversation last week he’s ready to meet in person, according to footage shown on the Rossiya-1 TV channel yesterday. “We’ll definitely meet, I’d like that very much,” Putin said when Biden expressed regret the two couldn’t do so during October’s G-20 summit in Rome. Read more from Alex Sazonov.

What Else We’re Reading

  • Democratic leaders with White House aspirations all say they’ll support President Joe Biden for another term, but there is no shortage of chatter about the options if he continues to falter, the New York Times reports. With Biden facing falling poll numbers and turning 82 the month he’d be on the ballot, and Vice President Kamala Harris plagued by flagging poll numbers of her own, conversations about possible alternatives are beginning far earlier than is customary for a president still in the first year of his first term, NYT’s Jonathan Martin reports.
  • Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) will stay until at least after the midterm elections, extending her nearly 20-year run as the House’s top Democrat after she turns 82, CNN reports. She is planning to file and run for reelection in her San Francisco district next year, at least for now, CNN’s Edward-Isaac Dovere reports.
  • Meanwhile, Politico reports this morning on the fraught relationship between two of the House’s future leaders, Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) and Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).

To contact the reporters on this story: Zachary Sherwood in Washington at zsherwood@bgov.com; Brandon Lee in Washington at blee@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Giuseppe Macri at gmacri@bgov.com; Loren Duggan at lduggan@bgov.com; Michaela Ross at mross@bgov.com