The House and Senate return from the Easter Recess next week and focus will immediately turn to the looming debt limit “x date,” which is estimated to be reached as early as June. There should be more clarity on the specific breach date in the coming weeks as tax receipts come in. Specificity from Treasury should sharpen the desire to jumpstart debt limit negotiations. With that context, below is a lookahead to the work period in both chambers.
The House is scheduled to be in session for two consecutive weeks to close out April, followed by a one-week recess the first week of May, and then three weeks of session leading up to the Memorial Day Recess. The first half of this stretch will see a full floor schedule, possibly including:
- H.R. 734 – Protection of Women and Girls in Sports
- Veto Override of H.J.Res. 27 – Water of the United States (WOTUS) Congressional Review Act (CRA) Resolution of Disapproval
- H.J.Res. 42 – D.C. Comprehensive Policing Home Rule Act
- H.R. 1163 – Protecting Taxpayers and Victims of Unemployment Fraud Act
- H.Con.Res. 30 – Somalia War Powers Privileged Resolution
- H.J.Res. 39 – China Solar Panel Tariff CRA Resolution of Disapproval
The House will also be quite busy in committee over the coming two weeks. While the FY24 appropriations process is in abeyance and waits for further direction from the debt limit negotiations, the following notable committee hearings and markups are expected:
- Financial Services hearing with SEC Chair Gensler (April 18)
- Energy & Commerce hearing with FTC Chair Khan (April 18)
- Energy & Commerce hearing with the HHS Inspector General (April 18)
- Financial Services hearing on stablecoins (April 19)
- Education & Workforce hearing on independent contractors (April 19)
- Ways & Means hearing on green energy tax subsidies and the CCP (April 19)
- Financial Services markup of a capital formation package and a CFPB reform package (week of April 24)
- Energy & Commerce hearing on privacy (April 27)
- Ways & Means markup of China solar panel CRA (TBD)
- Judiciary markup of border security package (TBD)
- Select Committee on the CCP (topic TBD but could include CCP ownership of U.S. farmland and/or CCP involvement in the U.S. education system)
Looking ahead to the May work period, we expect House action on:
- Debt limit legislation coupled with Republican policy goals (e.g., discretionary spending cuts, strengthening work requirements for Federal programs, energy policies from H.R. 1, the REINS Act, etc.)
- Economic package, including tax relief (Ways & Means)
- Border security package (Judiciary)
- Crime and public safety package (Judiciary)
- Capital formation package (Financial Services)
- Additional CRA resolutions of disapproval (TBD)
- House Armed Services (HASC) markup of the FY24 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) (May 23)
The Senate is scheduled to be in session for five consecutive weeks before breaking for the Memorial Day recess. Year to date, the Senate has focused mainly on judges and Administration personnel, with about 75 percent of all votes taken pertaining to nominations.
While Senate Democrats will be largely back to full strength in terms of attendance, Senator Dianne Feinstein’s absence may continue to impact the ability of the majority to move partisan legislation and controversial nominees through the Judiciary Committee and on the floor. With just a one-seat majority on each Senate committee, and the narrowest of margins on the floor, any absences can bottle up controversial nominations in committee and/or the floor.
On the floor, we expect Leader Schumer to continue to move nominations, though the specific nominations will depend on various factors including attendance, Democratic unity, and White House prioritization. But unlike past work periods, the Senate might also consider multiple pieces of legislation:
- Before recessing for Easter, the Senate agreed unanimously to proceed to the FIRE Act, which reauthorizes the U.S. Fire Administration as well as associated programs, through 2030. Next week, Senators will look to lock in a consent agreement allowing various amendments to be considered under a time agreement, before moving to a vote on passage.
- As the work period progresses, Leader Schumer may move to bring up a package of bipartisan bills reported by the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, the budget offsets for which are still awaiting final review from CBO.
The Senate will also consider multiple CRA resolutions of disapproval. Senate Republicans have a long list of items they may force votes on, including several measures to overturn rules relating to the environment; the DHS “public charge” rule; VA abortion; student loans; and others. It is possible that CRAs relating to the Commerce Department’s solar tariff exemptions could be voted on as well, but likely not before being sent over from the House.
Senate committees will be busy during the work period as well, with many having scheduled a plethora of hearings over the coming weeks. Beyond that, it is possible that a variety of markups might occur, including a health care markup in Senate HELP and patent related legislation in Judiciary, with Senate Democrats looking to advance a package to the floor for consideration in the coming weeks or months.
On FY24 appropriations bills, there remains significant interest among Appropriators in having a robust legislative process this year, but hangups over topline spending numbers persist as the House GOP Leadership and the White House grapple with debt limit and possible negotiations over spending.
There also continues to be activity in committee on issues relating to FAA reauthorization (Senate Commerce) and Farm Bill reauthorization (Senate Agriculture), though markups this work period are unlikely. While a markup of the Railway Safety Act in the Commerce Committee remains a possibility, no agreement has yet been reached by committee leaders. NDAA will be marked up by Armed Services, but probably just after the Memorial Day recess.
OUTLOOK/ANALYSIS. The upcoming work period will mark the beginning of fulsome debt limit negotiations. While President Biden’s strategy is to force House Republicans to produce a FY4 Budget Resolution, we view this as exceedingly unlikely. Instead, Speaker McCarthy is likely to ramp up pressure on the President to begin negotiations in earnest.
Regardless of who wins this rhetorical fight, House Republican Leadership is pursuing a strategy to pass a short-term increase (no longer than one year) coupled with one narrowly defined conservative policy win, as outlined above.
That said, attaining 218 House Republican votes for any debt limit bill will be exceedingly difficult. House Republican Leadership will be engaging in serious internal discussions with their Members during the two weeks of session in April in order to find a Conference-uniting solution.
Should a path to 218 emerge, expect House Republicans to move legislation during the May work period in the hopes that the pressure/onus will turn to Leader Schumer and President Biden. If House Republican Leadership is unsuccessful in moving legislation, we could see the emergence of one or more center aisle compromise “gangs” in either chamber (or both). For now, we expect Republican Leader McConnell to continue deferring to Speaker McCarthy to see if he can produce 218 votes for a House Republican proposal or reach an agreement with President Biden.
Turning to energy permitting reform, the House’s negotiating position is H.R. 1. The question is now what appetite Leader Schumer has for allowing a negotiation between Sen. Manchin (who is yet to announce his reelection intentions) and congressional Republicans. Since passage of H.R. 1, Sen. Manchin and the West Virginia delegation suffered another setback to the Mountain Valley Pipeline, likely putting more pressure on him to seek a deal with House Republicans, in addition to Sen. Capito. Again, this negotiation could end up as part of the broader debt limit negotiations.