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Washington Watch: Here are Washington’s new deadlines for infrastructure, a government shutdown, the debt limit and more

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Washington in recent weeks failed to enact a bipartisan infrastructure bill, and it came up with only short-term fixes to avoid a U.S. default and prevent a partial government shutdown.

So Congress and the White House will have to tackle all of those topics again in the weeks ahead, along with other issues, as they face another round of deadlines. Below are some upcoming key dates.

  • Oct. 31 for infrastructure bill: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the California Democrat, has said her new target date for advancing the Senate-passed infrastructure bill is Halloween, as that’s when a 30-day extension for surface-transportation funding runs out. Another factor is President Joe Biden’s plan to attend United Nations-hosted “COP26” climate talks in Scotland that start Oct. 31, with Pelosi saying Biden “will go to Glasgow, and we want to do so with legislation that is passed.” Democrats are working to move the infrastructure bill in tandem with a larger package that addresses climate change, “human infrastructure” and other party priorities.
  • Dec. 3 for shutdown: Biden on Sept. 30 signed into law a short-term spending bill to keep the federal government running through Dec. 3, acting with just hours remaining before a partial shutdown would have hit. But the president and Congress now have Dec. 3 as a fresh deadline for providing funding.
  • Q1 2022 for default:  Washington is on track to deliver a $480 billion increase in the U.S. debt limit, allowing for federal borrowing until Dec. 3. After backing down in a standoff and supporting this short-term increase, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican, has vowed that Senate Democrats must go it alone next time and lift the debt ceiling through a process known as budget reconciliation. McConnell said a fiery speech by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, the New York Democrat, “alienated the Republican members who helped facilitate this short-term patch.” Analysts have predicted the new “X Date” for the Treasury Department, meaning when it would exhaust what are known as extraordinary measures and lack the cash to meet all its financial obligations, could come in 2022’s first quarter.
  • Dec. 31 for other issues: Before the end of the year, Washington must address “the expiration of several COVID-19 relief provisions, including the enhanced Child Tax Credit and Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit,” said Ben Koltun, director of research at Beacon Policy Advisors, in a note. “There’s also the traditional tax extenders deadline,” he said, referring to a package of tax-break renewals.

Democratic-run Washington also faces a Nov. 2 deadline, according to Koltun’s analysis of upcoming key dates, as that’s Election Day for Virginia’s gubernatorial contest.

“The seemingly close race in the commonwealth has Democrats from Democratic gubernatorial nominee Terry McAuliffe to Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) pleading for national Democrats to pass some of their agenda by then,” the Beacon analyst wrote.

McAuliffe, a former Virginia governor, leads Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin by 3.5 percentage points in a RealClearPolitics average of polls as of Monday, down from his 6.6-point advantage in late August.

At the same time, all of the deadlines given by top Democrats should be treated with some skepticism, as they don’t match with what some of the party’s rank-and-file want, according to Koltun. 

“The deadline mentality last month was not enough to get Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) to offer a framework that progressives would accept on BBB. The centrists continue to not publicly seem pressed by any near-term deadlines,” he said, referring to Biden’s Build Back Better (BBB) plan that calls for spending tied to climate change and social programs.

“Meanwhile, the other end of the bid-ask spread is not interested in kowtowing to leadership’s timeline,” Koltun added. He noted that Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the independent who usually votes with Democrats, recently said Americans aren’t telling him to act by a certain day, but rather want him to deliver on specific issues like the child tax credit, Medicare expansion and climate change.

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traded little changed on Monday, as the Treasury market and federal government were closed in observance of the Columbus Day holiday.

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