The House and Senate return from recess today… before heading back on recess for Thanksgiving at the end of the week. Both chambers are scheduled to end their work for the year on December 10, with the House slated to be in session for only 13 days before the end of 2021.
And they have a lot to get done in that limited time.
Like a careless student cramming on the Sunday night before finals, Congress has again pushed some of its most essential work to the very last minute:
On December 3 — three days after the end of the Thanksgiving recess — the short-term government funding bill expires, and the debt limit may be reached. Senate Minority Leader McConnell agreed to a short-term extension of the debt ceiling earlier in the fall, but says Democrats will have to provide all the votes to pass it this time.
The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) must be passed by the end of the year. Senate Majority Leader Schumer has postponed a vote, even with both Democrats and Republicans in both chambers urging him to act. Schumer now says a vote could come this week.
In addition to the NDAA, the Senate must pass all 11 of the other mandatory annual appropriations bills — which had an October 1 deadline. (The House has passed just three of them.)
Democrats want to pass the Build Back Better Act in both chambers and get it to President Biden’s desk before the new year, though Politico says quick action in the Senate is unlikely.
Some of these matters are controversial, but others — like the debt limit and the NDAA — are part of the normal process of governance. If only our leaders would work together, perhaps not so many Americans would view our government as hopelessly dysfunctional.