Despite Infrastructure Bill Success, Debt Ceiling and Social Spending Plans Still Need Resolution

President Biden signs infrastructure bill at White House, Washington, Usa - 15 Nov 2021
JIM LO SCALZO / EPA-EFE / Shutterstock.com

President Joe Biden finally signed into law the $1 trillion Infrastructure and Investment Jobs Act on November 15, but despite this major win for the administration, much work is still ahead before the year’s end.

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Although Biden had released a trimmed-down framework for the separate $1.75 trillion Build Back Better economic bill, negotiations are still ongoing. In addition, the deadline is looming for the debt ceiling once again.

In early October, after much drama and last-minute decisions, an agreed-upon deal between Republicans and Democrats was reached, with the Senate passing an extension of the debt limit that avoided a default on the national debt. The agreement allowed the national debt limit to increase by $480 billion, a sum the Treasury Department estimated would allow it to pay bills until Dec. 3, as GOBankingRates reported at the time.

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The debt ceiling limits the total amount of money the United States government is authorized to borrow to meet its existing legal obligations, including Social Security and Medicare benefits, military salaries, interest on the national debt, tax refunds and other payments. It does not authorize new spending commitments. It simply allows the government to finance existing legal obligations that Congresses and presidents of both parties have made in the past, according to the Treasury Secretary.

In a letter to his Democratic colleagues on November 14, House Majority Speaker Chuck Schumer said that he was “disappointed that we have not yet been able to reach a “topline” agreement on funding levels for FY2022 with our Republican colleagues.”

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Schumer added, however, that “it is likely that we will need to process a Continuing Resolution before December 3rd to give our Appropriators more time to finish their work,” according to his letter.

Addressing the Build Back Better Act in his letter, Schumer said that “on a bill of this magnitude, this process takes time and patience and I want to thank Chairman Sanders and his entire staff for their hard work and due diligence.” Timing of consideration of the BBBA in the Senate will largely depend on when the House sends us the bill and when CBO finalizes their scores for all of the committees.”

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The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said it “anticipates publishing a complete cost estimate for H.R. 5376, the Build Back Better Act, by the end of the day on Friday, November 19,” according to a CBO tweet.

In addition, CNN reported that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi “told her colleagues that the House isn’t leaving for Thanksgiving until Build Back Better is passed, according to two sources familiar with the matter. There’s talk of a potential Saturday vote, but it could happen sooner than that depending on timing of information from CBO.”

Schumer concluded his letter by asking his colleagues to “please keep your schedule flexible for the remainder of the calendar year.”

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“As you can see, we still have much work to do to close out what will be a very successful year of legislative accomplishments. I am confident we can get each of these important items done this year, but it will likely take some long nights and weekends,” he added.

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About the Author

Yaël Bizouati-Kennedy is a full-time financial journalist and has written for several publications, including Dow Jones, The Financial Times Group, Bloomberg and Business Insider. She also worked as a vice president/senior content writer for major NYC-based financial companies, including New York Life and MSCI. Yaël is now freelancing and most recently, she co-authored  the book “Blockchain for Medical Research: Accelerating Trust in Healthcare,” with Dr. Sean Manion. (CRC Press, April 2020) She holds two master’s degrees, including one in Journalism from New York University and one in Russian Studies from Université Toulouse-Jean Jaurès, France.

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