Congress Washington: With inflation on the increase and coronavirus infections on the rise once more, congressional legislators will return to Washington this week to debate the country’s financial and physical well-being.
The list for Democratic leaders includes confirming a slate of Federal Reserve nominations, finalizing approximately $10 billion in blocked pandemic relief, and refashioning President Joe Biden’s centerpiece social spending project, which has been bogged down for almost a year.
Each of the discussions is expected to focus the attention of the Capitol on the status of the US economy: Although unemployment is low, employers’ labor demands remain high; wages have risen while prices have risen sharply.
This month, national inflation gauges hit their highest levels in four decades, prompting politicians to receive concerns from citizens in their states and districts over the recess.
“They’re concerned about growing costs of living, which includes everything from petrol to food,” said Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., who added that shop shelf shortages in her Orange County district recently reminded her of hurricane season.
A pandemic that is impossible to forecast, as well as the still-unfolding fallout of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, are to blame for most of the economic turmoil. However, little over six months before the 2022 midterm elections, the dynamic provides fertile ground for high-stakes political squabbles between Democrats and Republicans.
About the viability of Democrats’ spending agenda, Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., said, “My feeling is this is a make-or-break moment.” “This will be the point at which people will have to look each other in the eyes and decide whether or not to move forward.”
On Sunday, Democrats and Republicans debated the level of inflation and the role that the federal government should play in tackling it on dueling television shows.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that it is “the job of Congress, of the president, to get out there and make the adjustments we need to bring down those rates for people.” She accused Republicans of spending their efforts on “fighting the culture wars,” while warning Democrats about the repercussions of failing to pursue their own economic agenda.
“I feel the Democrats are going to lose if we don’t rise up and deliver,” Warren remarked.
Meanwhile, Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, believes that rising costs will be a major factor in Republicans regaining control of the House in November. On “Fox News Sunday,” McCaul predicted that “we’re going to get probably at least 40 seats” because “this president has been so unpopular when it comes to inflation” and other topics.
For the time being, the Senate’s immediate responsibility is to decide on the future makeup of the nation’s central bank.
The chamber is expected to vote on four nominees for the Federal Reserve Board of Governors this week: Jerome Powell, the current chairman; Philip Jefferson, a Davidson College professor; Lael Brainard, a Fed governor selected for the board’s second-most powerful position; and Lisa Cook, a Michigan State University professor who would become the board’s, first Black woman.
Because of the Democrats’ tiebreaking majority, all four nominees are projected to win. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, the chairman of the chamber’s Banking Committee, said the process would likely start tonight, but the exact timing would depend on “how much” Republicans try to drag down debate.
In a tweet Friday, Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., a member of the Banking Committee, stated, “Inflation has been gradually rising since the day Biden took office, and it’s punishing working Americans the hardest.” “It appears that the exact people who the Biden administration claims to serve are the ones who are paying the largest price.”
Senate Democrats are also attempting to pass a nearly $10 billion proposal that would replenish important government coronavirus relief programs, in addition to the Fed. The bill cleared the House but is blocked in the Senate, where partisanship continues to stymie government attempts to ensure Americans have access to vaccines, tests, and treatments.
The impasse derives from a Republican-led counter-offensive on a separate immigration issue. Many Republican senators are opposed to Biden‘s recent efforts to repeal a pandemic-era order that limited refugees’ ability to seek asylum in the US.
Republicans previously stated that they would not approve the coronavirus help unless Senate Democrats agreed to vote on an amendment criticizing Biden’s border policy. That put a stop to congressional leaders’ aspirations of passing the pandemic relief package before they left for their holiday break.
Meanwhile, the White House has expressed increased concern about the country’s ability to respond to the pandemic, particularly as case numbers continue to rise across the country.
Even the $10 billion compromise that lawmakers failed to approve was a significant departure from the administration’s initial request for roughly $22.5 billion, which Shalanda Young, director of the Office of Management and Budget, described at the time as a down payment for what the government would eventually require.
Democrats are also reviving efforts to rewrite the nation’s healthcare, education, climate, and tax policies — a spending package dubbed “Build Back Better” in the past.
Biden‘s senior advisers have reopened talks with Manchin in recent weeks after his previous resistance to the magnitude and scope of the party’s roughly $2 trillion proposals derailed it last year.
Democrats are now aiming to finish work on a revised version of the long-stalled bill by July 4. In exchange for his must-have support, Manchin has sought a lower price tag and more deficit reduction.
Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn., a key supporter of the proposal’s climate elements, said she has had meetings with members who understand they have significantly less time than they appear to have and must instead broker a deal around Memorial Day, which marks the conclusion of the current work period.
“The longer we wait, the harder it becomes,” she remarked.
For the time being, the ambiguity has fueled suspicion that Manchin may vote against his own party’s political goals in the future. It has also alarmed other Democrats, as it comes at a time when politicians are concerned that voters would punish them if they fail to deliver before the election.
Rep. Katie Porter, D-Calif., a senior member of the left-leaning Congressional Progressive Caucus, said, “I think there’s more we need to do to earn their vote in November.” “I believe we have demonstrated very clearly that the economy we are fighting for will help households have more money in their pockets.”