Congress returns to Washington. Here’s what needs to be done – and what members of the Minnesota delegation would like to do

After more than a month in their home countries, Senators are back in Washington to pick up where they left off at the end of the 117th Congress’ first long period of legislature. The House will be officially back next week.

Lawmakers have a long way to go between now and their scheduled adjournment in early December: Two of Congress’ top priorities after the summer recess include passing the infrastructure package and securing a major budget plan through to the reconciliation process. If Congress does not pass a budget by Oct. 1, it will need to approve a continuing resolution to keep the government going until the start of the next fiscal year.

Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen warned that the federal government will run out of borrowing power in October without taking action to raise the debt ceiling.

Other than that, however, members of Congress have plenty of ideas for what they would like to accomplish in the coming months. Here’s a look at what Congress needs to do – and the policy areas some members of the Minnesota delegation are pushing for before the end of the year.

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Infrastructures and the budget bill

Infrastructure: the one word that has dominated politics all year round. President Joe Biden outlined his goals for a $ 2.2 trillion infrastructure package earlier this year. Lawmakers negotiated the $ 1 trillion infrastructure bill, with Republicans trying to lower the cost of the package and Democrats trying to include progressive priorities such as measures to reduce climate change.

The Senate passed the bill in August and sent it to the House for consideration. Lawmakers marked this bill as so important that at the end of August House Speaker Nancy Pelosi recalled House members from summer recess to Washington to vote.

But a real vote on the infrastructure bill was not in the cards. The struggle has shifted from Democrats to Republicans in the Senate to progressives to moderates in the House. Progressives have said they will not vote on the infrastructure bill without first completing a larger budget bill that includes more of their priorities. But then, nine moderate House Democrats wrote a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi saying they would not consider voting for a budget resolution until the infrastructure package is enacted.

Ultimately, the House came to a compromise: Lawmakers set a deadline of September 27 to vote on the infrastructure bill, while agreeing to start drafting legislation for the budget. That’s where the House left things there in August.

A big budget

The budget deal (also known as the Build Back Better Act) is so far expected to contain progressive priorities such as universal kindergarten for three and four year olds, an expanded child tax credit, and investments in research and development to combat climate change. cash. The budget is currently being drawn up in various committees.

MinnPost photo by Craig Lassig

Rep. Ilhan Omar

Progressives are pushing for the Build Back Better law to be passed as soon as possible, but the legislation is still being drafted and amendments are being added. One of those recent amendments came from Representative Ilhan Omar, from the Fifth District of Minnesota, capping child care costs in a new national child care program at seven percent of a family’s income.

According to early figures, the Build Back Better Act could include up to $ 450 billion for child care in the United States and universal kindergarten.

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The Build Back Better Act also includes Medicare expansion, including a plan to expand the program to cover hearing aids, eyeglasses and dental care. Representative Angie Craig, Minnesota Second District, listed this aspect of the budget in particular as a priority.

Craig also wants $ 100 billion over ten years for a federal reinsurance program – reinsurance is much like insurance for insurance companies, helping them reduce financial risk. While some states, including Minnesota, have reinsurance programs, there is currently no federal reinsurance program.

Senator Tina Smith

Senator Tina Smith

Senator Tina Smith, who sits on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Work and Pensions, also named Medicare changes as a top priority for the budget bill, including a measure allowing the federal government to negotiate lower drug prices for Medicare beneficiaries.

There is still a long way to go for the Build Back Better Act. The Ways and Means Committee worked this week on reviewing legislative proposals and drafting the bill, and the committee chair, Representative Richard Neal (D-MA) announcement that the committee will have to continue its work throughout the week.

The back-up plan if Democrats can’t finalize their budget legislation by the end of September 30 of the federal tax year? A resolution continues. As chair of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, Representative Betty McCollum said she is prioritizing the passage of a continued resolution to maintain government funding.

Beyond budget

The budget naturally takes a lot of time and energy for lawmakers in Washington, but members of the Minnesota congressional delegation also named other pieces of legislation they would like to see enacted in the coming months.

Representative Tom Emmer

REUTERS / Leah Millis

Representative Tom Emmer

Representative Tom Emmer, who represents Minnesota’s Sixth Farming District, advocates for more mental health resources for farmers, expanding community-based policing efforts with Minnesota-developed solutions, and encouraging the use of care trauma-informed for victims of sexual assault.

Third District Representative Dean Phillips announcement Last week, he will lead an effort with the House and Senate small business committees to secure and pass a “targeted small business relief package” to help industries hardest hit by this pandemic.

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