After Avoiding a Government Shutdown, What Will Congress Do With the Waning Days of 2021?

After Avoiding a Government Shutdown, What Will Congress Do With the Waning Days of 2021?

Information about After Avoiding a Government Shutdown, What Will Congress Do With the Waning Days of 2021?

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After narrowly avoiding a government shutdown by passing a stopgap funding bill on Friday, Congress faces what could be a packed schedule in the final weeks of the year.

Or it could end up doing not much of anything (*fingers crossed*).

The end-of-year scramble will kick off this week with an expected House vote on the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Though the military spending package usually sails through Congress with little more than token resistance, there are a few possible stumbling blocks popping up in the Senate, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Some Republican senators are reportedly threatening to withhold support for the package unless it includes a provision that would complicate Russia’s completion of the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline in the Baltic Sea as a way to deter a feared Russian invasion of Ukraine. Another group, led by Sen. Marco Rubio (R–Fla.) wants to include language that would block American imports of goods produced in forced labor camps in China’s Xinjiang region, where members of the Uyghur ethnic group are being systematically repressed.

After the NDAA starter course, we’ll find out if the Democrat-controlled Congress has an appetite for finally passing President Joe Biden’s $2 trillion (or $4 trillion, depending on how you count) social spending plan. Negotiations over the “Build Back Better” plan have been a dominant storyline in Washington nearly the whole year, but Democrats have been unable to cobble together the necessary votes—in no small part because of defections from within their own ranks.

We’ll also have to prepare for another showdown over the debt limit. A short-term deal struck in October to raise the debt limit—which authorizes the Treasury to borrow funds to pay for already-approved spending—expires on December 15. Politico reports that some lawmakers are considering rolling the debt limit increase into the NDAA, but that might do little more than convince Republicans to vote against the measure. Then again, most Republicans are likely to vote against the debt limit increase no matter what form it takes.

And the fight over vaccine mandates could spill over into Congress as well. Sen. Joe Manchin (D–W.Va.), a key swing vote, tells Politico that he supports Sen. Mike Braun’s (R–Ind.) attempt to use the Congressional Review Act to strike down the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for private businesses. (The mandate is currently on hold per an order from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, which is reviewing the case in more detail.)

Oh, and that stopgap funding bill passed on Friday to avert a government shutdown? It lasts for just 11 weeks—so we’ll be doing that all over again in mid-February.


FREE MINDS

“I am not a traitor. I am not a spy. I am somebody who only acted out of love for what this country stands for,” Reality Winner told 60 Minutes on Sunday night in her first televised interview since being released from prison.

Winner, a former National Security Administration (NSA) contractor who leaked documents to The Intercept about Russia’s attempt to hack into voting systems during the 2016 presidential election, was given the longest prison sentence ever applied to a civilian under the Espionage Act. In a sometimes-tearful conversation with CBS’s Scott Pelley, Winner defended her decision to smuggle documents out of the NSA facility in Fort Gordon, Georgia, in 2017—a defense she did not get to offer in court—and about her physical and mental struggles during four years in prison.

Watch the whole interview here.


FREE MARKETS

San Francisco will delay the implementation of a new Cannabis Business Tax in order to give legal pot shops a chance to compete with the black market.

The tax, applied at a rate of between 1 percent and 5 percent on gross sales (the rate rises as the volume of sales do), was supposed to go into effect in January. Instead, it will be suspended until the end of 2022. California’s taxes on legal marijuana sales are already some of the highest in the country, and those taxes have made it difficult for legal sellers to supplant a robust (and untaxed) black market.


QUICK HITS

• Reason‘s annual Webathon is ongoing! If you’ve enjoyed all the free content we’ve put out supporting free minds and free markets, please consider donating.

• Bob Dole, the World War II vet, longtime senator from Kansas, and 1996 Republican presidential nominee, died Sunday at age 98.

“American public education is broken,” writes Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire former mayor of New York City. He will donate $750 million to help expand charter schools in 20 big cities.

• More evidence that the omicron variant could be more transmissible but less dangerous: It shares genetic traits with the common cold.

• Amazon is bypassing some of the supply chain chaos by manufacturing its own containers and chartering cargo planes.

• The “good old days” weren’t actually all that good—but they’re still screwing with our politics.

• Inflation is becoming a global problem.

Saturnino Orestes Armas “Minnie” Minoso Arrieta, who played major league baseball from 1946 until 1980 (yes, really) and was one of the sport’s first Cuban stars, was finally elected to the hall of fame.

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