Congress returns to work this week with a long to-do list, beginning with the need to pass legislation that will keep the federal government operating beyond the end of the week.
At the same time, the Biden administration is doing what it can to address the potential risks posed by the newly discovered COVID-19 variant. Omicron, believed to be highly contagious, was first detected in the southern African nations last week and now has shown up in Europe and Canada.
“Sooner or later, we’re going to see cases of this new variant here in the United States,” said President Biden at a press conference today at the White House.
When that happens, lawmakers may play a role in determining a larger response from the federal government, but for now, President Bide has imposed flight restrictions to buy some time.
“It gives us time to take more actions, to move quicker,” the president said, “to make sure people understand you have to get your vaccine, you have to get the shot, you have to get the booster.”
The federal government will need a different sort of booster by the end of the week. A short-term funding bill that Congress approved two months ago expires this Friday, meaning, to avoid a partial government shutdown, Congress will more than likely resort to passing another so-called 'continuing resolution' later this week.
“I’ve supported those in the past, I probably would do so again,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK4) in a recent interview, “as long as it’s what’s called a clean continuing resolution.”
Another high priority is the passage of the annual defense spending bill, the National Defense Authorization Act. The Senate is scheduled to resume consideration of its version of the NDAA as early as late Monday.
The Senate also now takes up the nearly $2 trillion Build Back Better Act, the social, education and climate spending package the House passed just before the Thanksgiving break. Moderate Senate Democrats have indicated they are likely to remove certain features from the bill, meaning it would then have to go back and survive another contentious House vote.
Meanwhile, members of both chambers will no doubt be paying close attention Wednesday to what could be one of the most consequential Supreme Court cases in decades. The conservative-heavy Court will hear arguments in a Mississippi case that has the potential to overturn Roe v Wade and once again make abortion a procedure that’s regulated state by state.
"It would be one of the greatest days for the human race," Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) said in a statement. "if we could end all abortion everywhere and declare in one voice that every life matters."