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On the Hill: Congress Back, Faces Debt Limit Debate

The House and Senate returned to session this week, with regular legislative work overshadowed by a partisan debate about raising the nation’s debt limit and reducing federal spending, including for the Medicare program.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen informed congressional leaders that the Treasury Department will take “extraordinary measures” to keep the U.S. government from defaulting on its debt; but lawmakers will have to act sometime in the first half of 2023 to avoid default by raising the limit. House Republicans want a deal that includes spending cuts before raising the debt ceiling, but Biden administration officials have insisted that Congress pass a clean debt ceiling increase.

Democrats have noted that Congress passed three debt ceiling increases under former President Donald Trump without demanding spending cuts. Trump has this week warned Republican lawmakers against cutting Medicare and Social Security. Conversely, centrist Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) has said he wants to discuss spending on Medicare with the GOP.

Other Hill and Administration News

Democrats soon will finalize their committee assignments following the slow start caused by the drawn-out voting process to select Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) as House speaker.

Also, Ron Klain – the longest-serving first chief of staff for any Democratic president – is set to depart ahead of what will be a new chapter of Biden’s presidency. Former Obama administration official and Biden federal pandemic response manager Jeff Zients will succeed him.

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