Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were inaugurated as president and vice president of the United States on January 20, marking the beginning of the Biden-Harris administration. Vice President Harris made history as the first woman, first Black American, and first Asian American to serve as vice president.
Senators Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Jon Ossoff (D-GA), and Alex Padilla (D-CA) were also sworn into office on January 20, shifting control of the Senate to Democrats for the first time since 2014 and elevating Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to the role of Senate Majority Leader. Majority Leader Schumer and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) are still negotiating an agreement to determine how to share power and manage the 50-50 split between parties among committees in the chamber.
The narrow majority in the Senate gives Democrats control of the House, Senate, and White House during the 117th Congress. Party leaders are already discussing legislative proposals to provide additional pandemic relief and address the nation’s crumbling infrastructure. While Democrats hold out hope to reach a bipartisan agreement on the next relief package, they may invoke “reconciliation,” a legislative tool allowing legislation to pass the Senate with a simple majority, rather than the 60 votes typically required. Lawmakers are aiming to pass a new round of pandemic relief by mid-March, when the unemployment benefits extended in the most recent relief package are slated to expire.
Once the next coronavirus relief package is finalized, Congress is expected to shift attention to drafting a budget resolution for fiscal year (FY) 2022 with reconciliation instructions for President Biden’s infrastructure proposal. FY22 will be the first time in a decade appropriators will not be limited by the mandatory budget caps on non-defense discretionary spending imposed by the Budget Control Act of 2011. These budget caps have prevented Congress from investing in HUD programs at the scale necessary to help individuals and communities thrive.