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The Political Theater guide to the in-between times

Why are these people laughing? Congress is serious business! Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and his chief of staff Sharon Soderstrom leave a Senate Republican luncheon in Russell Building on Thursday.
Why are these people laughing? Congress is serious business! Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and his chief of staff Sharon Soderstrom leave a Senate Republican luncheon in Russell Building on Thursday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Congress is engaged in one of those periods we’re all familiar with: filling the schedule, waiting for something more consequential, more fulfilling to happen.

In the meantime, the Senate this week spent floor time clearing sub-Cabinet level Pentagon nominees with votes of 94-1 and 83-13, and treading water until a vote on a third stop-gap spending bill — more than four-and-a-half-months into the current fiscal year.

The House this week has been engaged in one of its committee work weeks, which roughly translates to tumbleweeds drifting through the House chamber and the Rayburn tunnel as virtual hearings strain the internets. Recess, actual recess, with both chambers out, beckons next week.

Granted, things are likely to take off soon.

President Joe Biden has promised to reveal his nominee to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer by the end of the month. It will be historic: the first Black woman nominated to a seat on the high court, hence the timing of the announcement before the end of Black History Month.

Swapping one Democratic nominee for another one on the court might not alter the direction of the court all that much. But given how much influence the Supremes are exerting over society lately, any kind of development on the court is worth scrutinizing. Todd Ruger and I discussed that last month on this podcast: Reshaping society, the Supreme Court way

Meanwhile, the president will deliver his State of the Union address on March 1.

At some point, the administration will reveal a budget for the 2023 fiscal year. That blueprint is supposed to come out in early February, but who’s counting? Especially when 2022 fiscal spending levels haven’t even been finalized. (Yes, there is a ”framework”, but in the words of Rod Tidwell in “Jerry Maguire,” show us the money, please.)

March 1 also gives us the first congressional primary of the midterm election, in the great state of Texas.

There are several other legislative items on the agenda, including a conference (Whoa! Haven’t seen one of those in a long time. What is this? 2009?) on the legislation variously identified as being a China competition/America competes/Make it in America/please make up your mind bill; possible legislation to clarify the Electoral Count Act, to limit any future mischief by those looking to overthrow free and fair elections, and maybe some Frankenstein’s monster vestige of the Build Back Better legislation.

My colleagues Niels Lesniewski, David Lerman and Stephanie Akin webinared about all that and more this week: 2022 Legislative Forecast: Congressional Agenda & the Midterm Elections. (Come for the ARPA-H discussion, stay for a cameo by Lerman’s lost Boston accent and Akin’s roaring fireplace.)

You might have noticed this podcast and its accompanying newsletter have a slightly different form. We are trying out a few different things on the back end here at Political Theater, and will continue to experiment. That means we won’t have a new podcast for this week, but we will be back with some new episodes soon.

Show Notes:

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