Congress will return from a delayed week-long Martin Luther King Jr. Day next week, to confront a packed schedule. Not that much of it will be happening on the floors of either chamber, legislatively, but there’s a lot of behind-the-scenes work, the most pressing of which is an omnibus spending bill due before February 18, when the current short-term funding bill runs out.

That comes with the requisite government shutdown demand from House Republican nihilists, in a letter to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Predictably, the maniacs insist that they will “refuse to consider supporting any federal government funding vehicle, be it a continuing resolution or an omnibus appropriations measure, that funds the enforcement of COVID-19 vaccine mandates at any level of government.” So that’s fun.

It’s also really unlikely to happen. Beyond those knuckleheads try to force it, there just isn’t the stomach for it among most Republicans, particularly in the Senate. They might flirt with it just to make Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s job more complicated, but are not likely to force the issue.

That complicated job starts next week with a big slate of nominees for district court and executive branch positions to come to the floor. Again, much of the action for the Senate will be happening off the floor in negotiating the omnibus spending bill and in moving forward on Build Back Better, the not-dead-yet massive spending bill for education, healthcare, family assistance, and climate change mitigation that West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin tried to kill last month.

One serious emerging fight against Manchin is coming from Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado, who wrote to President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris this week to insist the White House include an extension of the Child Tax Credit enhanced monthly payments in further negotiations. Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden of Oregon, Banking Chairman Sherrod Brown of Ohio,  Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, and Sen. Raphael Warnock of Georgia signed the letter as well.

“Without the expanded credit, nearly 10 million children will be thrown back into or deeper into poverty this winter, increasing the monthly child poverty rate from roughly 12% to at least 17%,” the senators wrote. “Raising taxes on working families is the last thing we should do during a pandemic.” The senators need to send that message to Manchin, too.

Manchin, reportedly, hasn’t backed down from his demand that negotiations on BBB start from scratch, a totally unrealistic proposition. Some want to focus on the climate and clean energy provisions and pass that as a whole. Others want to start with the climate stuff—which Manchin hasn’t totally ruled out—and see what else they can include.

Earlier this month, Biden talked about breaking up the package which is somewhat possible. The majority, if not all, of the elements are going to have to be passed as originally planned in budget reconciliation. That’s the only way to get it done in the face of Republican filibusters.

There’s also going to be that Supreme Court nomination to be made and kicked off in the Senate, a process that always generates more media coverage than actual work on the part of senators. But all that, COVID, another massive snowstorm on the east coast, and Russia’s Ukraine provocations will make for a stressful welcome back for Congress.

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This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.


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