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“House Leaves, Critical Battles Loom on the Horizon

With Congress leaving town for the year, it’s a less-than-ideal start to 2021 that much of the country is bracing for. Even with the coronavirus running rampant throughout the country and an economy that has rarely seen such a strain, there are still a number of critical battles left on the horizon. The most immediate of these is the next phase of coronavirus relief negotiations. Congress had made some progress on a second stimulus package throughout the fall but no deal has been reached. The main points of contention dealing with the current package are the size and scope of the relief and whether certain state and local governments should be held exempt from stringent budget cuts. The next issue of concern is the looming deadline for the expiration of extended unemployment benefits on December 26. Many fear that without a renewal of the federal unemployment benefits that millions of Americans are relying on, the dire situation regarding the economy and job market could become even worse. After the fiscal cliff of 2013, which forced a sudden round of deep and abrupt spending cuts, many are worried that this new round of budget battles in the coming year could prove similarly catastrophic. The two largest questions being, should the government prioritize spending cuts or debt reductions and how can tax cuts be implemented to help jumpstart the economic recovery? For the first time in over a decade, the fight over the debt ceiling is likely to get major attention as well. At the start of 2021, the US public debt is closing in on $27 trillion. Raising the debt limit may prove to be a difficult political decision with both sides of the aisle seemingly unwilling to enter any negotiations. Lastly, the nation is also facing a number of policy decisions on multiple fronts. Over the next year, Congress and President-elect Biden’s administration will see issues such as healthcare, education, energy infrastructure, housing, among many others, return to the forefront. Though the new year doesn’t look to be a lighthearted one with the rule of the current pandemic, Congress still has an opportunity to take a much needed break before they come back to face the tough decisions that will be on the table. With the politics of 2021 likely to be as unpredictable as ever, let’s hope that our representatives can work together to accomplish meaningful progress for the American public.