Becker’s Washington Weekly: September 6, 2021

Becker’s Washington Weekly: September 6, 2021

THE HOUSE & THE SENATE

There are a small number of hearings and markups this week, despite the ongoing congressional recess. The House Financial Services Committee will consider emergency rental assistance during the pandemic, and the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Health Subcommittee will discuss the future of biomedicine. The Senate’s Special Committee on Aging will also hold a hearing this week.

Additionally, the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee will markup its portion of the of both the Fiscal Year 2022 budget resolution and the pending $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package, as will the House’s Agriculture and Natural Resources Committees.

The House is aiming to pass two major pieces of legislation before the end of the month: a roughly $550 billion bipartisan infrastructure bill, which passed the Senate last month, and a $3.5 trillion spending package, which would advance key parts of the Biden Administration’s agenda which only Democrats currently support.

The relationship between these two bills has been a challenge for Congress and the Administration to reconcile. The House backers of the infrastructure bill are fighting for its recognition in that chamber, but Speaker Pelosi and Progressives have taken the all-or-nothing approach on both bills – insisting that one will not pass without the other. Although Speaker Pelosi set a September 27th deadline to quell moderate Democrats’ misgivings about this approach, Progressives’ sway in the House, along with other looming deadlines in Congress, make the infrastructure bill’s passage unclear.

That dilemma was made evident late last week when Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) wrote an op-ed urging Democrats to “pause” their consideration of the $3.5 trillion package and arguing that such spending levels will skyrocket inflation rates. Fellow moderate Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) echoed that sentiment, saying that she would not support such a high price tag. Senate Democrats cannot afford to lose a single vote if they hope to advance President Biden’s agenda, and House Democrats can only afford to lose three (at least 10 Democrats have pushed back on the reconciliation bill’s price tag).

THE ADMINISTRATION
The Biden Administration is facing multiple crises at home and abroad. First, President Biden’s legislative agenda remains in flux over inter- and intra-party struggles regarding the size and scope of government spending.

Second, backlash against America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan continues. Though thousands of American citizens, Afghan allies, and Afghan refugees were evacuated, around 100 Americans remain in the country. Congress has already compelled the testimony of key Biden Administration officials on the planning and execution of the Afghan withdrawal and resettlement, including that of Secretary of State Antony Blinken who will testify next week.

Third, the President is also navigating the effects of Hurricane Ida, which hit Louisiana as a Category 4 Hurricane. The storm maintained its strength as it moved across the country to the North East, where heavy rains and floods proved deadly. Nearly a million residents are currently without power, and many are not expected to have it restored for a month.

Finally, the Administration is also bracing to for a trifecta of challenges on the horizon: the looming debt limit crisis, the surging Delta Variant, and the Supreme Court’s decision to allow Texas’ controversial abortion law to go into effect.

The abortion law bans terminations six weeks after conception and encourages Texans to sue those seeking or facilitating abortions by offering a potential $10,000 reward. The Department of Justice (DOJ) is examining whether to challenge the legitimacy of this law through the enforcement of a federal statute that criminalizes injurious or intimidating behavior against abortion-clinic patients, employees, or property. The DOJ’s urgency comes as several Republican-led states hope to use Texas’ law as a model for their own abortion bans.

Becker’s Federal Lobbying Team will continue to monitor these developments as they evolve and will share with you as soon as information becomes available.