Becker’s Washington Weekly: Week of August 1, 2022

Becker’s Washington Weekly: Week of August 1, 2022

The Senate

The Senate will stay in Washington one more week before beginning its August recess to tackle a veterans healthcare bill, new NATO admissions, and a last-minute reconciliation deal.

Last week, Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) struck a surprise deal with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) to announce a stripped-down reconciliation package calling for new climate and healthcare spending, in addition to new tax code changes and deficit cutting.

Passing the legislation this week will first require the Senate’s parliamentarian to approve the bill’s provisions under the chamber’s reconciliation rules. Next, all 50 Democrats would need to vote yes, including Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) who previously rebuffed her party on reconciliation due in part to her opposition to a 15% minimum tax provision which this new deal includes. Sen. Manchin has been working with Sen. Sinema to win her support, and her decision is expected as early as this week according to her office.

The Senate will also reattempt to pass legislation providing expanded healthcare benefits to veterans exposed to toxic burn pits after 30 Republicans switched their votes, arguing that the bill should be funded through discretionary spending rather than mandatory. The chamber will also attempt to pass a bill approving Finland and Sweden’s accession to NATO this week.

Even if Democrats get all the “yes” votes they need this week, including from Sen. Sinema, other Senators could derail the chamber’s agenda due to COVID-19 and surgery-related absences. Senate Pro Tempore Patrick Leahy (D-VT) is recovering from hip surgery, and Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-VT) is hoping to leave isolation following his positive COVID-19 diagnosis.

The Senate will also hold a number of committee hearings this week:

  • The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will mark up a bill supporting Taiwan and its right of self-determination.
  • The Senate Homeland Security Committee will mark up numerous bills, including those combating human trafficking.
  • The Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights will hold a hearing to discuss antitrust policy.
  • The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will consider the nomination of Nathaniel Fick to be ambassador for cyberspace and digital policy.
  • The Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee will markup a drone safety bill this week.

The Administration

President Biden will work in isolation this week after once again testing positive for COVID-19. In the meantime, Vice President Harris will travel to Miami, FL to announce $1 billion in disaster-preparedness funding amid worsening climate change. She will also visit the National Hurricane Center and Florida International University.

The White House will also host a summit on air mobility and drone security amid growing drone use, and will include leaders from various aviation groups and companies.

The House

The House began its month-long August recess this week and is not set to return to Washington until September. However, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said that the chamber may return to take up a reconciliation bill during August.

In the meantime, Speaker Pelosi is leading a congressional delegation to Asia this week to visit Japan, Singapore, and potentially Taiwan after the Chinese government threatened military action should the Speaker visit the latter country.