Becker & Poliakoff

Becker’s Washington Weekly: Week of March 1, 2021

Becker’s Washington Weekly: Week of March 1, 2021

The House

The House is back in Washington, D.C. for votes this week. After passing an initial draft of President Biden’s proposed American Rescue Plan early Saturday morning, the House will turn to other Democratic priorities as it waits for the Senate to take up the nearly $2 trillion COVID-19 relief legislation. One major bill expected to be brought up for a vote in the House this week is HR 1, an election integrity bill similar to the one Democrats passed through the House last Congress. Also expected to receive floor consideration this week are HR 1280, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021, and HR 842, Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act.

The latter, a major workers’ rights bill that first passed last year and would let the National Labor Relations Board fine employers for workplace violations among other things, comes amid a push from Amazon workers to unionize. While the House has also begun discussing a major jobs and infrastructure package, that is unlikely to be released in the next two weeks. There are also a number of hearings of note this week, including:

  • Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hearing titled “COVID-19’s effects on US Aviation and the Flight Path to Recovery” on Tuesday
  • Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on the future of telehealth also on Tuesday
  • Foreign Affairs Committee hearing titled “A Way Forward for Venezuela” The Humanitarian, Diplomatic, and National Security Challenges Facing the Biden Administration” on Wednesday
  • Ways and Means Committee hearing titled “Reauthorizing Trade Adjustment Assistance: Opportunities for Equitable Access and Modernization” on Thursday

The Senate

The Senate is also back in DC this week with a full docket ahead of them, beginning with the COVID-19 relief bill the House just passed. The Senate is now tasked with drafting their own version of the bill that is compliant with the arcane rules of the budget reconciliation over the next week.

One potentially controversial provision – raising the federal minimum wage to $15/hour – has already been ruled out of order by the Senate parliamentarian for violating the Byrd Rule. While progressives will be disappointed, this may actually make passage of a large relief bill more likely. Two Senate Democrats – Joe Manchin (WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (AZ) – had already expressed hesitance about raising the minimum wage and will likely be more willing to support a bill that does not raise the minimum wage.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has expressed optimism that Congress will be able to pass another major relief bill before the March 14 expiration of unemployment insurance programs established in previous relief bills but the Senate will likely have to pass a version by the end of this week to do so. The House will need roughly a week to take up and pass whatever the Senate sends back. It will be extremely difficult to meet this deadline without bipartisan support but, for now, it appears Democrats may be able to secure the votes to do so.

In addition to the coronavirus relief legislation, the Senate is expected to take up and advance executive branch nominations this week. Scheduled for either Committee hearings or floor votes this week are the nominations of Merrick Garland (Attorney General), Brenda Mallory (WH Council on Environmental Quality), Janet McCabe (Deputy Administrator, EPA), Wendy Sherman (Deputy Secretary of State), Brian McKeon (Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources), Polly Trottenberg (Deputy Secretary of Transportation), David Turk (Deputy Secretary of Energy), Shalanda Young (Deputy Director, OMB), and Jason Miller (Deputy Director for Management, OMB).

The Administration
On Monday, the President and First Lady returned to D.C. from Wilmington, Delaware, and President Biden met virtually with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. On Tuesday, the President is expected to virtually join Senate Democrats for lunch. On Wednesday, President Biden is scheduled to hold a meeting on cancer legislation and meet virtually with House Democrats.