Here's the scoop on what's happening this week in Congress
On Wednesday, the Biden administration announced that it achieved its targeted 200 million vaccinations during his first 100 days – indeed announcing the accomplishment on his 92nd day in office – and that more than half of all US adults had received at least one dose since last Sunday and 80+ percent of U.S. adults 65 years and older had been partially or fully vaccinated as of yesterday. More than 26.9 percent of the US adult population has been fully vaccinated.
The news comes as the U.S. public health infrastructure is reaching peak levels of strain. This week, in a Washington Post reported Kaiser Family Foundation poll, nearly 3 in every 10 healthcare workers have considered leaving the industry altogether, more than half of health care workers report that they are “burned out”, and 6 in every 10 say that pandemic-related stress has harmed their own mental health.
The news also comes as the U.S. saw a significant drop (an 11 percent seve-day average decline) in vaccinations over the past week – the first time of vaccination demand slipping since February. The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices met on Friday to consider whether the Johnson & Johnson vaccination should be resumed after being paused on April 13 after rare but serious instances of blood clots in six women.
On Thursday, Senate Republicans unveiled a five-year, $568 billion infrastructure plan as an alternative to President Biden’s eight-year, $2 trillion proposal. The GOP plan narrowed the definition of infrastructure and includes funds for roads and bridges, public transit, railroads, and drinking and wastewater. The plan, rather than set a goal of reducing emissions, instead focuses on securing infrastructure to withstand extreme weather events. User fees for electric vehicles and unspent COVID relief funding would pay for the increased spending. The bill also rejects the reversal of any of the 2017 tax cuts. Senator Capito stated that the plan was a starting point for negotiations. “We want to have this sooner than later — that’s why I went ahead and insisted that we go ahead and put something out that our members can talk about.” Senate Finance Chairman Wyden stated the “Republicans’ package is far too small to fund the investments the American people need and support – and highlighted that the package amounts to a fraction of the president’s $2 trillion-plus proposal. As such, the Republican proposal has no chance of becoming law in the Democratic-controlled Congress. But it could spur bipartisan negotiations on infrastructure spending that both parties claim to want.
On Thursday, by a vote of 216-208, the House passed a bill to grant statehood to Washington, D.C. It now heads to the Senate, where it is not expected to advance with the 60-vote filibuster threshold still intact. The House vote was the second time in history that added Washington, D.C., to the union; the first time was in June of last year.