Here's the scoop on what's happening this week in Congress
This week the meeting between the House and Senate appropriations leadership to work out top-line numbers for FY’23 was postponed until April 25, when Congress returns after the Easter/Passover recess. Appropriators have said they’re eager to avoid a replay of last year, when a partisan standoff over spending levels delayed the FY’22 omnibus spending package.
This week the House, by a vote of 223-203, passed a $55 billion pandemic aid package (HR 3807) to help restaurants and business impacted by COVID-19. The legislation provides $42 billion to replenish a fund for struggling restaurants, food trucks, bars, caterers, brewpubs, and bakeries. The bill also includes $13 billion for other small businesses who suffered revenue losses of at least 40 percent during the pandemic. The Senate companion bill (S 4008) is not expected to be taken up until later this month.
The bipartisan $10 billion COVID-19 supplemental is bogged down in the Senate amid a dispute over a border control policy, with both parties at a loss on how the impasse will be resolved. The entire Republican Conference has united behind an effort to secure a vote on a provision that would prevent the Biden administration from ending the Title 42 public health directive that has allowed border patrol agents to prevent asylum-seeking migrants from entering the US. Senate Democratic leaders do not want to allow a Title 42 amendment vote because there are senators in their party who would vote for it.
This week, by a vote of 53-47, the Senate confirmed Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson. KBJ becomes the first Black woman to serve on the highest court in the nation and will be sworn in after Justice Stephen Breyer retires sometime this summer.
A panel of experts advising the FDA came out in general support of efforts to develop new COVID-19 vaccines tailored to variants. The committee wasn’t asked to vote on any specific recommendations, but instead discussed the framework for making decisions about when to change the viral strain or strains used for future vaccines, including boosters.
A fresh wave of Covid-19 cases swept through Washington, DC this week, infecting officials at the highest levels of government and disrupting business. Speaker Pelosi, Senators Collins and Warnock, and several cabinet officers, as well as members of the media, all announced they had tested positive and experiencing “mild symptoms” after attending the Gridiron dinner last weekend.
The average out-of-pocket cost was $347.00 for sexual assault survivors who received forensic exam services as part of a rape kit from 2016 to 2018. Under federal law, they weren’t supposed to pay anything at all. The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) — reauthorized last month as part of Congress’ omnibus spending bill — requires states to bear full out-of-pocket costs of forensic medical exams to receive federal funds for law enforcement agencies, courts, and victim services. Even if victims are fully reimbursed later, states that allow hospitals to charge patients are still violating the requirements laid out for them by the Justice Department to access those funds.
A Federal court has ordered the Defense Department to end a long-standing Pentagon policy forbidding enlisted military service members from being deploying outside the U.S., and being commissioned as officers, if they have HIV. Supporters stated that the ruling affirms that people receiving effective antiretroviral treatment for HIV are essentially healthy and pose no risk to others.
Dozens of Republican lawmakers are urging the U.S. to cancel government contracts with Citigroup after the company giant offered to pay the travel costs for employees seeking abortions. Citigroup provides credit cards to members of the House of Representatives to pay for flights, office supplies and other goods. Rep. Mike Johnson (R- Louisiana) and 44 other lawmakers are urging the House Chief Administrative Officer to cancel the contract, citing the Federal government policy of not funding abortions with taxpayer money.