Here's the scoop on what's happening this week in Congress
NCSD Policy Staff
December 3, 2021
On December 2, 2021, by a vote of 221-212, the House passed, the Continuing Resolution that will extend programs at the FY’21 rate until February 18th. The CR also includes $7 billion in emergency funds for Afghan evacuees. The Senate last evening, by a vote of 69-to-28, also passed the CR. Before Senate passage, an amendment, sponsored by Senators Marshall and Lee, to cut funding for vaccine mandates was defeated by a vote of 48-50. The bill that passed the Senate was identical to the CR that passed the House. The bill now goes to the President for signature.
A section-by-section summary of the bill can be found here
This week Senate Democrats began discussions with Senate Parliamentarian MacDonough regarding their latest immigration proposal. The bipartisan meeting discussed what is permitted under the so-called “Byrd rule.” Democrats put forth an immigration provision which would offer up to five-year work permits and deportation protections, while Republicans opposed the language. Top Senate Democrats have acknowledged that changes to the immigration section contained in the House-passed bill are likely necessary in order to comply with Senate rules. It is unclear if the Reconciliation bill will be voted on before the end of this year or if it will slip into 2022.
On November 30, 2021, Majority Leader Schumer and Minority Leader McConnell said they are still working on a solution for raising the federal debt ceiling, as the Congressional Budget Office delivered another warning that the government risks running out of money on December 15. At this time, there is no agreement on a path forward to raise the debt ceiling.
Other Happenings Around the Nation:
World AIDS Day
In honor of World AIDS Day, on December 1st President Biden announced a plan to update the U.S. strategy to combat the AIDS epidemic. The plan boosts money for research, increases access to treatment, and recognizes the role racism plays in inequitable access to treatment. It also includes the goal of reducing new HIV infection in the U.S. by 75% by 2025, and 90% by 2030.
On December 1, 2021, the Supreme Court justices asked whether a ruling in favor of Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban could call into question other seemingly settled constitutional rights, from the use of contraception to the criminalization of sodomy, to the more recently recognized right to same-sex marriage. A majority of the justices signaled during arguments that they will curtail or even overturn Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, even though they’ve been the law of the land for decades. The Supreme Court has recognized other implicit rights including several under the “right to privacy,” which itself isn’t explicitly in the text of the Constitution. Stakeholders supporting abortion rights called on Congress to take up legislation that would codify Roe v. Wade, and this week Senate Majority Leader Schumer pledged to bring the Women’s Health Protection Act to the floor.
Vaccines for Healthcare Workers: A Louisiana federal district court judge halted the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services COVID-19 vaccine requirement for all US health care workers until a lawsuit from 14 states over the rule has been addressed.
A new Covid pill: On November 30, 2021, a panel of experts convened by the FDA narrowly voted to recommend the agency authorize the Covid treatment developed by Merck and partner Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, after a vigorous debate about the risks and benefits of the first oral drug to combat the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
Winter Surge Plans: On December 2, 2021, the White House announced new plans to prepare for a possible winter surge in COVID-19 cases, outlining strategies to boost vaccination rates, increase testing capacity, and maintain federal requirements for international travelers. Following this week’s CDC recommendation that all adults get a booster shot, the administration pledged to continue efforts to make booster shots as accessible as possible and to deploy vaccines and boosters via community providers to better reach families with children. To increase testing rates, the administration will require private insurance carriers to reimburse beneficiaries for the cost of at-home COVID-19 test kits and expand free testing sites and test kit distribution nationwide. The administration also implemented travel restrictions from regions where omicron has been confirmed and tightened pre-departure testing requirements for inbound global travelers. More details of the Administration’s’ plan can be found here.