Here's the scoop on what's happening this week in Congress
Despite intense Republican opposition, House majority leadership is looking to pass President Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-relief bill by the end of next week, then quickly speed through the Senate, and head to the floor under budget reconciliation.
The draft version of H.R. _ The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (Biden Coronavirus response package under budget reconciliation), sponsored by Rep. Yarmuth (D-KY) was released Friday afternoon. The House Budget Committee will gather on Monday, Feb. 22 at 1 pm to assemble and markup the number measure to be included in the $1.9 trillion package.
Next Steps: The Rules Committee will determine procedures governing debate over the package before it heads to the floor next week, then the two chambers will have to reconcile the differences in the two bills before a final bill is sent to the President’s desk
Democrats are meeting in a number of convened issue-specific caucus ahead of finalizing the bill to “maximize the dissemination of information” during reconciliation. Democratic leaders are considering adding small-business tax breaks to the bill to make raising the federal minimum wage more palatable for wavering senators.
Faster than expected, Moderna and Pfizer have agreed to sell more doses to the U.S. and deliver 300 million doses of each of their vaccines by the end of July. The Biden Administration accredits the faster timeline to its use of the Defense Production Act. The CDC’s vaccine tracker has come under recent criticism. Groups like the National Governors Association – as explained in their Feb. 15th letter to the President – explain how the current CDC tracking model has created logistical vaccine distribution confusion and that a significant amount of the national supply chain is currently “beyond the states’ control.” Governors have called on the CDC to update its vaccine tracking site to help the public better understand the distribution process.
The White House announced a multi-agency effort to increase testing capacity. The plan includes $1.6 billion as follow: $650 million to increase access to testing in non-medical settings, such as K-8 schools and homeless shelters; $815 million to support domestic manufacturing of supplies for COVID-19 testing; and $200 million for the CDC to increase its capacity to sequence the genomes of virus samples from 7,000 samples per week to 25,000. (Taylor-Strategies)
This week, Senate Appropriations Chair Patrick Leahy (D-VT) announced the full roster of the 12 subcommittees responsible for apportioning annual discretionary spending. The list includes:
On Friday afternoon Rep. Norman introduced the Earmark Elimination Act. See the press release for the Bill here.
This week, the Pentagon awarded $2.5 billion under the Defense Production Act for companies to respond to PPE shortages, testing, and support for the defense industrial base.