Here's the scoop on what's happening this week in Congress
As of Monday, February 22, officially half a million Americans have died from our nation’s response to COVID-19. The United States leads all countries in deaths – which globally have surpassed 2.5 million.
This week the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted Jonson & Jonson’s coronavirus vaccine emergency use authorization. At first glance, the vaccine appears (statistically) to be less effective than its Moderna and Pfizer counterparts – at 66 percent efficacy. However, the vaccine clearly has its advantages, including the need for only one administration (one shot) for a full immune response and the vaccine can be stored at higher temperatures – easing some logistical challenges.
Toward the end of the week, Democrats and Republicans had to make their case to the Senate parliamentarian whether parts of the Biden Administration’s $1.9 trillion package are permitted. The primary issues at hand were whether the inclusion of a $15/hour minimum wage, and whether the $450 billion in formerly classified discretionary spending will be able to squeeze through.
Congressional Democrats are considering the earmarking process and whether to revive them in the appropriations space. In order to do so, Senate Republicans would have to amend their conference rules to remove a two-year-old permanent earmarking ban in order to advance nonfrivolous earmarks.
See the transcript of hearing statements from the Feb. 24th Hearing on the Public Health Infrastructure
Religious Exemptions to Public Health Bills: In response to COVID-19, the 2021 state legislative season is seeing a significant number of bills that would limit the application of emergency public health restrictions to places of worship or exempt places of worship altogether. If you are interested in learning more or getting involved in this issue in your state, contact Alison Gill with American Atheists, Inc. who is coordinating action steps.
The President’s choice to lead the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Neera Tenden’s, nomination has been thrown into further flux as more and more Senators, both Democrats and Republicans – including West Virginia Democratic leader Joe Manchin – express their unwillingness to support her confirmation. Other movement includes,