Here's the scoop on what's happening this week in Congress
NCSD Policy Staff
January 14, 2022
On January 13, 2022, House and Senate Appropriations Chairs DeLauro and Leahy and Ranking Members Granger and Shelby met to try and set the parameters to begin negotiations on the FY’22 appropriations bills. Republicans continue to demand that Democrats set aside new policy riders and include longstanding measures such as the Hyde amendment, which restricts federal funding for abortion, before they begin to discuss funding levels. Democrats say they should start with funding levels before negotiating policy riders. That months-old disagreement wasn’t settled yesterday, though negotiators said the conversation was productive. If no agreement is reached, when the current continuing resolution (CR) expires on February 18, 2002, another CR will be required to keep the government funded until an agreement can be reached.
Reconciliation/Build Back Better Bill
Democrats have paused work on the BBB, as they shift their attention to election overhaul legislation. Some of the provisions contained in the current BBB could possibly be included in the FY’22 appropriations bill, but with no decision yet on that bill, discussion on the BBB provisions will have to wait until overall spending levels have been reached.
On January 13, 2022, the House passed legislation to modify voting options, election procedures, and campaign finance rules by a vote of 220-203. But the bill does not have the votes to pass the Senate. Senator Sinema, D-Ariz., said she supports the underlying voting rights legislation, but not a rules change to allow Democrats to pass the bill with a simple majority. West Virginia Democrat Manchin agrees with Sinema’s sentiments. On January 18, 2022, Senate Democratic leaders will take up the bill which will allow them to debate the package in the Senate without Republican support, however, 60 votes are needed to end debate. Majority Leader Schumer stated that if Republicans block the bill, the Senate will debate and vote on filibuster rule changes.
Other Legislation and Happenings Around the Nation
On January 13, 2021, the Supreme Court blocked President Biden’s push to get more people vaccinated by rejecting an Occupational Safety and Health Administration rule that would have required 80 million workers to get shots or periodic tests. The court allowed a separate rule to take effect requiring shots for workers in nursing homes, hospitals and other facilities that receive Medicare and Medicaid payments from the federal government.
The Biden Administration issued a directive that will require private health insurance plans to cover up to eight over-the-counter COVID-19 tests per consumer each month, beginning on Jan. 15. Individuals who purchase home tests outside of their insurers’ preferred network must be reimbursed up to $12 per test, but plans can “provide more generous reimbursement up to the actual price of” more pricey tests, according to the guidance. The guidance comes as the Administration has been criticized in recent weeks while the omicron variant surges and tests have been hard to find. In another testing concern, some evidence suggests omicron may produce more false negative results — or at least seemingly delayed positive results — in rapid antigen tests, with medical experts calling for more studies.
The CDC raised to “Level Four: Very High” the advisory for Canada, telling Americans they should avoid travel, while the State Department also issued its “Level Four: Do Not Travel” advisory for Canada citing extremely high COVID-19 cases.
Pfizer will have a COVID-19 vaccine that specifically targets the Omicron variant ready by March. Pfizer’s CEO said the company has already begun manufacturing a new version of its COVID-19 vaccine that aims to protect recipients against Omicron.