Here's the scoop on what's happening this week in Congress
House Democrats have advanced the LHHS bill (HR 4502) out of its appropriations subcommittee. The proposal’s allocations total an approximate 28 percent increase over the current year and removes the Hyde amendment dealing with federal funding for abortion. At least one continuing resolution (CR) will be required in the fall. However, there is concern that if agreements can’t be reached by December that a CR would be needed to extend funding into the new calendar year. That would mean funding would continue at the levels approved by the Trump administration. “There was a strong case made to resist a CR because we lose a ton of money, about $90 billion, for our priorities,” Budget Chairman Yarmuth stated. “There’d be $1.9 billion for the border wall. I mean, it was basically Trump’s negotiation if we have a CR. We’re not interested in that.”
The House Rules Committee has also posted filed amendments for the seven-bill FY’22 appropriations bills that will be debated on the floor next week, including Labor-HHS (where federal funding for STD prevention resides); Agriculture/FDA; Energy and Water; Financial Services; Interior/EPA; Military Construction/VA and Transportation/HUD. The Rule Committee announced this Friday, July 23 as the deadline to file amendments – all of which can be found here.
On Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Schumer advanced a cloture vote on the motion to proceed to the legislative vehicle for the infrastructure package. He stated that the vote “is not a final deadline for legislative text” and “only a signal that the Senate is ready to get the process started.” Republicans are opposed to the vote at this time because negotiators are still finalizing the bill. There’s absolutely no reason to move forward with the vote today, “it does not advance the ball and does not achieve any goal except to alienate people” said Senator Collins. Negotiators said they had mostly resolved issues over how to pay for the bill, but Senator Romney said that Senators had not finalized which pots of unspent COVID-19 relief funding should be used as offsets. The group is still working on the proposed $48.5 billion in the package for transit. A 1982 law requires an 80/20 split on surface transportation and transit projects. Republicans argue the mandatory spending in the bipartisan framework would give transit a share of just over 30 percent.
Chair Leahy refused to say if he would evenly split earmarks in the FY’22 bills between the parties. But ranking member Shelby said that a 50-50 split would be necessary. Otherwise “the deal will probably collapse and there won’t be any earmarks period.”
The Delta variant is now responsible for 83 percent of sequenced Covid-19 cases in the U.S., according to the CDC. And in parts of the country with low vaccination rates, that figure could be as high as 90 percent. CDC Director Walensky said that the 83 percent represents a “significant increase” from the previous figure of 50 percent recorded the week of July 3. Along with the Delta spread, Covid-19 deaths have spiked by nearly 48 percent in the past week. “We know the majority of deaths could be prevented by vaccination,” Walensky said, as all three vaccines authorized in the U.S. continue to be highly effective against Delta and other variants.