Here's the scoop on what's happening this week in Congress
November 12, 2021
Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill
Legislation which contains the largest investment in America’s infrastructure since the creation of the Interstate Highway System in the 1950s, will be signed into law by the President in a bipartisan signing ceremony at the White House on November 15. The package contains funding to rebuild roads and bridges, eliminate the nation’s lead pipes, expand access to high-speed internet in rural communities, and take steps to address climate change. The bill passed the House on November 5 by a vote of 228-206 vote. Six House Democrats voted against the measure, while13 Republicans supported it. The bill passed the Senate in August by a vote of 69-30. Some of the key provisions in the eight-year bill includes:
$110 billion in new spending for roads and bridges
$73 billion for power grid upgrades
$66 billion for rail and Amtrak
$65 billion for broadband expansion
$55 billion for clean water
$39 billion for transit
Reconciliation/Build Back Better Act (BBB)
After the passage of the Bipartisan infrastructure bill, under an agreement struck by President Biden, Speaker Pelosi, and the Congressional Black Caucus, the House is hoping to vote on the BBB as early as the week of November 15. The bill includes provisions to expand access to health care, education, paid family leave, home care, childcare, public housing, and climate change. However, House moderates are continuing to insist that the bill be fully scored by Congressional Budget Office (CBO) before they vote on the package. According to the CBO Director, the agency will provide “a cost estimate for the entire bill as soon as practicable.” The agency is expected to release estimates for individual titles in the bill as they are completed, but other estimates may not be available next week, which could delay the House vote on the legislation. After House passage, the Senate will take up the bill, but Senate Action will be a long-drawn-out process, with hundreds of amendments expected to be offered. Senators Manchin and Sinema are also still opposed to both the size of the legislation and many of the provisions contained in the House version of the legislation.
Pfizer Seeks FDA Approval for Boosters for all adults: On November 9, 2021, Pfizer Inc and BioNTech requested approval from the FDA for emergency use authorization to administer booster shots of their COVID-19 vaccine in all adults.
US Opens its Borders: On November 8, 2021, the US will reopen its borders to fully vaccinated travelers, lifting pandemic-era restrictions that have been in place for 18 months. The US will welcome only visitors who are vaccinated. Unvaccinated travelers will continue to be banned from crossing the borders with Mexico or Canada. Those who were never banned from traveling across the land borders, including commercial drivers and students, will also need to show proof of vaccination when crossing into the US starting in January, giving them some time to adjust to the new rules.
Vaccine Mandates for Private Companies: On November 6, 2021, a federal appeals court suspended the Biden administration’s new vaccine requirement for private companies. The decision was issued by a panel of three judges in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in Louisiana. The judges wrote that there was “cause to believe there are grave statutory and constitutional issues with the mandate,” staying the order while the court assesses it in more depth. The mandate is now temporarily halted while the legal challenges make their way through the courts. On November 8, the Biden administration asked a federal court to lift the order that blocked the OSHA rule mandating that larger employers require workers to get COVID-19 vaccines or submit to regular testing.
Antiviral Pill: A panel of the FDA’s outside advisers is scheduled to meet on November 30 to weigh a potential emergency use authorization for molnupiravir, an antiviral drug developed by Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics that recently won authorization in the United Kingdom.