Here's the scoop on what's happening this week in Congress
On September 30, 2021, the House (by a vote of 219-212) and the Senate (by a vote of 65-35) passed the continuing resolution (CR) to keep the Federal government operating through December 3, 2021. The President signed the bill into law prior to the 11:59 deadline. The bill extends funding for all Federal department and agencies at the same rate as provided in fiscal year 2021. In addition to extending current funding, the measure provides $28.6 billion to address Hurricanes and wildfires, $6.3 billion to provide resettlement assistance for Afghan refugees and $2.5 billion for care and shelter of undocumented migrant children. The original bill contained a provision to raise the debt ceiling, but that provision was not included in the final version of the bill.
On September 29, the House passed by a vote of 219-212 a bill to extend the debt ceiling through Dec. 16, 2022. Treasury Secretary Yellen warned congressional leaders that the federal government wouldn’t be able to obtain new loans beginning Oct. 18. Senate Majority Leader Schumer said the Senate will act on the House-passed bill next week. But the bill requires 60 votes for passage, and Senate Republicans vow to block its passage. Congress is working on other options to raise the debt ceiling prior to the mid-October deadline.
On September 30, House Speaker Pelosi ruled against putting the bipartisan infrastructure bill on the floor. House progressives objected in bringing up the bill until a deal on the larger reconciliation bill can be reached. Speaker Pelosi’s decision came after hours of negotiations, including a call with President Biden and meetings with members of the House Democratic caucus. The Senate passed the bill on August 10 by a vote of 69-30. The bill totals $1 trillion to rebuild America’s roads and bridges, trains, public transit systems, airport upgrades and broadband. They House may try and pass the bill on October 1, if they can secure the votes for passage.
The plan is paid in part for by repurposing unspent COVID-19 relief funds and public-private partnerships. A summary of the bill follows:
Democratic leaders continue to work on reaching an agreement on the reconciliation package. The current bill totals $3.5 trillion, with many House and Senate members voicing their objection on the hefty price tag. On September 30, Senator Manchin (D- WV) in talks with Senate Majority Chuck Schumer, proposed to limit the total cost of legislation to $1.5 trillion. Talks are ongoing on a final agreement.
On September 24, the US House passed legislation in response to a Texas law that bans abortion after six weeks. The Senate version of the bill, sponsored by Connecticut Democrat Richard Blumenthal, has 47 co-sponsors, although it’s unlikely to garner the support of Pennsylvania Democratic Senator Casey, who has previously voted for abortion restrictions, and West Virginia moderate Senator Manchin. The bill requires 60 votes for Senate passage and with no Republican support, the bill will fail. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to block the Texas law from taking effect, although the decision leaves the door open for future challenges.
On September 30, the Health Resources and Services Administration, in a Federal Register announcement, formally rescinds a proposed rule targeting community health clinics participating in the 340B Drug Pricing Program. The regulation, proposed by the Trump administration would have required community health centers to pass on the 340B discounts they get for insulin and Epi-Pens directly to patients. HRSA stated that the reason for removing the regulation is because of “excessive administrative costs and burdens that implementation would have imposed on health centers.”