The House and Senate are in recess this week and next, returning to Washington the week of April 25. While Congress is in recess, many items await their attention, including the U.S. competitiveness bill, COVID-19 relief funding, additional Ukraine aid, and new negotiations on the Build Back Better Act, among other legislative items.
On Thursday, the Senate confirmed Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson for a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court as an Associate Justice by a bipartisan vote of 53-47. Three Republican Senators, Susan Collins (R-ME), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Mitt Romney (R-UT), joined all 50 Democrats in confirming Judge Jackson. Following her historical confirmation, Judge Jackson gave a speech on the White House South Lawn Friday and said, “I have dedicated my career to public service because I love this country and our Constitution and the rights that make us free.” The confirmation process, in total, took about six weeks, and Judge Jackson will replace Justice Stephen Breyer beginning in early summer, once he formally resigns.
Lawmakers will conference differences between the Senate-passed U.S. Innovation and Competition Act of 2021 (S. 1260) and the House-passed America COMPETES Act (HR 4521), which would aid domestic innovation initiatives and offer billions for semiconductor manufacturing. These negotiations have faced delays and remain a top priority for congressional leaders. Over 100 members of Congress will take part in the conferencing between the two chambers hoping to resolve differences on the package to aid U.S. high-tech research and manufacturing to compete with China. The legislation faces a long road to the President’s desk for signage, as it impacts many Committee jurisdictions.
After an agreement in principle on a new $10 billion COVID-19 relief package early last week, a pandemic ruling on immigration is now at the center of delays to the legislation in the Senate. Title 42, as it is known, allows the U.S. to turn away asylum seekers “in the interest of public health.” On April 1, the Biden Administration announced it would no longer enforce Title 42 beginning May 23. The White House has seen criticism from both sides of the aisle on the decision to end enforcement of the ruling, with the ability to handle the spike in asylum seekers along the southern border as the primary concern. Senate Republicans voted to block the advancement of the $10 billion COVID relief package, an agreement that Leader Schumer and Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) brokered. Many senators have demanded votes on amendments to address their various concerns, including the reinstatement of the Title 42 border policy.
A chief cornerstone of the Biden Administration’s legislative agenda is the Build Back Better (BBB) Act. The social and climate bill’s prospects of passage ended when Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) stated last December that he would not support the legislation. Senators will take what many believe to be the last possible chance at passing the package in the months leading up to the November midterm election. The tax and spending plan will most likely feature a smaller price tag, meeting Manchin’s demands, and lawmakers will have to work through other remaining challenges and differences on the bill. Rumors of new BBB negotiations come as another senator, Krysten Sinema (D-AZ), who voiced her concerns on the first BBB negotiations, shared with donors her belief that reworking a bill is unlikely.
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