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Federal Legislative Update: Week of April 18, 2022

Congressional Outlook

The House and Senate remain in recess until the week of April 25.

When Congress returns, Congressional Democratic leadership is interested in reviving President Joe Biden’s social spending package, the Build Back Better (BBB) Act. The House passed its roughly $2 trillion version of the BBB Act (HR 5376) last November before Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) ended any prospects of it passaging in the upper chamber by saying he would not vote for the bill. Now, the package will likely feature trimmed down elements of the original plan, as Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) acknowledged what she called “limited” but “significant” legislation. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) believes a new Democratic Senator will deliver the death knell for any attempts at revitalizing BBB. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) is “unenthusiastic about tax hikes,” said McConnell at a Kentucky Chamber of Commerce event last week. The tax provisions in question are from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, enacted in 2017 during the Trump Administration, and are a key priority for Sen. Manchin, another critical voice in negotiations. Sen. Sinema is on record saying she is willing to participate in the talks, and with a 50-50 Senate, her vote is critical. As for how Democratic leadership may approach the bill, Sen. Schumer and White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain point to a reconciliation bill. Negotiations on the bill are currently in the beginning stages, and many hope to accomplish a spending deal by Memorial Day. As the 2022 midterms loom, it remains clear that Democrats are preparing to exhaust all options to pass a bill.

The Senate will likely vote soon on a $10 billion agreement for COVID-19 pandemic programs. The chamber decided to wait following a deal the week before recess. All 50 Senate Republicans voted against proceeding to the package on April 5 as many demanded a vote on the Biden Administration’s Title 42 border policy, which would allow asylum seekers to enter the U.S. southern border with Mexico beginning May 24. Missing from the agreed upon bill was $5 billion in global COVID relief, which Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) called “critical to our national security” while on CBS’ “Face the Nation” Sunday. Another item some lawmakers hope to renew is funding to assist the uninsured. Currently, funding allowing the federal government to cover the cost of COVID testing, treatment, and vaccination for the uninsured has expired. Lawmakers expect to vote on the pandemic package by next week.

A few other key items await Congress’ return. The House Appropriations Committee has a tentative schedule to markup its Fiscal Year (FY) 2023 spending bills. The month of June will feature subcommittee markups of all 12 annual bills from June 13 through June 22, and the full committee will hold markups the next week, from June 22 to June 30. Following the spring recess, the top appropriations in the House and Senate will meet to discuss discretionary spending levels for FY23. “It's still my intention to pass as many appropriations bills through the House of Representatives by the end of June as we can,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said. However, the bills will likely go to the floor beginning in mid-July due to the House calendar. Congress will also conference the two U.S. competitiveness bills, and the summer typically marks the start of the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) process.

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