The Senate is in session while the House stands in recess this week. While the House will hold virtual committee hearings and markups, the Senate will consider a short-term continuing resolution (CR) and other legislative business.
This week, the Senate will work to pass a stopgap funding bill to avert a government shutdown with funding set to expire on Friday, February 18. Last Tuesday, the House passed the Further Additional Extending Government Funding Act (H.R. 6617), a spending bill funding the government until Friday, March 11. This three-week extension gives lawmakers additional time to negotiate and agree to a government spending bill for the remainder of Fiscal Year (FY) 2022. Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) placed a procedural hold on the measure late last week over concerns about a Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) drug harm reduction program. Other senators may also offer objections, including Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Mike Lee (R-UT), and Rand Paul (R-KY), who have stated they would not agree to spending bills that do not block government COVID-19 vaccine requirements. The Senate will likely negotiate on these issues as a government shutdown is highly unlikely.
Once the Senate resolves the CR, Congress will turn its attention to negotiations on an omnibus package for FY 2022. Last Wednesday, the House and Senate Appropriations Committee leaders announced an agreement on a framework regarding top-line spending levels. The deal gives Appropriations leaders for all 12 subcommittees the ability to begin drafting final bills for FY 2022. House Appropriations Committee Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Ranking Member Kay Granger (R-TX) worked with Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Pat Leahy (D-VT) and Ranking Member Richard Shelby (R-AL) on the deal, which includes equal increases for defense and nondefense spending and makes no changes to current policy riders. Regarding the agreement, Chair DeLauro said lawmakers will “proceed with great intensity to enact legislation making transformative investments to create good-paying American jobs, grow opportunity for the middle class, support the vulnerable who work hard, and protect our national security.” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) was optimistic in assessing the omnibus discussions and prospects of passage. “There's still more to go, but they're on a very good path," he told reporters. An omnibus package will have a significantly positive impact on the $1 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), which is dependent on the FY 2022 appropriations bill to allow more funds to be disbursed to states and local governments.
The Senate will likely vote on the Postal Service Reform Act of 2022 (H.R. 3076), which requires that U.S. Postal Service (USPS) retirees enroll in Medicare (lowering premium costs) and removes a previous requirement for the agency to pre-fund retiree health benefits. Last week, the bill received overwhelming bipartisan support in the House, passing 342-92. Currently, Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) plans to object to Majority Leader Schumer’s unanimous consent request to fix a minor House clerical error on the bill sent to the Senate. There may be a delay on the USPS reform vote until March with an objection to the motion. Today, senators will vote on the nomination of Robert Califf to be Commissioner of Food and Drugs at HHS.
For the remainder of this week, several virtual House committee hearings will be held, including a Small Business Subcommittee on Rural Development, Agriculture, Trade, and Entrepreneurship hearing on “The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act’s Benefits for Small Businesses;” and a Ways and Means Subcommittee on Select Revenue Measures hearing on “Examining the Economic Impact of Federal Infrastructure Investment.” The Senate will hold several hearings, including: a Finance Committee hearing on “Protecting Youth Mental Health: Part II - Identifying and Addressing Barriers to Care;” a Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee hearing “regarding several bills including S. 1617,” which provides disaster assistance to rural communities; an Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee hearing to examine “the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Renewable Fuel Standard Program;” and an EPW Committee hearing to consider the EPA nominations of David Uhlmann to be an Assistant Administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance and Carlton Waterhouse to be Assistant Administrator for the Office of Solid Waste.
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