The House and Senate are in session this week.
The House will consider 6 bills under suspension of the rules, including the Senate-passed Promoting Rigorous and Innovative Cost Efficiencies for Federal Procurement and Acquisitions (PRICE) Act of 2021 (S. 583), which directs the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to publish an annual report on projects that have used innovative procurement techniques in an attempt to improve contracting in the federal government. The House will also debate and vote on the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act of 2021 (HR 4445), which states that agreements requiring arbitration or banning class actions cannot be enforced in cases involving sexual assault or harassment. Today, the Senate will vote on the nomination of Ebony Scott and Donald Tunnage to be Associate Judges of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. It is expected that the Senate will have more nomination votes on Tuesday.
Congress is shifting its attention to federal government funding, with the current Continuing Resolution (CR) set to expire in 11 days. Today, the House will release a stopgap funding bill to avoid a government shutdown. The short-term stopgap spending bill could receive a vote as early as Tuesday and will reportedly maintain current Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 spending levels through Friday, March 11. There is uncertainty surrounding when the Senate will take up the measure, with a vote potentially taking place during the week of February 14 after House passage this week. If Congress passes a CR through March 11, lawmakers will use the extra three weeks to reconcile differences and agree on the contours of a full FY 2022 funding package. Negotiations on the omnibus package continued last week and through the weekend with little progress, prompting leaders to hint to the short-term approach. Senate Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Richard Shelby (R-AL) shared with reporters Thursday that compromises on the appropriations topline numbers had not gone anywhere. “We haven’t resolved anything yet,” Shelby said. Slowing the FY 2022 appropriations process are disagreements on “parity” levels for defense and non-defense spending increases and which policy riders should be allowed to remain in the package.
Senate Democrats’ plans for President Biden’s Build Back Better (BBB) Act and Supreme Court nominee received a setback last week. On Tuesday, Senator Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM) had undergone surgery to ease swelling for a stroke he had. The expectation is that he will make a full recovery as stated by his Chief of Staff in a press release. The Senator’s reported recovery time is four to six weeks, barring any major setbacks. Democrats will need to alter the legislative session given the Senate’s 50-50 dynamic. “We do not anticipate any difficulties, Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin (D-IL) told reporters regarding the Supreme Court nominee process.
A group of bipartisan senators are working to overhaul the Electoral Count Act. This law, dating back to 1887, mandates how Congress counts the 538 Electoral College votes from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. A group of senators, led by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), expressed optimism on passing a reform package on this issue. Last week, the House passed, by a vote of 222-210, the America COMPETES Act of 2022 (H.R. 4521), which authorizes $190 billion for U.S. technology and research to compete with China and provides $52 billion to increase U.S. semiconductor production. The Senate will take up the House bill and pass an amended version of the package, although the timeframe for passing the bill may depend on the amount of opposition from Senate Republicans. The House and Senate will then likely enter a formal conference committee to agree on a final package for Congress to consider.
For the remainder of this week, several House committee hearings will be held, including a Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment hearing on “Proposals for a Water Resources Development Act of 2022: Stakeholder Priorities.” The Senate will hold several hearings including: an Energy and Natural Resources (ENR) Committee hearing on “The Opportunities and Challenges in using Clean Hydrogen;” an ENR Committee nomination hearing for Maria Robinson to be an Assistant Secretary of Energy (Office of Electricity), Dr. Joseph DeCarolis to be Administrator of the Energy Information Administration, and Laura Daniel-Davis to be Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Land and Minerals Management; and a Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee nomination hearing for Gigi Sohn to be a Member of the Federal Communications Commission.
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