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Federal Legislative Update: Week of January 18, 2022

Congressional Outlook

The House and Senate are in session this week. The Senate was originally scheduled for recess but, following the missed deadline for election and voting rights action, was called back to Washington by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY).

The House will consider 4 bills under suspension of the rules, including the Senate-passed Supplemental Impact Aid Flexibility Act of 2021 (S. 2959), which revises the Impact Aid Program application process for FY 2023, including requirements for local education agencies (LEAs) participating in the program to use the student count or data from FY 2022 applications for the FY 2023 applications. The House will also consider the Ensuring Veterans' Smooth Transition (EVEST) Act (H.R. 4673), which requires the Department of Veterans Affairs to automatically enroll veterans who are eligible for VA health care into the VA health care system after veterans leave the military. 

This week, the Senate’s focus will be voting rights. This will begin with a vote, as early as Wednesday, on the House-passed Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act (H.R. 5746), which is all but guaranteed to fail in the Senate, triggering the Democrats’ attempt to change the filibuster rules. Given opposition from Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), this rules change vote, which needs support from the entire 50-member Senate Democratic Caucus in order to pass, will also fail. Last week, the House created a legislative vehicle via a Senate-passed bill extending NASA leasing authority by combining the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2021 (S. 4) and the Freedom to Vote Act of 2021 (S. 2747), allowing the bill to be brought directly to the Senate floor and avoiding an initial filibuster from Senate Republicans.

“May we always strive to build a future of Dr. King’s glorious vision” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said in a statement on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. “We cannot and we will not rest until this legislation is enacted into law,” urging Senate passage of H.R. 5746. Following House passage on January 13, the legislation was received in the Senate, where Majority Leader Schumer set and missed his deadline of Martin Luther King Jr. Day to vote on the legislation. Passing voting rights legislation will prove to be a challenging task, with President Joe Biden mentioning his apprehension on Thursday. “I hope we can get this done. The honest-to-God answer is I don't know whether we can get this done,” Biden said following his trip to Capitol Hill.

With the Build Back Better (BBB) Act at a standstill in Congress, Friday marked the first time in six months that millions of families did not receive their monthly $300/ child payment via the Child Tax Credit. Sen. Manchin has long stated his opposition to the cost of the Child Tax Credit, with the Congressional Budget Office estimates it would cost $185 billion in Democrats’ current version of the BBB Act. Following action on voting rights, the White House is angling to introduce a pared down version of the BBB Act. The version could feature the removal of paid family leave, universal pre-kindergarten, and home health care, to name a few. The Child Tax Credit has been debated and many have talked of working on the issue in lieu of a larger package. “There has been no engagement on the part of Democratic leadership or the White House to discuss a bipartisan approach to helping kids in this country,” said Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT), who released his own plan back in February of 2021 and has called for independent action on extending the Child Tax Credit.

For the remainder of this week, several House committee hearings will be held, including: a Homeland Security Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Recovery hearing on “FEMA: Building a Workforce Prepared and Ready to Respond”; an Agriculture Committee hearing on “The State of the Rural Economy with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack”; and an Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on “A View from the States: Governors Respond to the Omicron Variant.” After a negotiated vote on a bill authorizing sanctions of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline transporting gas from Russia to Germany, (which failed), the Senate will also begin to vote to confirm some three dozen noncontroversial ambassadors and senior State Department officials nominated by President Biden after Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) agreed to drop his opposition.

Following her special election victory, Rep.-elect Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick (D-FL) will be sworn in by Speaker Pelosi this evening. Last week, Cherfilus-McCormick won a special election to replace the late Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL). Following the swearing in, the only open seat in the House of Representatives will be former California GOP Rep. Devin Nunes’ Central Valley seat.

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