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Federal Legislative Update: Week of June 1, 2021

Congressional Outlook

The House and Senate are both in recess this week. The Senate returns to Washington on June 7 while the House returns on June 14 (however, House committees will hold virtual hearings and markups next week).

On May 28, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) sent a Dear Colleague letter to the 50-member Senate Democratic Caucus outlining the legislative agenda for the three weeks the Senate is in session during June. In addition to taking a final vote on the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (S. 1260), the Senate will consider the House-passed Paycheck Fairness Act (H.R. 7), which enacts more stringent standards and larger penalties for claims of pay discrimination by employers; and the confirmation of several of President Joe Biden’s judicial nominees, including Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. The Senate may also consider House-passed gun safety and LGBTQ equality legislation. And finally, during the week of June 21, the Senate will vote to consider the For the People Act of 2021 (S. 1), which addresses voter access, election integrity and security, campaign finance, and ethics for the three branches of the federal government. Leader Schumer ends the letter by stating that “As the President continues to discuss infrastructure legislation with Senate Republicans, the committees will hold hearings and continue their work on the Build Back Better agenda – with or without the support of Republican Senators. We must pass comprehensive jobs and infrastructure legislation this summer.”

On Wednesday, President Biden will meet with Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee Ranking Member Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) at the White House as part of the Biden Administration’s bipartisan negotiations with Senate Republicans on a potential infrastructure deal. The White House and Senate Republicans have been in negotiations for several weeks on a package to invest in the nation’s infrastructure but remain divided on the size of the package, how to pay for it and even what infrastructure means. Capito last met with Biden at the White House along with other GOP senators on May 13, and White House officials have been engaging with Senate staff since. On May 27, Senate Republicans unveiled a $928 billion counterproposal after Biden lowered his $2.25 trillion offer to $1.7 trillion on May 21. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said on Sunday that the Biden Administration is “getting pretty close to a fish-or-cut-bait moment” on the infrastructure talks with Republicans and said there needed to be “clear direction” on infrastructure by June 7, when senators return to Washington.

On June 9, the House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee will markup its version of a five-year surface transportation reauthorization bill, which provides investments in U.S. roads, bridges, rail, and public transit. Planned votes last week on the bill were delayed due to the ongoing review of 2,380 “Member Designated Project” highway and transit project requests submitted by 318 House members for consideration to be included in the upcoming legislation. White House aides are reportedly eyeing the June 9 markup as a new soft deadline to figure out which path they will be taking on infrastructure negotiations with Republicans.

On Tuesday, voters in New Mexico’s 1st congressional district (centered in Albuquerque) head to the polls to vote in the special election to select Interior Secretary Deb Haaland’s successor in the House for the remainder of the 117th Congress. Democratic state representative Melanie Stansbury is running against Republican state senator Mark Moores in a district President Biden won by 23 percentage points in 2020. Currently, there are 219 Democrats and 211 Republicans serving in the House (with 5 vacancies), so the outcome of the NM-1 special election will pad the current composition of either party in a closely divided House.

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