Federal Legislative Update: Week of March 14, 2022
The House and Senate are in session this week.
The House will consider 10 bills under suspension of the rules, including a vote on the Modernizing Access to our Public Land Act or the MAPLand Act (HR 3113), which directs the Department of the Interior, the Forest Service, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to develop standards to ensure compatibility among federal databases for collecting and disseminating data related to federal lands. The House will vote on the Forced Arbitration Injustice Repeal (FAIR) Act of 2022 (HR 963), which prohibits pre-dispute arbitration agreements from being valid or enforceable if they require arbitration of an employment, consumer, antitrust, or civil rights dispute. The House will also vote on the Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair (CROWN) Act of 2022 (HR 2116), which prohibits discrimination against people with hair styles associated with a particular race or national origin. The Senate will vote on Shalanda Young to be Director of the Office of Management and Budget and Susan Grundmann to be a Member of the Federal Labor Relations Authority for a term of five years expiring July 1, 2025. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is also expected to force a vote this week to try to end the federal mask mandate requirements on public transportation.
Last week, Congress took significant steps to secure government funding for Fiscal Year (FY) 2022. After a delay over COVID-19 spending, Congress passed the $1.5 trillion Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2022 (HR 2471), an omnibus spending bill funding the federal government for the remainder of FY 2022. The spending bill notably includes $13.6 billion in aid to Ukraine and is the first spending bill since 2010 to include Community Project Funding requests (i.e., earmarks). There were concerns among several House Democrats regarding COVID-19 spending allocations and offsets, causing House Democratic leadership to remove $15 billion in new relief funds from the bill. This forced Congress to pass the Extension of Continuing Appropriations Act of 2022 (H.J.Res.75), which the President signed Friday, funding the government on a four-day continuing resolution (CR) through Tuesday, March 15. This gave lawmakers enough time to resolve differences and work through other procedural matters to pass the full-year spending package on Thursday. President Biden will sign the bill into law by Tuesday.
Looming large this week is Congress’ attempt to salvage COVID-19 preparedness funding, which leaders decided to pull last minute from the FY22 omnibus package. The initial rumor was that the Biden Administration would ask for $30 billion before requesting $22.5 from Congress to be able to complete vaccine research, secure additional tests, and prepare for future variants. Following negotiations, Congress trimmed that funding down to $15 billion and removed all money when House Democrats disagreed on how to offset the funding. The White House commented on the removal of the funds, saying “failing to take action now will have severe consequences for the American people.” The House will continue work on a standalone bill for COVID-19 funding, the COVID Supplemental Appropriations Act (H.R. 7007), this week. While the House works on a new proposal, many believe there is a small path to passing a COVID package in the Senate. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House will attempt to vote on “at least part” of COVID-19 funding this week. Separately, senators will finish courtesy calls and meetings to set up the Supreme Court nomination hearing for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, which will begin next Monday, March 21. Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin (D-IL) still believes the Senate will finish the Supreme Court nomination process by mid-April and hopes for a four-day hearing schedule next week.
For the remainder of this week, the House will hold several committee hearings, including a Transportation and Infrastructure hearing on “Proposals for a Water Resources Development Act of 2022: Members' Day Hearing;” a Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on “The Future of Medicine: Legislation to Encourage Innovation and Improve Oversight;” and a Agriculture Committee hearing on “A 2022 Review of the Farm Bill: The Role of USDA Programs in Addressing Climate Change.” Several Senate committees will also hold hearings, including a Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing to discuss “S. 3799, the PREVENT Pandemics Act to prepare and respond to existing and emerging threats and viruses;” a Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee hearing to examine “Advancing Public Transportation under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law;” and an Environment and Public Works Committee hearing to discuss “Oversight of the Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund Formula.”
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