The House and Senate are in session this week. Congress will address the upcoming Friday, March 11 deadline for government funding, including the White House’s request for nearly $33 billion in collective assistance to Ukraine and to address the COVID-19 pandemic.
The House will consider 6 bills under suspension of the rules, including the Senate-passed National Cybersecurity Preparedness Consortium Act of 2021 (S. 658), which provides Department of Homeland Security assistance to state and local governments to train for, and respond to, cybersecurity risks. The House will also vote on the Homeland Security Capabilities Preservation Act (HR 5615), which directs the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to create a plan to make federal assistance available to certain urban areas that previously received Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) funding to preserve homeland security capabilities related to acts of terrorism. Today, the Senate will vote on the motion to invoke cloture on the House-passed Postal Service Reform Act of 2022 (HR 3076), which addresses the finances and operations of the U.S. Postal Service. The Senate will also vote on Maria Pagan to be Deputy U.S. Trade Representative and Ed Gonzalez to be Director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Congress has until Friday, March 11, to work out a deal on a Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 omnibus spending package and avoid a government shutdown. Congressional leaders need to complete their final negotiations on the $1.5 trillion 12-bill package in the early part of this week to ensure there is enough time to clear procedural hurdles and bring a vote on the measure, first in the House and then in the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said in a “Dear Colleague” letter today that lawmakers were working on finishing the omnibus package over the weekend, which would include increases in aid to Ukraine and combatting COVID-19. While Sen. Schumer expressed optimism, there are several questions still in need of answers. House Democrats currently plan to vote on the omnibus package by Wednesday, before their legislative retreat in Philadelphia, leaving a few days to pass it in the Senate. House Democratic leadership has concerns over securing enough Democrats who are upset over increased defense spending. This past Friday, ten Senate Republicans threatened to hold up the government funding deal, which would prompt a government shutdown, unless they receive a vote on an amendment to defund the Biden Administration’s vaccine mandate for medical workers, military personnel, federal employees, and federal contractors. The Senate will need Unanimous Consent to fast-track the bill to meet Friday’s deadline, making the Senate GOP’s threats even more relevant. If the omnibus deal falls through, Congress will likely shift to another short-term Continuing Resolution (CR) in order to avoid a government shutdown.
Yesterday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) shared a Dear Colleague letter regarding an aid package to Ukraine. Congress and the White House are focused on ensuring no conflict with Russia, and President Biden has reiterated his intent not to send U.S. troops into Ukraine. The White House’s supplemental funding letter also requested $22.5 billion to support COVID-19 efforts to accompany the Ukrainian aid request. A top Republican negotiator, Senate Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Richard Shelby (R-AL), said, “oh no, that’s too much,” in response to the funding request. Many Republicans want the White House to give an account of where the government has appropriated relief dollars already provided. Funds requested for COVID-19 would immediately bolster COVID response efforts, including antiviral treatments and testing initiatives. The Biden Administration also hopes to invest in identifying vaccines to help against future variants and accelerate vaccinations globally. “I urge Congress to address these critical and urgent needs as part of a comprehensive government funding bill ahead of the March 11th funding deadline,” said Acting Director of the Office of Management and Budget Shalanda Young.
For the remainder of this week, several House committee hearings will be held, including a Judiciary hearing titled “Reimagining Public Safety in the COVID-19 Era;” an Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on “Charging Forward: Securing American Manufacturing and Our EV Future;” a Financial Services Committee hearing to discuss “The Inflation Equation: Corporate Profiteering, Supply Chain Bottlenecks, and COVID-19;” and an Agriculture Committee hearing on “A 2022 Review of the Farm Bill: Rural Development.” Several Senate committees will also hold hearings, including an Armed Services Committee hearing to discuss “The U.S. Space Command and Strategic Command review of the Defense Authorization Request for Fiscal Year 2023.”
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