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Federal Legislative Update: Week of October 18, 2021

Congressional Outlook

The House and Senate are in session this week.

The House returns Tuesday and will consider 18 bills under suspension of the rules, including the Drug-Free Communities Pandemic Relief Act (H.R. 654), which authorizes waiving the matching funds for programs that reduce substance use among youth. The House will also consider the Family Violence Prevention and Services Improvement Act of 2021 (H.R. 2119), which expands and reauthorizes federal domestic violence prevention and services grants at $270 million annually for each of Fiscal Years 2022 through 2026; and the Providing Urgent Maternal Protections (PUMP) for Nursing Mothers Act (H.R. 3110), which expands workplace accommodations for nursing mothers. The House may also consider three additional suspension bills, including the Free Veterans from Fees Act (H.R. 1029) which waives National Park Service permitting fees for veterans’ demonstrations and other special events.

The Senate will vote on one nomination made by President Joe Biden, Gustavo Gelpi to be U.S. Circuit Judge for the First Circuit. Several Senate committees will hold votes on nominees, including: Brad Crabtree to be an Assistant Secretary of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management at the Department of Energy; Willie Phillips to be a Member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission; Charles Sams to be Director of the National Park Service; Guy Kiyokawa to be Assistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs; Rear Admiral Nancy Hann to be Director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Corps and Director of the Office of Marine and Aviation Operations; and Christopher Coes to be Assistant Secretary for Transportation Policy. On Wednesday, the Senate Environment and Public Works committee will hold a hearing on “Evaluating the Federal Response to the Persistence and Impacts of PFAS Chemicals on our Environment.”

For the remainder of the week, the House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on “Enhancing Public Health: Legislation to Protect Children and Families.” The House Natural Resources Subcommittees on Oversight and Investigations and Energy and Mineral Resources held a field hearing Monday on the “Southern California Oil Leak: Investigating the Immediate Effects on Communities, Businesses, and the Environment.”

Senate Democrats are eager to vote on the Freedom to Vote Act (S. 2747), which addresses voter registration and voting access, election integrity and security, redistricting, and campaign finance. This bill, combined with the Biden Administration’s economic agenda, are efforts that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will certainly look to slow. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has given an end-of-the-month deadline for progress on the Build Back Better (BBB) Act, which clears the way for a House vote on the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (H.R. 3684), which the Senate passed on August 10. On Monday, Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Pat Leahy (D-VT) released the nine remaining Fiscal Year 2022 Appropriations bills and lists of approved earmarks (listed within each “Explanatory Statement” document). Back in early August, the Energy & Water Development, Military Construction—Veterans Affairs, and Agriculture—Rural Development Appropriations bills were marked up and passed out of the Committee. Congress could go the route of passing all 12 appropriations bills by December 3rd when the current Continuing Resolution (CR) expires, or pass another CR for a week or two to provide the House and Senate more time.

Last Thursday, the Congressional Progressive Caucus sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) regarding the BBB Act, arguing that lawmakers should lower the number of years of funding allocated for each program rather than trimming the number of programs included. The letter highlights four key points of their strategy which include: 1) shorter, transformative investments; 2) touch people’s lives immediately; 3) provide universal benefits to ensure lasting change; and 4) keep the President’s commitment to racial equity. Speaker Pelosi will have to manage divisions among House Democrats to meet the October 31st deadline she and other House Democratic leadership set to vote on the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

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