The House Is Back, but Is Anything Happening?
The second session of the 117th Congress convenes today, but there’s isn’t much on the agenda. The House has a few non-healthcare-related votes scheduled but is noticeably quiet this week. The biggest news is that Speaker Pelosi has invited President Biden to give the State of the Union address on March 1, a little later than normal. This later date may be partly due to pandemic concerns, but it also provides time for Congress and the Administration to finish the 2022 fiscal year spending bill by February 18, the deadline for either another continuing resolution or an omnibus budget agreement. This date also gives the Biden Administration more time to draft its 2023 budget request, which we expect to be released following the State of the Union.
In the Senate, there will be a few big events this week. First, the long-awaited votes on election and voting rights reforms are expected, even though the legislation likely will not advance. Senators Manchin and Sinema still are publicly opposed to changing Senate rules, but Majority Leader Schumer is determined to press on. Similarly, Sen. Manchin does not appear to be reconsidering his opposition to the Build Back Better Act (BBB). In fact, it has been reported that he no longer supports the counteroffer he made to President Biden before Christmas. Despite this opposition, Majority Leader Schumer has repeatedly stated that BBB will come to the Senate floor, but it is not clear when or in what form.
The Senate HELP Committee will meet this week to advance the nomination of Dr. Robert Califf to be administrator of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), a job he previously held in the Obama Administration. While it initially appeared that his nomination would sail through, Senate Republicans are now raising concerns. These concerns are less about Dr. Califf and more about recent FDA actions with which they strongly disagree. His nomination is still expected to advance, but the path forward is not as smooth as it once was.
Bottom line: Expect some action in the Senate this week, but significant healthcare action continues to be on hold.
The Supreme Court is considering two rules that the Biden administration has proposed on requiring COVID vaccinations in the workplace. Those decisions could be made this week. As COVID-19 cases continue to surge around the country, the pandemic needs are once again the driving focus in Washington. Debbie Curtis and Rodney Whitlock outline the pandemic is significantly impacting the business of our leaders, from how Congress is meeting to the president’s budget planning.