Groundhog Day in January?
This week begins much like the last. The Senate is taking a break from Build Back Better Act discussions and is instead focused on voting rights legislation, despite the strong likelihood of the vote failing. The debate on voting rights legislation also lends itself to continued discussions on changes to the Senate filibuster. Despite many conversations with Senate Democratic leadership and the Administration, Senators Manchin and Sinema have not changed their position on maintaining the Senate filibuster.
Conversations continue regarding a potential COVID-19 funding package. Additional dollars for testing is a priority for Democrats and the Administration, but the process is up for debate. Will the funding be included in a stand-alone emergency supplemental package or in an omnibus funding bill? Would an emergency supplemental include other items, such as disaster relief funding, that would help garner support from Republicans?
The only real deadline we are working with right now is February 18. That is the date the current continuing resolution runs out. The “four corners” (Democratic and Republican leaders of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees) held an initial meeting to discuss whether a bipartisan package can come together. The leaders said very little publicly after the meeting, but the absence of negative comments is promising. Don’t expect the announcement of a deal anytime soon, however—a month is sometimes seen as an eternity to those holding the pen.
Bottom line: Continue to keep an eye out on appropriations legislation. Other major health care actions in Congress appear to be stalled.
The House and Senate return to work this week with a renewed focus on funding the government before the continuing resolution expires on February 18. Debbie Curtis and Rodney Whitlock preview a possible bipartisan process and what provisions would be included in the fiscal year 2022 appropriations bill.