Senate. This week, the Senate will vote on Cabinet nominations and could also vote on an organizing resolution that will allow committees to fill out their membership, evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans, with Democrats taking the gavels at all panels. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer also plans a floor vote on a budget resolution that will lay the ground for later consideration of reconciliation legislation to address the Covid pandemic. Next week the Senate will begin the impeachment trial of former President Trump.
House. Like the Senate, the House is planning to bypass markup in the Budget Committee and go straight to the floor this week with a budget resolution. Under a new schedule set out by Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, there will be no floor votes after Feb. 5 until the week of Feb. 22, with the next two weeks designated as committee work weeks.
Budget Resolution. The FY 2021 budget resolution that Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi unveiled this afternoon provides instructions directing various committees to write legislation that will be packaged into a reconciliation bill. In the House, floor debate will be governed by a rule that the Rules Committee is expected to approve Tuesday in anticipation of floor consideration on Wednesday. In the Senate, the situation is a bit more complicated. Under the Congressional Budget Act of 1974, Senate debate on the budget resolution and all amendments is limited to 50 hours, equally divided between Democrats and Republicans, so there can be no filibusters and, therefore, no 60-vote hurdles.
Amendments must be germane, but there is no limit on the number of amendments that can be offered. After debate time has expired, the Senate will move to a series of stacked votes on any amendments not considered during the 50 hours. Because this process can drag on for many hours, a Senate Budget Committee staffer in 1996 gave it the name we still use today, a Vote-a-Rama. Schumer envisions beginning debate on the budget resolution Wednesday, with final passage by Friday.
Assuming Democrats are able to round up simple majorities in both chambers to pass the budget resolution this week, the various committees can quickly begin to craft legislation designed to reflect the priorities set out by President Biden in his $1.9 trillion proposal. In the House, 12 committees have a deadline of Feb. 16 to report their sections of the reconciliation bill. In the Senate, timing of committee action could depend on the length of the impeachment trial.
It remains to be seen how much of Biden’s proposal will meet the strict rules that govern the reconciliation process. Also, Democrats must craft a package that will win the support of majorities in both chambers, no easy task given the narrow margins in the House and Senate. Because expanded unemployment benefits expire March 14, Democrats are looking to that date as a deadline for action.
Nominations Scorecard. On Tuesday, the Senate will vote on the nominations of Pete Buttigieg as Transportation Secretary and Alejandro Mayorkas as Homeland Security Secretary, having postponed the Mayorkas vote from today because of the weather. At the committee level, there will be hearings Tuesday in the Agriculture Committee on the nomination of Tom Vilsack to head the Agriculture Department and in the Veterans’ Affairs Committee on the nomination of Denis McDonough to be Secretary of Veterans Affairs.
On Wednesday, the Energy and Natural Resources Committee will vote on the nomination of Jennifer Granholm to be Energy Secretary; the Commerce Committee will vote on the nomination of Gina Raimondo as Commerce Secretary; and the Environment and Public Works Committee will hear from Michael Regan, Biden’s nominee to head EPA. The Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee will hold two hearings this week on Cabinet nominees – on Wednesday for Miguel Cardona to be Education Secretary and on Thursday for Marty Walsh to be Labor Secretary.
Committee Action of Note: