House. On the legislative schedule this week is consideration of the For the People Act (H.R. 1) that establishes new protections for elections, and the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act that addresses national policing standards. In the middle of the week, there will be a break for Democrats to hold their Issues Conference, which will run from noon on Tuesday through 6 p.m. on Wednesday. Topics on the agenda include health care policy, the climate crisis, and immigration reform. Vice President Harris will address the conference on Tuesday, and President Biden will speak on Wednesday.
Senate. The Senate today confirmed Miguel Cardona as Education Secretary and will vote later this week on Gina Raimondo to be Commerce Secretary.
Nominations Scorecard. The Senate Judiciary Committee today cleared the nomination of Merrick Garland to be Attorney General.
Reconciliation. At about 2 a.m. on Saturday, the House approved President Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan. The 219-212 vote was along party lines, with only two Democrats – Reps. Kurt Schrader (Ore.) and Jared Golden (Maine) – joining Republicans in opposition to the measure. The House bill includes provisions to phase in an increase in the minimum wage, but the Senate parliamentarian has advised that those provisions do not meet the requirements imposed by the Byrd Rule and, therefore, cannot be included in the Senate’s version.
In an effort to get around the parliamentarian’s guidance, Senate Finance Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) on Friday morning said he had a “Plan B” that would use the tax code to, in effect, pressure companies to raise the minimum wage. Under Wyden’s plan, a 5% penalty would be imposed “on big corporations’ total payroll if any workers earn less than a certain amount.” No additional details were released, but by Sunday night, the plug was pulled on the plan as it became apparent that it did not have the support of all 50 Democratic Senators.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said today the Senate will take up the reconciliation bill this week, and there is speculation that floor debate, which is limited to 20 hours, could start as soon as Wednesday. With no Republicans expected to vote for the measure, Schumer has to ensure he has all 50 Democrats on board.
He and his team are also going through the House bill’s provisions to make sure they clear the parliamentary hurdles set up by the Byrd Rule. This includes dropping the House’s minimum wage proposal. Once debate time has expired, there will be a lengthy vote-a-rama to vote on numerous points of order and amendments.
FY 2022 Budget. Even though Congress has not yet passed the first reconciliation bill, there is considerable speculation about the timing and content of a second bill. While no one knows what will be in a second bill, the House and Senate must first pass a budget resolution with reconciliation instructions. In crafting their resolution, Democrats will look to the President’s budget proposal to lay the groundwork for FY 2022 spending and revenue priorities. When will we see the President’s budget? According to House Budget Chairman John Yarmuth (D-Ky.), it could be "mid-to-late April."
Committee Action of Note: