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Legislative Update

Senate. The Senate voted this evening to confirm Boston mayor Marty Walsh as Labor Secretary. Five other confirmation votes are on the schedule for this week: Shalanda Young to be OMB Deputy Director, Vivek Murthy to be Surgeon General, Rachel Levine to be Assistant Secretary at HHS, David Turk to be Deputy Secretary of Energy, and Adewale O. Adeyemo to be Treasury Deputy Secretary.

The Senate will also vote on legislation the House approved March 16 to extend the Paycheck Protection Program loan application deadline to May 31 from March 31 and give the SBA an additional month, through June 30, to complete processing loans. The measure has bipartisan support, but Republican Senators are considering modifications to the bill. When the Senate wraps up its work for the week, it will reconvene April 12.

House. The House has no floor votes this week but will hold numerous committee hearings before recessing for the following two weeks.

Earmarks. House Republicans cast secret ballots last Wednesday, March 17, to determine whether they would join Democrats in bringing back earmarks. When the votes were tallied, the 102-84 margin meant Republicans would lift their decade-old ban on participating in the process that Democrats now refer to as “Community Project Funding.” However, some House Republicans remain opposed and will not participate. Given the House Republican decision, Appropriations Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) is giving Members two extra weeks, until the last week in April, to submit their top 10 projects to the Appropriations subcommittees.

Senate Republicans have not yet determined how they will proceed, but Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), the ranking member on the Appropriations panel, said he is talking to Committee Chair Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) about a bipartisan plan to restore earmarks.

Committee Action of Note:

  • Monday, March 22:
    • Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Hearing on Transportation Technologies.
    • House Energy and Commerce Committee Hearing: "LIFT America: Revitalizing our Nation's Infrastructure and Economy."
  • Tuesday, March 23:
    • Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Subcommittee on Primary Health and Retirement Security Hearing: "Why Does the U.S. Pay the Highest Prices in the World for Prescription Drugs?"
    • House Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands Hearing: “Building Back Better: Examining the Future of America's Public Lands.”
    • House Budget Committee Hearing: “FY 2022 Budget Priorities: Members' Day.”
    • House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health Hearing: "Building on the ACA: Legislation to Expand Health Coverage and Lower Costs."
    • House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment Hearing: "The Water Resources Development Act of 2020: Status of Essential Provisions."
    • House Financial Services Committee Hearing: “Oversight of the Treasury Department's and Federal Reserve's Pandemic Response.”
    • House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee Hearing: “Future Defense Spending.”
  • Wednesday, March 24:
    • Senate Rules and Administration Committee Hearing: “S.1, the For the People Act.”
    • Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee Hearing: "The Quarterly CARES Act Report to Congress."
    • Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee markup to consider the nomination of Polly Trottenberg to be Deputy Secretary of Transportation to be immediately followed by a hearing to examine rebuilding America's transportation infrastructure.
    • Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing: "The State of Democracy in Latin America and the Caribbean."
    • House Science, Space, and Technology Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics Hearing: “Examining R&D Pathways to Sustainable Aviation.”
    • House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Hearing: "Power Struggle: Examining the 2021 Texas Grid Failure."
    • House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy Hearing: "The CLEAN Future Act: Powering a Resilient and Prosperous America."
    • House Financial Services Subcommittee on Housing, Community Development, and Insurance Hearing: “Preserving a Lifeline: Examining Public Housing in a Pandemic.”
    • House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Hearing: “The Rural Economy.”
  • Thursday, March 25:
    • Senate Finance Committee Hearing: “How U.S. International Tax Policy Impacts American Workers, Jobs, and Investment."
    • Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Hearing: "Examining Our COVID-19 Response: Improving Health Equity and Outcomes by Addressing Health Disparities."
    • Senate Budget Committee Hearing: "Ending a Rigged Tax Code: The Need to Make the Wealthiest People and Largest Corporations Pay their Fair Share of Taxes."
    • House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Hearing: "The Administration's Priorities for Transportation Infrastructure."

Political Update

Special Elections. Louisiana held two House special elections on Saturday, and neither seat will change parties. In LA-05, Republican Julia Letlow won the race to replace her husband Luke, who died before he could be seated. In the LA-02 race to replace Rep. Cedric Richmond (D), who has joined the Biden Administration, no candidate received over 50% of the vote. A runoff will be held on April 24 between the top two vote-getters, Democratic state Senators Troy Carter and Karen Carter Peterson.

When Letlow is seated there will be 219 Democrats and 212 Republicans in the House, with four vacancies – three Democrats and one Republican. In addition to Richmond’s seat, the other Democratic vacancies are in the districts of Deb Haaland, who is now the Interior Secretary, and Marcia Fudge, who is now HUD Secretary. In Haaland’s NM-01 district, party leaders will pick their candidates prior to the June 1 special election. In Fudge’s OH-11 district, primaries will not be held until Aug. 3, with the general election on Nov. 2. The one Republican vacancy is in the TX-06 seat that was held by the late Republican Ron Wright, whose widow is one of the candidates to replace him. All 23 candidates of both parties will be on the May 1 ballot, and a runoff will be held at a date to be announced if no one gets a majority of the vote.

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