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Legislative Update

Congress. The House and Senate are in recess and will reconvene the week of April 12.

Infrastructure Day. On Wednesday, President Biden will be in Pittsburgh to unveil the first part of a two-part plan to improve the nation’s physical and human infrastructure. Wednesday’s speech will focus on traditional infrastructure measures, such as roads, bridges, railways, and ports, as well investments in R&D and clean energy initiatives. The second part, which will be unveiled in April, will include proposals to extend the child tax credit, provide paid family and medical leave, and expand the Affordable Care Act. According to the Washington Post, the two-part package could call for “as much as $4 trillion in new spending and more than $3 trillion in tax increases.”

While the White House has not decided how the proposals would move through Congress, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is reported to be eyeing options for three reconciliation bills this year. The first was the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, passed under reconciliation instructions for FY 2021, and another reconciliation measure would be tied to an FY 2022 budget resolution.

Democratic budget experts maintain that, under the Budget Act, Congress can revise a previously agreed-to budget resolution and create new reconciliation instructions. If the Senate parliamentarian agrees with this line of thinking, Schumer would have another bite at the reconciliation apple, creating an opportunity to pass legislation with 51 votes rather than 60, as long as the legislation comports with the restrictions of the Byrd Rule.

Biden Budget. Speaking of budget resolutions, President Biden this week plans to outline his discretionary spending request for FY 2022. The spending will be broken down by agency, but the document is not a full budget proposal and won’t include revenue proposals. The larger budget document will not be finalized until late April or early May.

This will be the first fiscal year in a decade when there will be no spending caps for discretionary spending. The caps were set for 10 years by the Budget Control Act of 2011. Once the President releases his detailed budget proposal later this spring, the House and Senate budget committees will craft an FY 2022 budget resolution with reconciliation instructions.

While the President has not yet named his choice to replace Neera Tanden as the nominee to head the Office of Management and Budget, the Senate voted 63-37 on March 23 to confirm Shalanda Young as OMB deputy director. Young will now serve as OMB’s acting director.

Medicare Payments. In addition to setting caps on discretionary spending, the 2011 Budget Control Act also provided for certain across-the-board cuts in Medicare spending, including reductions of up to 2% in Medicare payments to doctors and hospitals, beginning in 2013. With health care providers taking a financial hit from the pandemic, Congress last year agreed to waive the 2% payment reduction from May 2020 through March 31, 2021.

Before leaving for its recess, the Senate March 25 voted 90-2 to extend the waiver through Dec. 31. The House is expected to approve the Senate version when it reconvenes the week of April 12. The Senate did not agree to a House-passed provision that would prevent $36 billion in cuts to Medicare providers from going into effect next year as a result of deficit spending in the American Rescue Plan. That provision is expected to be addressed later this year.

Committee Action of Note:

  • Thursday, April 1:
    • House Administration Subcommittee on Elections Hearing: Voting in America: Ensuring Free and Fair Access to the Ballot.

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