House. Democratic House leaders know what they want to pass this week; they just aren’t sure when votes will happen, and there is a narrow window of opportunity since Democrats will leave after votes on Wednesday for their policy conference in Philadelphia. With the current continuing resolution expiring on March 11, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer penciled in a vote for Tuesday, March 8, on an omnibus bill that packages all 12 appropriations bills for FY 2022.
The omnibus will also be the vehicle for additional spending for Ukraine and the pandemic. In a March 2 letter, the Administration asked Congress to approve $10 billion in assistance for Ukraine and $22.5 billion for Covid response programs. Republicans have pushed back on the extra Covid funds, and the White House has now lowered its request to $15 billion. The assistance for Ukraine has reportedly been increased to $12 billion.
There is also the possibility that the omnibus could be the vehicle for bipartisan legislation that would suspend normal trade relations with Russia and Belarus. An agreement on the legislation was announced today by the Democratic and Republican leaders of the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee. Among other things, the measure would “ban the import of energy products from Russia.” The legislative language of the proposal has not yet been released.
Once the omnibus package is finalized, it will have bipartisan support. The problem is that the two parties were still negotiating the details today, and there is uncertainty as to when the bill will be ready for consideration. There was speculation this evening that the text could be released tonight so that the House could vote on Tuesday. Others, though, said the legislation wouldn’t be released until Tuesday, with a House vote on Wednesday, which appears more likely. Either way, there is optimism that the House and Senate can vote this week, precluding the need for a short-term continuing resolution to provide government funding after March 11.
Senate. The Senate plans to complete work this week on a postal reform measure and will also consider nominations. On Wednesday, Senate Democrats and Republicans will hold separate policy retreats. If the House passes the omnibus spending bill, Senate Democratic leadership will bring it to the floor for passage by March 11.
Supreme Court. The Senate Judiciary Committee will begin hearings March 21 on the nomination of Ketanji Brown Jackson to be a Supreme Court Justice. On the first day, Jackson and members of the committee will make opening statements, while the next two days are reserved for questioning. On March 24, outside witnesses will testify about Jackson and her judicial philosophy. Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) wants the full Senate to vote on Jackson’s nomination before Senators leave April 8 for a two-week recess.
Daylight Saving Time. At 2 a.m. on Sunday, March 13, daylight saving time returns. But should it? On Wednesday, a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee will try to find an answer. “Twice a year, in the spring and fall, people across the nation adjust their clocks and modify their schedules to adjust to the new time,” Reps. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) and Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) said in announcing the hearing. “Historians will provide all sorts of justifications for why we do this, but increasingly our changing of the clocks twice a year is getting harder to explain.” The subcommittee “will hear from a panel of experts on the impacts of springing forward and falling back, and whether it still makes sense in our modern times.”
Committee Action of Note:
Texas Primaries. In two closely watched Congressional races in the March 1 Texas primaries, no candidate received over 50%. However, only one of those races will see a runoff. In TX-28, Democratic incumbent Rep. Henry Cuellar will face Jessica Cisneros in the May 24 runoff. In TX-3, incumbent Republican Rep. Van Taylor led the five-way primary with 49%, falling just short of avoiding a runoff. The day after the primary, though, Rep. Taylor withdrew from the race, apologizing for an extramarital affair. The second place finisher, former Collin County Judge Keith Self, will now be the Republican nominee and is expected to win the general election in November.