House. The House this week is considering 23 bills under suspension, including legislation that would make it easier for cannabis businesses in states where marijuana has been legalized, and those that engage with those businesses, to access the banking system instead of relying on cash transactions. The cannabis bill was approved Monday night, 321-101. Other legislation on the schedule includes a bill that would admit Washington, D.C. as the 51st state.
Senate. Among the nominations the Senate will consider this week is that of Gary Gensler to serve on the Securities and Exchange Commission through June 5, 2026. Last week, the Senate confirmed Gensler to serve an unexpired term through June 5, 2021, and he was sworn in on Saturday. The SEC is now at full strength, with 3 Democrats and 2 Republicans and Gensler serving as chair.
In addition to nominations, the Senate will resume consideration of the Covid-19 Hate Crimes Act and take up legislation with bipartisan support, the Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act. A substitute amendment to the water bill is expected to encompass a number of amendments sought by both Democrats and Republicans.
Biden Schedule. On Earth Day, April 22, President Biden will convene a two-day virtual climate conference with 40 world leaders. The President is expected to propose that U.S. greenhouse gas emissions be reduced by at least 50% below 2005 levels by 2030. The following week, on April 28, Biden will address a joint session of Congress. Attendance will be limited, with no guests invited, and lawmakers will be seated in the House gallery as well as on the House floor. The President will likely focus his remarks on the American Jobs Plan, which he unveiled March 31, and the American Families Plan, which is expected to be released this month.
Senate Earmarks. Senate Republicans will meet Wednesday afternoon to decide whether to participate in the earmark process for appropriations and highway projects. While the voting is scheduled to be by secret ballot, Senator Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) will propose that the vote be recorded. Regardless of how the Republican vote goes, Senate Democrats are poised to follow House Democrats and resurrect the earmark process. Today, 15 Senate Republicans released a letter saying they will not participate in the earmark process, the same position adopted by a number of House Republicans even though the Republican caucus voted 102-84 on March 17 to lift its ban on earmarks.
While House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer has indicated that the House could take up FY 2022 appropriations bills this summer, there will be a 60-vote threshold for approval in the Senate so it remains to be seen which, if any, of the 12 measures can clear that hurdle, even with earmarks. A continuing resolution to provide funding when the new fiscal year begins Oct. 1 is clearly a possibility.
Committee Action of Note:
House Vacancies. With the April 6 death of Democratic Rep. Alcee Hastings (Fla.) and the April 14 swearing in of Republican Rep. Julia Letlow (La.), the margin in the House now stands at 218D/212 R, with five vacancies. The schedule for special elections to fill these vacancies: April 24 runoff between two Democratic candidates to replace Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.), who resigned to head the White House Office of Public Engagement; May 1 to replace Rep. Ron Wright (R-Tex.), who passed away Feb. 27 (possible runoff date not yet announced); June 1 to replace Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.), who is now Interior Secretary; and Nov. 2 to replace Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), who is now HUD Secretary (primary is Aug. 3). Ohio will have a second seat to fill with today’s announcement by Republican Rep. Steve Stivers that he will resign May 16 to become the CEO of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce. No date has been set for the special election to fill Hastings’ seat.