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Legislative Update

Senate. The Senate will continue to consider nominations, including that of Andrea Palm to be HHS Deputy Secretary.

House. In addition to bills considered under suspension, the House this week will vote on legislation dealing with debt collection abuses and protecting expectant mothers from workplace discrimination. In a May 6 letter outlining the schedule for the May work period, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer wrote that the week of May 17, the House will consider the Senate-passed COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, which addresses hate crimes targeting Asian-American communities, and could vote on a supplemental appropriation bill to address enhanced security needs for the Capitol complex.

FY 2022 Appropriations. In addition to crafting the supplemental spending bill, House appropriators are working on the 12 funding bills for FY 2022. Appropriations Committee Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) said Thursday that the subcommittees and full committee plan to mark up those bills in June so that the measures can be considered on the floor in July. On Friday, the committee posted a consolidated table listing earmark requests from individual members for the FY 2022 spending bills.

Infrastructure. This Wednesday, May 12, President Biden will host House and Senate leaders at the White House to discuss the Administration’s two infrastructure proposals – the American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan. The next day, infrastructure will also be the topic of the day as Biden meets with six Republican Senators – John Barrasso (Wyo.), Shelley Moore Capito (W. Va.), Roy Blunt (Mo.), Pat Toomey (Pa.), Mike Crapo (Idaho), and Roger Wicker (Miss.).

Meanwhile, House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) said that “in the coming weeks, our committee intends to introduce a five-year surface transportation reauthorization bill that will pave the way for transformational investments in our roads, bridges, transit, and rail.” DeFazio’s counterpart in the Senate, Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Tom Carper (D-Del.), met today with Biden at the White House and is looking for his committee to mark up a surface transportation bill before the Memorial Day recess.

Debt Limit. The debt limit is in the news again. The most recent action was in 2019, when Congress approved the Bipartisan Budget Act that suspended the debt limit through July 31, 2021. If Congress has not acted by then to raise or again suspend the limit, Treasury will be forced to implement “extraordinary measures” to meet federal obligations on a temporary basis. Last week, Treasury said it is very difficult to predict how long these measures will provide relief “in light of the substantial COVID-related uncertainty about receipts and outlays in the coming months.”

It’s possible, Treasury pointed out, that “extraordinary measures could be exhausted much more quickly than in prior debt limit episodes.” At a White House press briefing on Friday, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said there are scenarios in which the extraordinary measures would run out “sometime during the summer.” Independent analysts, however, estimate that extraordinary measures can carry the government into the fourth quarter.

One option available to lawmakers is to raise the debt limit using the reconciliation process. If Democrats opt to go that route, the debt limit must be increased by a specified amount, not just suspended until a certain date. Prior to 2013, when action was needed, Congress raised the ceiling by a fixed dollar amount. However, House Republicans in 2013 proposed instead to suspend the debt limit, which, for many lawmakers, proved to be an easier vote because it did not shine a light on the actual dollar amounts of the debt and the amount needed for the government to meet its obligations.

Committee Action of Note:

  • Tuesday, May 11:
    • Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee hearing to examine the nominations of Adrianne Todman to be Deputy Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and Nuria I. Fernandez to be Federal Transit Administrator.
    • Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure hearing to examine equity in transportation infrastructure, focusing on connecting communities, removing barriers, and repairing networks across America.
    • Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing to examine an update from federal officials on efforts to combat COVID-19.
    • Senate Finance Subcommittee on Taxation and IRS Oversight hearing to examine closing the tax gap, focusing on lost revenue from noncompliance and the role of offshore tax evasion.
    • Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Subcommittee on Surface Transportation, Maritime, Freight, and Ports hearing to examine freight mobility, focusing on strengthening America's supply chains and competitiveness.
  • Wednesday, May 12:
    • Senate Finance Committee hearing to examine the President's 2021 trade policy agenda.
    • House Appropriations Subcommittee on Departments of Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies hearing: Federal Aviation Administration Safety Oversight.
    • House Science, Space, and Technology Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight hearing: COVID-19 Variants and Evolving Research Needs.
    • House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies hearing: USDA Research, Education and Economics Mission Area.
    • House Financial Services Committee Markup of H.R. 166; H.R. 1188; H.R. 1443; H.R. 2570; H.R. 3007 and H.R. 3009.
    • House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Worker and Family Support hearing: Making a Difference for Families and Foster Youth.
    • Joint Economic Committee hearing to examine the racial wealth gap in the United States.
    • Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee executive session to consider the Endless Frontier Act (S. 1260) and other legislation and the nominations of Leslie Kiernan to be General Counsel of the Commerce Department and Lina Khan to be Commissioner, Federal Trade Commission.
    • House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health hearing: The Fiscal Year 2022 HHS Budget with HHS Secretary Becerra.
    • House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Select Revenue Measures hearing: Funding Our Nation's Priorities: Reforming the Tax Code's Advantageous Treatment of the Wealthy.
    • Senate Finance Subcommittee on Health Care hearing to examine the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond, focusing on improving mental health and addiction services in our communities.
  • Thursday, May 13:
    • House Ways and Means Committee hearing: The Biden Administration’s 2021 Trade Policy Agenda.
    • Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee business meeting to consider the nomination of Tommy P. Beaudreau to be Deputy Secretary of the Interior; to be immediately followed by a hearing to examine offshore energy development in federal waters and leasing under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act.
    • Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing to examine retirement security, focusing on building a better future.
    • Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies hearing to examine rethinking disaster recovery and resiliency, focusing on protecting our nation's transportation systems.
    • House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change hearing: The CLEAN Future Act: Superfund Proposals to Advance Cleanups, Equity, and Climate Resilience.
    • House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources hearing: Protecting Coastal Communities and Ocean Resources from Offshore Drilling.

Political Update

Special Elections. The Florida House seat held by the late Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.) will remain vacant until January 2022, under the special election schedule announced last week by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis. Primaries will be held Nov. 2, followed by a general election on Jan. 11, 2022. Hastings passed away on April 6, and the seat is considered to be in a safe Democratic district (FL-20).

A date has not yet been set for the runoff in the TX-6 district, but it is expected to be June 5, the same day as the mayoral runoff in Fort Worth. The House seat of the late Ron Wright will remain in Republican hands, with Republicans Susan Wright and Jake Ellzey facing each other.

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