Legislative / Policy Update
Senate. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would like the Senate to begin debate this week on the Just and Unifying Solutions to Invigorate Communities Everywhere (JUSTICE) Act. However, McConnell will need Democratic support to reach the 60-vote threshold needed to cut off debate on the motion to proceed to the bill. Democrats believe the police reform measure should be more far reaching and are engaged in internal discussions on their options. A cloture vote will be held Wednesday on the motion to proceed.
House. The House will be in session for legislative business on Thursday and Friday, with votes scheduled on the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act and legislation that would give statehood to the District of Columbia. Next week, the House is looking to take up a bill to strengthen Obamacare by, among other things, expanding insurance subsidies and encouraging states to extend their Medicaid programs to more residents. Democratic leaders currently intend to pay for the legislation with proposals from the House-passed drug pricing bill requiring the federal government to negotiate prices on certain prescription drugs. Also next week, the House expects to spend three days, June 30-July 2, on a comprehensive infrastructure package, the Moving Forward Act.
Infrastructure. Details of the House Democrats’ infrastructure package were released today, following up on last Thursday’s press conference to unveil a summary of the plan. The centerpiece of the massive, $1.5 trillion package is the $500-billion, five-year surface transportation bill that the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee marked up over two days last week. The proposal also includes provisions investing in broadband, affordable housing, school infrastructure, clean energy, clean water, and the postal service.
The cost of the proposal is not fully offset. The bill extends for five years the federal taxes on gasoline, diesel, and other fuels that are scheduled to expire on Sept. 30, 2022, but revenue from those taxes is not enough to pay for the Democrats’ plan. The measure provides financing support for state and local government investments and spurring private investment by permanently reinstating Build America Bonds and Advance Refunding Bonds and increasing and expanding the issuance of Private Activity Bonds, but Ways and Means Chairman Richie Neal (D-Mass.), when asked about paying for the bill, said Democrats were open to negotiations with the White House.
As for the Senate, the Environment and Public Works Committee unanimously passed a $287-billion surface transportation bill on July 30, 2019, but Senators have yet to agree on a way to offset the cost. Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said his panel needs to come up with ways to cover $93 billion of the total cost.
FY 2021 Appropriations. The Senate Appropriations Committee will delay the start of markup sessions that were expected to begin this week, while the House Appropriations chairwoman has announced a July markup schedule. On the Senate side, Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) and Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) are in the midst of discussing amendments that could be offered, with Democrats planning to propose additional spending for the pandemic response and funding related to policing and social justice. Republicans are countering that those amendments should not be part of appropriations bills.
According to a schedule released June 18 by House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), subcommittees will mark up all 12 spending bills July 6-8, followed by full committee action July 9 and 10 on five of the bills. The remaining bills will be marked up July 13-16. The markup sessions will allow for both in-person and remote participation by members. Full committee markups will take place in the Ways and Means Committee room to allow for better social distancing.
Masks. Members who participate in person at House hearings and markups are now required to wear face coverings. Under guidance issued last week by the Capitol physician, face coverings are required for “meetings in a limited, enclosed space, such as a committee hearing room, for greater than 15 minutes.” The rules permit committee chairs to not recognize members without masks who ask to speak during proceedings.
Committee Action of Note:
Tuesday, June 23
Wednesday, June 24
Thursday, June 25
Elections. New York, Kentucky, and Virginia will hold primary elections on Tuesday. Attention in New York is focused on the seat that has been held for 31 years by Rep. Eliot Engel (D). Engel is being challenged from the left by Jamaal Bowman, a former middle school principal who has never run for office. Recent polling showed Bowman in the lead. In Kentucky, the race to choose a Democratic nominee to face Senator Mitch McConnell has also heated up. Amy McGrath, who ran for the House in 2018 and has amassed a substantial war chest, is also facing a very strong challenge from the left. Charles Booker, a state representative, is reported to have narrowed the polling gap with McGrath.
Officials from both states warned we might not see results for several days, due to an increase in mail-in ballots and fewer polling places open on Election Day. In New York, officials will not begin to count absentee ballots until a week after the elections. In Kentucky, some of the largest counties plan to lock down their totals of in-person votes for a week, until they can count the mail-in ballots.
Fundraising. Joe Biden and the DNC last month outraised President Trump and the RNC for the first time this cycle, but the President still maintains a sizable cash-on-hand advantage over his Democratic challenger. Biden raised $80.8 million in May compared to Trump’s $74 million. This was the first full month Biden and the DNC were fundraising together, and more than half of the donors to Biden’s campaign were new donors. Tomorrow, Biden and former President Obama will appear together for a “virtual grassroots fundraiser.”