Legislative / Policy Update
Senate Floor. The legislative priority this week is to complete consideration of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), with a final vote Wednesday or Thursday.
House Floor. The House will vote on numerous bills, starting with its version of the NDAA, which is named after Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Tex.), the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, who is retiring after 26 years in Congress. Just over 400 amendments (out of some 800 proposed) have been made in order for floor votes. To minimize the amount of time that Members have to spend socially distanced on the floor for votes, most of the amendments have been grouped into three en bloc packages. (The first en bloc package has about 150 amendments.) Consideration began today and will conclude with a final vote on Tuesday.
Among the bills expected to pass on Wednesday is the Great American Outdoors Act that provides permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Act. The measure has been approved by the Senate and since no amendments will be allowed on the floor, House passage will send the measure to the President for his signature.
On Thursday, the House will take up its first package of FY 2021 appropriations bills. This first minibus will contain four bills – Agriculture (which includes FDA and other agencies), Interior-Environment (which includes EPA and other agencies), Military Construction-Veterans’ Affairs, and State-Foreign Operations. The Rules Committee will decide Wednesday which amendments will be allowed for floor votes. A final vote on passage is planned for Friday.
Masks. At Tuesday’s meeting of the House Republican Conference, attendees will be required to wear masks, according to a directive issued Friday by Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. Because of social distancing, there will only be room at the meeting for 131 of the House’s 197 Republicans.
Next Package. All eyes are on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to see what will be in the next Covid package he plans to unveil this week and whether its title will be an acronym along the lines of the CARES and HEROES Acts. After President Trump and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin met this morning at the White House with McConnell and McCarthy, the House Minority Leader said a payroll tax cut, championed by the President, would likely be included in the proposal. Senate Republicans remain lukewarm on that idea, but there were reports that the package could include a provision allowing employers to defer payment of the tax, which funds Social Security and Medicare. Still another Trump priority that could be in the package is language providing money to states for elementary and secondary schools that is tied to schools reopening.
McConnell’s priority for the bill remains liability protection for businesses, schools, medical facilities, and others who could face lawsuits resulting from the pandemic. The legislation is also expected to include a second round of economic stimulus payments to individuals, expansion of the employee retention tax credit, an extension of the Paycheck Protection Program, and a tax credit for businesses to help cover costs they incur for testing, extra cleaning, and personal protective equipment.
On Tuesday, Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows will meet with Senate Republicans at their weekly lunch and later will meet with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. There are numerous differences between Democrats and Republicans, perhaps topped by how the legislation should deal with liability protection and unemployment insurance benefits. Mnuchin said he was hoping for some resolution by next week, which is setting an optimistic timetable. The Senate is scheduled to recess on Aug. 7; the House on July 31, but House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer has made it clear that the House will stay in session longer to pass more Covid-relief legislation.
Committee Action of Note:
Tuesday, July 21
Wednesday, July 22
Thursday, July 23
Georgia’s Fifth District. The executive committee of the Georgia Democratic Party today picked a replacement on the November ballot for Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.). Since Lewis, who died July 17, had already won the June 9 primary, state law required the state Democratic Party to choose a replacement on the first business day following Lewis’ death. Nikema Williams, a state Senator and chairwoman of the state party, was selected.