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Legislative Update

Senate. The Senate will continue to consider nominations and could hold a vote on whether to take up a revised voting rights bill that has the backing of all 50 Democratic Senators. However, the proposal does not have enough Republican support to win the 60 votes needed to cut off debate.

House. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said this afternoon that the continuing resolution needed to avoid an Oct. 1 government shutdown will include a suspension of the debt limit through December 2022, emergency disaster relief, and funding to help resettle Afghan evacuees. The CR will reportedly provide funding through Dec. 3, but details have not yet been released. While the CR is expected to pass the House the week, the question remains whether the Senate will provide 60 votes to take up the bill. If not, how will the question of the debt ceiling be addressed? In addition to the CR, the House also plans to vote this week on the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act and legislation dealing with abortion rights.

Reconciliation. House committees met the Sept. 15 deadline to report their reconciliation assignments, but the outlook for future action is hazy. Even action in the House Budget Committee, whose only responsibility is to package the bills together, has been delayed as lawmakers wait for proposals to be scored for their revenue impact. The fact that the Budget Committee won’t act this week, as had been anticipated, is not particularly significant; more important is the question of when Democrats will submit proposed changes in the package to the House Rules Committee, and the answer to that question is dependent on backroom negotiations between the House and Senate on the size and details of the reconciliation bill.

Key to those negotiations is what will be the scope of the package, and while there are Democratic pockets of opposition to a $3.5 trillion bill, there is no clear indication of what the total should be. Then there are the substantive objections to provisions in the reconciliation package, including drug pricing proposals. In particular, three Democratic members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee – Reps. Kurt Schrader (Ore.), Scott Peters (Calif.), and Kathleen Rice (N.Y.) – and Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) have voiced their objection to those proposals. Also, Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.) voted against the Ways and Means Committee package that included drug pricing language identical to the provision that was defeated in the Energy and Commerce Committee. Given the margins in the House and Senate, Pelosi and Schumer need their votes for final approval of the reconciliation bill.

Still another problem facing the Democratic leadership on this issue is whether drug pricing provisions will pass muster with the Senate parliamentarian. On Sunday, the parliamentarian, Elizabeth MacDonough, weighed in on another Democratic priority – immigration. MacDonough advised Democrats that an immigration proposal to create a path to residency and citizenship for undocumented immigrants won’t comply with the Byrd rule. In a three-page memo, MacDonough concluded that “the policy changes of this proposal far outweigh the budgetary impact scored to it and it is not appropriate for inclusion in reconciliation.” Leader Schumer subsequently issued a statement that “Senate Democrats have prepared alternate proposals and will be holding additional meetings with the Senate parliamentarian in the coming days.”

Many House Democrats would like to make sure that whatever bill goes to the House floor is as compatible as possible with language that can clear the Senate. The best guess is that the earliest the House would vote on such a bill would be mid-October, with other forecasters predicting November or December. As Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.) said of the complicated process, “It's a little bit like a Rubik's cube on steroids. Above my pay grade to figure out how this all fits together."

Committee Action of Note:

  • Tuesday, September 21:
    • House Veterans' Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity hearing on various legislative proposals.
    • House Financial Services Committee Hearing: Task Force on Financial Technology : “Preserving the Right of Consumers to Access Personal Financial Data.”
    • Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee Business Meeting to consider the nomination of Dilawar Syed to be Deputy Administrator of the Small Business Administration and other pending business.
    • Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Hearing to examine the nominations of Laura Daniel-Davis to be an Assistant Secretary and M. Camille Calimlim Touton to be Commissioner of Reclamation, both of the Department of the Interior, and Sara C. Bronin to be Chairman of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.
    • Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Hearing to examine the nominations of Alan F. Estevez to be Under Secretary for Industry and Security and Thea D. Rozman Kendler to be an Assistant Secretary, both of the Department of Commerce, and Alexia Marie Gabrielle Latortue and Graham Scott Steele, both to be an Assistant Secretary of the Treasury.
    • Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights Hearing to examine big data, focusing on implications for competition and consumers.
    • Senate Finance Subcommittee on Social Security, Pensions, and Family Policy Hearing to examine policy options for improving Supplemental Security Income.
    • Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Subcommittee on Tourism, Trade, and Export Hearing to examine legislative solutions to revive travel and tourism and create jobs.
  • Wednesday, September 22:
    • Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Business Meeting to consider the nominations of Alexander Hoehn-Saric, Mary T. Boyle, and Richard Trumka, Jr., each to be a Commissioner of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and Grant T. Harris to be an Assistant Secretary of Commerce; to be immediately followed by a hearing to examine the nominations of Victoria Marie Baecher Wassmer to be Chief Financial Officer, Mohsin Raza Syed to be an Assistant Secretary, and Amitabha Bose to be Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration, all of the Department of Transportation, and Meera Joshi to be Administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
    • Senate Finance Committee Hearing to examine the nominations of Christi A. Grimm to be Inspector General, Department of Health and Human Services, and Neil Harvey MacBride, to be General Counsel for the Department of the Treasury.
    • Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Constitution Hearing to examine restoring the Voting Rights Act, focusing on combating discriminatory abuses.
    • House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Hearing: "Putting Kids First: Addressing COVID-19's Impacts on Children."
    • House Oversight and Reform Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis Hybrid Hearing on “Recognizing and Building on the Success of Pandemic Relief Programs.”
    • Joint Economic Committee Hearing to examine the economic benefits of electrifying America's homes and buildings.
  • Thursday, September 23:
    • House Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress Hearing: Pathways to Success: How Practicing Civility, Collaboration, and Leadership Can Empower Members.
    • Senate Special Committee on Aging Hearing to examine fraud, scams, and COVID-19, focusing on how older Americans have been targeted during the pandemic.
    • House Science, Space, and Technology Subcommittee on Environment Hearing: “Advancing Earth System Science and Stewardship at NOAA.”
    • House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on International Development, International Organizations, and Global Corporate Social Impact Hearing: Shifting the Power: Advancing Locally-led Development and Partner Diversification in U.S. Development Programs.
    • House Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law Hearing: Reviving Competition, Part 4: 21st Century Antitrust Reforms and the American Worker.
    • House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Aviation Hearing: “Disruption in the Skies: The Surge in Air Rage and its Effects on Workers, Airlines, and Airports.”

Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Hearing to examine national cybersecurity strategy, focusing on protection of federal and critical infrastructure systems.

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