Weekly Legislative Update
April 12, 2021
Congressional Outlook
The House and Senate are in session this week. The House will consider 17 bills under suspension of the rules, including the Nicholas and Zachary Burt Memorial Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Prevention Act of 2021 (H.R. 1460), which authorizes the Consumer Product Safety Commission to provide grants to states to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning for fiscal years 2021—2025; the Microloan Improvement Act of 2021 (H.R. 1502), which allows the Small Business Administration’s (SBA’s) microloan program to offer larger loans, among other changes to the program; and the 504 Modernization and Small Manufacturer Enhancement Act of 2021 (H.R. 1490), which allows small manufacturers to access larger loans through the SBA’s 504 program and streamlines the loan closing process.

For the remainder of the week, the House will vote on Senate-passed legislation (H.R. 1868) which postpones $12.3 billion in scheduled cuts to Medicare payments by nine months through December 31, 2021, as required by “sequestration” under the 2011 Budget Control Act; the Paycheck Fairness Act (H.R. 7), which requires more stringent standards and larger penalties for claims of pay discrimination by employers, bars employers from inquiring about prospective employees’ salaries, and bans retaliation against employees who compare wages; and the Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act (H.R. 1195), which requires the Labor Department to issue a standard requiring health-care and social service employers to implement workplace violence prevention plans.

The Senate will consider several Biden Administration nominees: Polly Trottenberg to be Deputy Secretary of Transportation; Wendy Sherman to be Deputy Secretary of State; Gary Gensler to be Chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission; and Brenda Mallory to be Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. The Senate will also begin consideration of the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act (S. 937), which provides the Department of Justice (DOJ) and local law enforcement more tools to combat hate crimes, including requiring DOJ to designate an individual responsible for overseeing the expedited review of coronavirus-related hate crimes. Several Senate committees will also vote to advance other Biden Administration nominees this week, including Deanne Criswell to be Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Jason Miller to be Deputy Director for Management at the White House Office of Management and Budget.

President Joe Biden met with both Republican and Democratic members of Congress on Monday to discuss his $2.25 trillion American Jobs Plan to build U.S. infrastructure, an early test of political support for the proposal. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Friday that lawmakers from both the House and Senate were invited to the meeting, including Reps. Don Young (R-AK), Don Payne (D-NJ), Garret Graves (R-LA), and David Price (D-NC), and Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Deb Fischer (R-NE), and Alex Padilla (D-CA). The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will hold a Members’ Day hearing on Wednesday to provide an opportunity for House members to testify on their policy priorities within the Committee’s jurisdiction. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a hearing Wednesday on Highway Trust Fund solvency, the Surface Transportation Funding Alternatives Program and other user-based revenue solutions while the Senate Banking Committee will hold a hearing Thursday on surface transportation reauthorization and public infrastructure investment.

Congress returns to town this week having gotten its first look at President Biden’s fiscal year 2022 budget outline, released on Friday. The Administration is expected to release the traditional full budget later this year, likely by late May. The big news out of the $1.52 trillion discretionary request is an expansive 16 percent proposed increase in nondefense programs. Defense spending, by contrast, would get only a 1.7 percent increase. Biden would also halt the use of Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) emergency funding that has been used to pay for military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, but has also increasingly been tapped for more routine expenses, leaving critics to describe it as a slush fund. The release of the outline means the start of the traditional parade of agency leaders to Capitol Hill for testimony. Several Cabinet secretaries this week will talk to the relevant House Appropriations subcommittees, including Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, and Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough.
Week in Review