The House and Senate are both in session this week. The House will vote on the National Apprenticeship Act of 2021 (H.R. 447), which invests nearly $3.5 billion over five years to scale-up apprenticeship opportunities, streamline access to apprenticeships for workers and employers, and expand apprenticeships into new in-demand industry sectors and occupations. The House will also consider a fiscal year (FY) 2021 budget resolution, which will direct two dozen House and Senate committees to draft pieces of a filibuster-proof reconciliation bill that will include President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief proposal (which includes $350 billion in emergency fiscal assistance for state and local governments). The contents were still in flux as of Friday night, but the current plan calls for 11 Senate committees and 13 House committees to receive instructions to develop pieces of the aid package, which the budget would cap at $1.9 trillion over a decade. The resolution will be released on Monday, considered by the House Rules Committee on Tuesday, and voted on by the House on Wednesday.
In the Senate, incoming Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is expected to introduce an identical budget resolution early this week. If all goes according to plan, after a few days of debate the Senate would proceed to the “vote-a-rama” amendment process on Thursday with a goal of adopting the budget resolution by Friday morning. Since both chambers need to adopt the same numbered concurrent resolution, the House could have to vote again, possibly into the weekend, if the Senate amends the text during the vote-a-rama. The process is being closely coordinated between House and Senate Democratic leaders, who are aiming to have the legislation ready for President Biden to sign into law before March 14, the date when federal $300 weekly unemployment insurance benefits lapse.
The House and Senate Appropriations Committees will not receive reconciliation instructions, but they will work with the authorizing committees on large portions of the bill that will contain discretionary funds. The authorizers will include discretionary spending in their legislative portions, which is unusual but has been done in the past. The move will also prevent appropriators from breaching statutory spending caps for FY 2021.The exact timetable for wrapping up the aid package remains in flux. The goal is for both chambers to adopt the budget resolution in time to allow House committees to write and report their portions during the weeks of February 8 and February 15. The House Budget Committee could assemble the reconciliation legislation and report it the week of February 22, with House consideration of the package possible that same week. After passing the bill, the House would send it to the Senate as early as the week of March 1. With the idea being House and Senate Democrats will “pre-conference” the package, the current thinking is to skip Senate committee markups and go straight to the floor.
The Senate will vote this week to confirm Alejandro Mayorkas to be the 7th Secretary of Homeland Security and Pete Buttigieg to be the 19th Secretary of Transportation; the chamber may also consider Denis McDonough to be the 11th Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Gina Raimondo to be the 40th Secretary of Commerce, and/or Jennifer Granholm to be the 16th Secretary of Energy. Four additional Cabinet nominees who have been nominated by President Biden are scheduled to receive confirmation hearings this week by the Senate Agriculture; Environment and Public Works; and Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committees, respectively: former USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack to be Secretary of Agriculture; North Carolina Secretary of Environmental Quality Michael Regan to be Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency; Connecticut Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona to be Secretary of Education; and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh to be Secretary of Labor.
On Monday afternoon, President Biden will meet with 10 Republican Senators, led by Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), to discuss their $618 billion COVID-19 relief plan released Monday morning and first detailed in a letter they sent to President Biden on Sunday. Notably, the proposal includes no emergency fiscal assistance for state, county, and local governments and is less than one-third of the $1.9 trillion that President Biden proposed on January 14. The Republicans’ proposal is likely to be met with resistance from most congressional Democrats. On Tuesday, President Biden is set to deliver remarks and sign an executive order “advancing his priority to modernize our immigration system.”