Weekly Legislative Update
February 16, 2021
Congressional Outlook
The House and Senate are in recess this week, however, several committees will be meeting virtually to hold hearings and conduct legislative business, with the majority of topics centered around the COVID-19 pandemic. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) may unveil legislation this week creating an outside, independent 9/11-type Commission to “investigate and report on the facts and causes relating to the January 6, 2021 domestic terrorist attack upon the United States Capitol Complex… and relating to the interference with the peaceful transfer of power, including facts and causes relating to the preparedness and response of the United States Capitol Police and other Federal, State, and local law enforcement in the National Capitol Region.” When the House returns next week, the chamber will consider the Protecting America’s Wilderness and Public Lands Act (H.R. 803), a package of eight different bills that the House passed in 2020 which authorize and/or expand wilderness designation areas in Arizona, California, Colorado, and Washington state.

When the Senate returns on February 22, the chamber will consider the nominations of Linda Thomas-Greenfield to be U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and Tom Vilsack to be Secretary of Agriculture. The Senate may also vote on additional cabinet and/or cabinet-level nominees who have already advanced through committee, including: Gina Raimondo to be Secretary of Commerce; Jennifer Granholm to be Secretary of Energy; Marcia Fudge to be Secretary of Housing and Urban Development; Miguel Cardona to be Secretary of Education; Marty Walsh to be Secretary of Labor; Michael Regan to be Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency; and Cecilia Rouse to be Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers.

House Democratic chairs of nine different committees of jurisdiction have sent their coronavirus relief measures to the House Budget Committee as they prepare to move ahead with a bill that largely matches President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion proposal, the American Rescue Plan. The House Budget Committee will markup the various legislative components of the package later this week, which will mostly be a formality. The panel only has an administrative role in this part of the budget reconciliation process: taking the authorizing committees’ bills, putting them together, and reporting them out. Members of the panel do not offer amendments during a Budget Committee markup of a reconciliation bill. The Senate Budget Committee, led by Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-VT), does not plan on holding a markup of the bill but will instead send it straight to the Senate floor, according to a Senate Democratic aide, following House passage of the package during the week of February 22. House and Senate Democrats are aiming to send the bill to President Biden’s desk to be signed into law by March 14, the date when $300 weekly federal unemployment benefits are scheduled to lapse.

President Biden and Congressional Democrats are expected later this week to release the text of an immigration reform bill, the “U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021,” which will reflect the immigration priorities that Biden unveiled on his first day in office. His proposal includes an earned pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants, expands the refugee resettlement program and deploys more technology to the southern border. There are additional protections that are being considered in the legislation, such as asylum processing in home countries for minors, expanded benefits for DREAMers and ending the Trump Administration’s “Public Charge” rule. While previous attempts at massive immigration reform have failed under both Republican and Democratic administrations, the Biden Administration has signaled support for breaking the legislation into pieces. As a potential secondary path, lawmakers could work to pass bills legalizing farmworkers and DREAMers right away, and then move toward a more expansive overhaul.

On Tuesday evening at 9pm ET, President Biden will participate in a CNN town hall in Milwaukee, Wisconsin to pitch his $1.9 trillion COVID relief plan. On Thursday, Biden will visit Pfizer’s vaccine manufacturing site in Kalamazoo County, Michigan to meet with workers who are producing the COVID-19 vaccine.
Week in Review