Weekly Legislative Update
February 22, 2021
Congressional Outlook
The House and Senate are in session this week. The House will vote on six bills under suspension of the rules and will then consider the Equality Act (H.R. 5), which expands federal civil rights protections to cover sexual orientation and gender identity by barring discrimination in employment, public schools, housing, credit opportunities, juries, and federally funded programs, and would also prohibit discrimination in places of public accommodation; and the Protecting America’s Wilderness and Public Lands Act (H.R. 803), a package of eight bills which authorize and/or expand wilderness/conservation/recreation designation areas in Arizona, California, Colorado, and Washington state.

The House will then vote on the $1.9 trillion COVID relief package, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, on Friday or Saturday this week, after consideration by the House Rules Committee on Tuesday and/or Wednesday. The package includes $350 billion to states, localities, tribes and territories in flexible funding to “replace revenue that was lost, delayed, or decreased” as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic (as of January 27, 2020), in addition to other programs which will help assist state and local governments. After House passage of the bill, the Senate will consider the package beginning the week of March 1.

The Senate will consider the nominations of Linda Thomas-Greenfield to be U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations; Tom Vilsack to be Secretary of Agriculture; Jennifer Granholm to be Secretary of Energy; and Miguel Cardona to be Secretary of Education. The Senate this week 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; Marcia Fudge to be Secretary of Housing and Urban Development; 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.

Various Senate committees are also holding confirmation hearings for additional cabinet or cabinet-level positions in the Biden Administration, including: DC Circuit Court judge Merrick Garland to be Attorney General of the United States; California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to be Secretary of Health and Human Services; Rep. Deb Haaland (D-NM) to be Secretary of the Interior; and House Ways and Means Committee chief trade counsel Katherine Tai to be U.S. Trade Representative. Several committees will also hold votes to advance the nominations of Neera Tanden to be Director of the Office of Management and Budget and Isabella Guzman to be Administrator of the Small Business Administration.

Several committees are holding hearings this week regarding infrastructure. The Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee is holding a hearing on Wednesday regarding transportation infrastructure titled “Building Back Better: Investing in Transportation while Addressing Climate Change, Improving Equity, and Fostering Economic Growth and Innovation.” EPW Committee Chairman Tom Carper (D-DE) has said he was also planning a hearing on the reauthorization of the federal surface transportation programs that will include “a strong climate title” and said that he is aiming to report the bill out of committee in May. The House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment plans a hearing on Tuesday to discuss the need for urgent investments in wastewater infrastructure.
Week in Review