Weekly Legislative Update
March 1, 2021
Congressional Outlook
The House and Senate are in session this week. The House will vote on the For the People Act of 2021 (H.R. 1), a sweeping campaign finance, elections transparency, voting rights, and government ethics overhaul package which includes: the creation of nationwide automatic voter registration; requiring paper ballots in all jurisdictions; the creation of a 6-to-1 optional public financing system to pay for congressional campaigns; the tightening of disclosure rules for political groups and super PACs that spend money to influence elections; the restructuring of the Federal Election Commission; requiring early voting and expansion of voting by mail; new limitations on some behind-the-scenes lobbying efforts; requiring additional disclosure of online political ads; and the creation of nonpartisan redistricting efforts, among numerous other provisions. The House will then vote on the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021 (H.R. 1280), police reform legislation which includes: an overhaul of qualified immunity, which shields police officers from civil lawsuits; the establishment of a national registry of police misconduct maintained by the Department of Justice (DOJ); the elimination of the transfer of military-grade equipment to state and local law enforcement; and the reprogramming of the COPS and Byrne JAG grant programs “to invest in transformative community-based policing programs,” among numerous other provisions.

Senate Democrats this week will work to quickly pass the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (H.R. 1319), after the House passed the measure early Saturday morning by a vote of 219-212. A draft substitute amendment, likely to change before it reaches the Senate floor, includes additional funding for Amtrak, cybersecurity and Medicare payments for ambulance services and certain hospitals, while subtracting from other proposals in the House-passed version of the legislation. The draft amendment also leaves out the House-passed minimum wage increase to $15/hour. Removing that provision would free up about $67 billion in the bill, which, as passed by the House, had been over the $1.89 trillion ceiling set by the fiscal year 2021 budget resolution (S. Con. Res. 5). Numerous amendments to the bill will be introduced by rank-and-file Senators beginning on Wednesday, followed by a vote-a-rama on many of these amendments on Thursday and/or Friday. This process will be followed by a vote on final passage of the bill, which only requires a simple majority vote because of reconciliation.

The Senate will consider the nominations of Miguel Cardona to be Secretary of Education; Gina Raimondo to be Secretary of Commerce; and Cecilia Rouse to be Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers. The Senate this week may also vote on additional cabinet and/or cabinet-level nominees who have already advanced through committee, including: Merrick Garland to be Attorney General; Marty Walsh to be Secretary of Labor; Marcia Fudge to be Secretary of Housing and Urban Development; Michael Regan to be Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); and Isabel Guzman to be Administrator of the Small Business Administration.

Additionally, various Senate committees are holding confirmation hearings for several deputy positions and other roles in the Biden Administration this week, including: Brenda Mallory to be Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality; Janet McCabe to be Deputy Administrator of the EPA; Polly Trottenberg to be Deputy Secretary of Transportation; David Turk to be Deputy Secretary of Energy; Shalanda Young to be Deputy Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget; Gary Gensler to be Chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission; and Rohit Chopra to be Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Week in Review