Weekly Legislative Update
March 8, 2021
Congressional Outlook
The House and Senate are in session this week. The House will consider 13 bills under suspension of the rules, including the VA VACCINE Act of 2021 (H.R. 1276), which allows veterans who are not enrolled in the Veterans Affairs Department’s health-care system to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at the VA. On Wednesday, the House will vote on the Senate-passed version of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (H.R. 1319), which now includes $360 billion to local, county, state, tribal, and territorial governments to help mitigate the fiscal effects tied to the COVID-19 pandemic (counties will receive a total of $65.1 billion; municipalities with populations over 50,000 will receive $45.57 billion; and municipalities with less than 50,000 people will receive $19.53 billion). Local and county recipients will be able to use the funds, which will be distributed in two tranches over one year, to cover costs incurred by December 31, 2024 to: respond to the COVID-19 emergency and address its negative economic impacts; provide premium pay (i.e., up to $13/hour, for a total of $25,000/worker) to essential employees or grants to their employers; provide government services affected by a revenue reduction during the pandemic relative to revenues collected in the most recent full fiscal year prior to the start of the pandemic; or to make necessary investments in water, sewer, or broadband infrastructure. President Joe Biden said on Monday that he will sign the bill into law “as soon as I can get it.”

For the remainder of the week, the House will vote on the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act of 2021 (H.R. 842), which expands protections for private sector workers’ right to unionize by modifying federal labor laws to: allow unions and employers to negotiate agreements that would require bargaining unit employees to pay for costs of representation; bar employers from discriminating against workers who strike; impose penalties on employers for violating workers’ rights; and change the criteria used to classify someone as an employee or independent contractor; the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2021 (H.R. 8), which closes the “gun-show loophole” in federal gun background check laws by requiring any firearm transfer between unrelated, unlicensed individuals—such as participants at a gun show—to be conducted through a licensed dealer, who is required to perform the background check on the recipient; and the Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2021 (H.R. 1446), which closes the “Charleston loophole” in federal gun background check laws by preventing gun sales from proceeding if a background check is not completed within three days, as allowed under current law.

The Senate will vote on the nominations of Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH) to be the 18th Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Merrick Garland to be the 86th Attorney General, and Michael Regan to be the 16th Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. The Senate Budget and Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committees will vote on the nomination of Shalanda Young to be the Deputy Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), who will serve as acting OMB Director once confirmed by the Senate since Neera Tanden withdrew her nomination to head OMB on March 2.

Several Congressional committee hearings of note this week include: a Senate HELP Committee hearing on “Examining Our COVID-19 Response: An Update from the Frontlines”; a House Appropriations subcommittee hearing on “Innovation and Investment in Water Resources Infrastructure”; a Senate Energy and Natural Resources hearing on “The Reliability, Resiliency, and Affordability of Electric Service”; a Senate Environment and Public Works hearing on “Building Back Better: Addressing Climate Change in the Electricity Sector and Fostering Economic Growth”; a Senate Agriculture Committee hearing on “Farmers and Foresters: Opportunities to Lead in Tackling Climate Change”; a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on “The Path Forward: Restoring the Vital Mission of EPA”; a House Ways and Means subcommittee hearing on “Tax Tools to Help Local Government”; and a House Natural Resources subcommittee hearing on “Building Back Better: Building Resilience for the Economy, Climate, and Ecosystems”.
Week in Review