Legislative Update
Week of January 25, 2021
The House is in recess this week while the Senate is in session. On Monday evening, the Senate will vote to confirm Janet Yellen to be the 78th Secretary of the Treasury, the third Cabinet-level official to be confirmed in President Joe Biden’s Administration, after Avril Haines and Lloyd Austin were confirmed last week as Director of National Intelligence and Secretary of Defense, respectively, last week. Additional Cabinet members who will likely be confirmed by the Senate later this week include Antony Blinken to be Secretary of State and Alejandro Mayorkas to be Secretary of Homeland Security.

At 7pm ET on Monday, the nine House impeachment managers will formally present the Article of Impeachment against former President Donald Trump, which the House passed on January 13, to the Senate. The managers, who will act as prosecutors in the case, will read the text of the House resolution appointing and authorizing the impeachment managers for the trial, in addition to the text of the resolution impeaching Trump for “Incitement of Insurrection.” On Tuesday, all 100 senators will be sworn-in as jurors and the two sides, including Trump’s legal defense, will have two weeks to draft their arguments for the trial, which is scheduled to begin on Tuesday, February 9. The trial will last from a few days to a few weeks long and no other Senate business will be allowed to occur on the floor during the trial. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the longest serving senator, is likely to preside over the trial instead of Chief Justice John Roberts.

Six additional Cabinet nominees who have been nominated by President Biden are scheduled to receive confirmation hearings this week by the Senate Commerce, Energy and Natural Resources, Foreign Relations, Veterans Affairs, and Banking Committees, respectively: Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo to be Secretary of Commerce; former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm to be Secretary of Energy; longtime diplomat Linda Thomas-Greenfield to be U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations; former White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough to be Secretary of Veterans Affairs; Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH) to be Secretary of Housing and Urban Development; and economist Cecilia Rouse to be Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers. 

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) have still not yet reached an agreement on an organizing resolution for the 117th Congress, which dictates how the equally divided upper chamber will work for the next two years, including formalizing committee membership and ratios. Schumer and McConnell are negotiating their “power-sharing” resolution off a framework from early 2001, the last time the Senate was split 50-50. The main holdup on final agreement to the resolution is reportedly over a demand by McConnell to include a commitment by Senate Democrats to preserve the legislative filibuster, a request Schumer has thus far rejected. A final agreement on a resolution could occur as soon as this week or next.

On Sunday afternoon, a group of 16 moderate senators from both parties met virtually with National Economic Council Director Brian Deese to discuss the next coronavirus relief package, as Democrats seek Republican support for a $1.9 trillion stimulus package proposed earlier this month by President Biden. Republican lawmakers have been generally skeptical about the need for major economic aid in the near future. However, on the call, there was reportedly bipartisan support of funding for distributing COVID-19 vaccines and for coronavirus testing and tracing, in addition to better targeting for a future round of direct payments to people who most need it. Biden Administration officials are pushing for quick action but are still in the process of hearing Republican concerns. Leader Schumer announced on Monday that he wants Congress to pass the COVID relief package in the next four to six weeks and has indicated that he would consider utilizing the budget reconciliation process to pass the legislation with 51 votes in the Senate.

President Biden will sign a slew of executive actions this week, with each day following a designated theme, including “Buy American”, equity, climate, health care, and immigration. On Monday (‘Buy American’ day), Biden will sign a Made in America Executive Order (E.O.) that directs agencies to strengthen requirements so that they acquire goods and services from American businesses and workers. On Tuesday (’Equity’ day), Biden will establish a policing commission; reinstate Obama-era rules on the transfer of military-style equipment to local law enforcement; and order the Department of Housing and Urban Development to promote equality in housing. On Wednesday (‘Climate’ day), Biden will initiate a series of regulatory actions to combat climate change domestically; direct science and evidence-based decision-making in federal agencies; and announce plans for a U.S.-hosted Climate Leader’s Summit on Earth Day (April 22). On Thursday (‘Health Care’ day), Biden will take steps to strengthen Medicaid and initiate an open enrollment period under the Affordable Care Act. On Friday (‘Immigration’ day), Biden will take several actions regarding the asylum system and Refugee Admission Program; and direct an immediate review of the Public Charge Rule “and other actions to remove barriers and restore trust in the legal immigration system, including improving the naturalization process.”
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