A bipartisan group of 10 senators last week reached an agreement with the White House on a $1.2 trillion physical infrastructure framework to fund transportation, water, energy, and broadband projects.
The agreement includes a list of potential policy changes to help pay for the deal; one option would extend the damaging 2 percent Medicare sequester cut, which is temporarily suspended through Dec. 31, 2021, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Lawmakers now must turn the framework into legislation. Despite progress on the framework, the ultimate outcome of infrastructure negotiations remains uncertain.
Also unclear is the fate of President Joe Biden’s “human infrastructure” goals, which include policies on social services and health care. Progressive Democrats are demanding that physical and human infrastructure proposals move in tandem. However, Republicans and some moderate Democrats are unlikely to support conditioning the passage of a bipartisan physical infrastructure bill on a commitment to considering a partisan human infrastructure package; the partisan package likely would be advanced via the budget reconciliation process.
Meanwhile, the House this week will vote on the $715 billion INVEST in America Act (H.R. 3684), which includes transportation, energy, and water infrastructure policies under the jurisdiction of the House committees on Transportation and Infrastructure and Energy and Commerce. The bill does not include grant funding for hospital construction and modernization. Although the bill is unlikely to become law in its current form, passage would deliver on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) commitment to clear infrastructure legislation by the July Fourth recess.
Committees Examine Health Equity, Vaccine Hesitancy
The House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health last week held a hearing on advancing health equity and public health through data use. Witnesses and lawmakers explored new ways to gather data on social determinants of health to overcome information gaps and disparities. There was a strong focus throughout the hearing on improving data models for research on Black maternal health and improving health outcomes for Black mothers. There was bipartisan support for an overhaul on data standardization and building on hospital technological infrastructure as a way to modernize the data collection process.
Meanwhile, the Senate Committee on Finance last week held a hearing to consider the nomination of Melanie Anne Egorin as assistant secretary of health and human services. Egorin now awaits the committee’s vote before her nomination can advance to the full Senate.
The House Oversight and Reform Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis will convene a July 1 hybrid hearing on building trust and overcoming vaccine hesitancy.