House and Senate Democrats this week are making plans to use budget reconciliation to advance President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 relief proposal. This legislative process allows the controlling party in the legislature to pass a bill in both chambers with no support from the minority party.
The two parties disagree on the extent of relief in a COVID-19 bill — Democrats largely believe broad, immediate relief is necessary while Republicans are concerned about the cost of such a large bill and prefer a smaller package targeted to the most pressing needs. President Biden has released a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief plan that would send additional $1,400 direct payments to Americans, extend unemployment benefits, and allocate more dedicated funds for COVID-19 testing and vaccinations.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) on Monday unveiled a joint budget resolution containing instructions for House and Senate committees to develop a budget reconciliation bill reflective of Biden’s proposal.
On Monday evening, Biden met with a group of 10 Senate Republicans pushing a $618 billion COVID-19 rescue proposal that would appropriate an additional $35 billion to the Provider Relief Fund, with 20 percent dedicated to rural hospitals. Democrats so far have labeled this proposal as insufficient, with some noting the absence of funding for state and local governments. At the meeting, Biden echoed Democrats’ concerns that the smaller proposal is insufficient, citing the risk of underinvesting in the dual health and economic crises.
Final Organizing Resolution Still Missing
Meanwhile, Schumer and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) have yet to release an organizing resolution finalizing Senate operations for the 117th Congress.
Party leaders have agreed to largely model their power-sharing arrangement on a 2001 agreement between then-leaders Tom Daschle and Trent Lott, who also managed a Senate evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans. Although McConnell dropped his demand that the resolution preserve the filibuster — an issue that created a stalemate in negotiations — the leaders still have not finalized an organizing resolution. Until this happens, Democrats cannot officially take over as committee chairs, and some committee activity could continue to be delayed.
Notable Hearings This Week
The House Committee on Energy and Commerce will hold two hearings this week related to COVID-19 vaccines. The Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee will hold a Feb. 2 hearing to examine distributing and administering the COVID-19 vaccine. The Health Subcommittee will host a Feb. 3 hearing on COVID-19 vaccines, in addition to testing and the medical supply chain issues.