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On the Hill: Democrats Weigh Infrastructure Options; Budget Hearings

Capitol Hill remains focused on infrastructure heading into the summer, despite the ongoing division between Republicans and Democrats on what to include in an infrastructure package.

President Joe Biden last week met twice with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) as part of ongoing discussions to build a bipartisan legislative package on infrastructure. The president this week plans to discuss a physical infrastructure proposal with a separate bipartisan group of senators.

As negotiations continue, it appears a bipartisan plan is unlikely to pass the Senate by July. Consequently, Democrats could explore the possibility of using the budget reconciliation process, which only requires a simple majority vote. However, a recent parliamentarian ruling indicates that, logistically, Democrats might not be able to attempt another reconciliation bill using the fiscal year (FY) 2021 budget resolution.

Democrats previously evaluated revisiting the FY 2021 budget resolution as a way to increase their opportunities to pass priority legislation. The parliamentarian’s ruling essentially requires one Republican vote for a budget resolution to advance through the Senate Committee on the Budget, making a reconciliation bill more complicated and improbable.

Democrats likely have only one more shot at reconciliation this year, using the FY 2022 budget resolution. The process for developing an FY 2022 budget resolution can officially begin since the president released his budget proposal last month.

Budget Hearings Feature HHS, OMB Leaders

Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra is scheduled to appear before multiple congressional committees this week to discuss Biden’s health care budget recommendations for FY 2022.

Becerra on Tuesday testified before the House Committee on Ways and Means, and he will testify during a Wednesday hearing of the Senate Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies. On Thursday, the Senate Committee on Finance will host Becerra for a hearing on the president’s FY 2022 HHS budget.

Meanwhile, Office of Management and Budget Acting Director Shalanda Young will testify on Biden’s proposed budget twice this week: at a Tuesday hearing of the Senate Committee on the Budget and a Wednesday hearing of the House Committee on the Budget.

Bipartisan Bill Would Protect 340B Eligibility

A bipartisan group of House members recently introduced legislation to ensure covered entities remain eligible for the 340B Drug Pricing Program through the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Doris Matsui (D-CA) and cosponsored by Reps. Chris Stewart (R-UT), Cindy Axne (D-IA), David McKinley (R-WV), Abbigail Spanberger (D-VA), and Dusty Johnson (R-SD-At Large).

America’s Essential Hospitals submitted a letter of support for this bill.

HHS Nomination Hearing

The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions will hold a June 7 nomination hearing for two HHS vacancies:

  • Dawn O’Connell is nominated as assistant secretary for preparedness and response; and
  • Miriam Delphin-Rittmon is nominated as assistant secretary for mental health and substance use.

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About the Author

Christina Fagnano is the legislative affairs associate at America's Essential Hospitals.

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