Senate – Yesterday, the Senate confirmed Rep. Debra Haaland (D-NM) as Interior Secretary which kicked off a week of confirmation votes with Isabella Guzman expected to be confirmed as Administrator of the Small Business Administration and Katherine Tai to be United States Trade Representative. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has also filed cloture on Xavier Becerra to be Secretary of Health and Human Services as well as Marty Walsh to be Secretary of Labor.
The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) is set to expire at the end of this month, and both the Senate and the House are taking steps to extend it. Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship Chair Ben Cardin (D-MD), Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) have introduced legislation that would extend the program for another two months and provide an additional 30 days for the U.S. Small Business Administration to process loans submitted before the newly proposed May 31, 2021 deadline.
The legislation is a companion to the House bill that is expected to pass the chamber this week with Republican support. Its outlook in the Senate is murkier, however, due to the notable silence of Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), the new ranking member of the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee. Sen. Paul will play a pivotal role in any attempt to pass the PPP Extension Act by unanimous consent in the Senate. His views on the legislation are likely to become public on Wednesday, when his committee holds a hearing on the future of the PPP.
There are some signals that Senate Democratic leaders may soon bring to the floor legislation expanding background checks for private gun sales. Similar legislation has already passed the House. A procedural vote in the Senate would follow expected hearings in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Similar bills have failed to garner 60 votes in the past, but this issue—along with test votes on immigration, election rules and union organizing—could again become fodder for progressive Democratic members seeking to change the Senate’s filibuster rules.
House – Last week, we told you that Leader McCarthy (R-CA) has been working with ranking members to develop legislative priorities. This effort goes beyond merely outlining alternative visions for policy. At the committee levels, Republicans are working to draft legislative language, score it, and collect co-sponsors. These substantive packages will then be ready to move quickly in the event that Republican votes are needed to pass broader legislation or break stalemates on other issues.
As an example of this, in the energy space, some Republican priorities are being unveiled this week as part of a “Securing Cleaner American Energy” agenda. The agenda includes 18 bills covering issues such as climate change and clean energy infrastructure. We would expect that you will see other committees doing similar things.
We have previously noted how difficult it will be for the House Democratic leadership to pass one-sided legislation due to their slim majority. Many have asked when the open House seats will be filled by special elections. The following is a list of those expected elections:
- Louisiana CD-5 & CD-2 – Special elections March 20th, with runoff April 24th if needed
- Texas CD-6 – Special election May 1st
- Ohio CD-11 – TBD (Gov. DeWine, R, could schedule it as late as November)
- New Mexico CD-1 – TBD