Washington Update 04.19.21

House Republicans – The House Republican Conference convenes next Sunday through Tuesday in Orlando, Florida for its members’ retreat.  In a continuing effort to influence legislation in the narrowly controlled House, members will announce several new policy task forces, covering Health, Economy, Big Tech, Domestic Security, and Freedom and Fairness.  They will be modeled after last year’s China Task Force, which got rave reviews from House GOP members and leadership for crafting substantive policies and reports.

Today’s retirement announcement by Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH), effective May 16th, will leave open a highly sought position on the House Committee on Financial Services.  Stivers’ possible replacement includes Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX), Rep. Ralph Norman (R-NC), Rep. Daniel Meuser (R-PA), and Rep. Andrew Garbarino (R-NY). House Democrats did not expand the committee’s membership ratio, thereby depriving some senior Republicans of a coveted spot on the committee. Because of this, we would expect this open slot to be awarded to a more senior House member.


Senate Floor– The Senate hopes to complete consideration of the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act this week and send it to the House.  After that, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) says he wants the Senate to take up S. 914, the “Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act,” which was approved unanimously by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee last month. The bill would reauthorize the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) and provide resources to small and disadvantaged communities.  The Senate is also expected to consider the following nominations this week:

  • Lisa O. Monaco to be Deputy Attorney General
  • Gary Gensler to be a Member and Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for a term expiring June 5, 2026.


Infrastructure – Senate Republicans will continue advocating for a bipartisan infrastructure package that focuses exclusively on core infrastructure priorities such as roads, highways, bridges, water, wastewater, airport modernization, and broadband initiatives.  Environment and Public Works Committee Ranking Member Shelly Moore Capito (R-WV) continues to lead the negotiation efforts for the conference on a traditional surface transportation reauthorization bill.  Senate Republicans are coalescing around a package with a $600 to $800 billion price tag, with transportation-related pay-fors instead of raising taxes.

Senators Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Joe Manchin (R-WV) will be important arbiters of a compromise package.  If, as expected, Democrats resort to using reconciliation to pass a final bill, Sinema and Manchin may be the ultimate deciders.

The centrist group of 20 Senators who previously tried to broker COVID relief measures continues to hold discussions, including with leaders of the House Problem Solvers Caucus, on their own priorities for an infrastructure package.  At this point, these so-called “gangs” have little to show for their efforts.


Energy – House Republicans will spend the first part of this week focusing on their climate change and conservation policy agenda. They will highlight bills and policies that harness the power of technology and innovation, rather than mandates and taxes, to address climate change.  The rollout will feature efforts to expand energy infrastructure, promote precision agriculture, and encourage development of critical minerals and zero-emissions power sources, such as advanced nuclear.  The effort is viewed as a ‘prebuttal’ to President Biden’s virtual Climate Leaders’ Summit taking place later this week.


Senate Conference Rules/Earmarks – On Wednesday, Senate Republicans will vote on their conference rules.  The major topic of debate will be whether to reinstate earmarking.  Proponents of earmarks are a mix of senior Republican senators, appropriators, and younger members who were not in the Senate when the earmark ban was instituted.  They argue that without Republican participation in directing federal funding, Democrats will simply hand over more federal funds to blue states.  Opposition to earmarks will be led by Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX), Josh Hawley (R-MO), Pat Toomey (R-PA), and Rick Scott (R-FL). Given that the House GOP has already voted to permit earmarking, it’s conceivable that, in the upcoming appropriations process, many Senate Republicans make earmark requests while others object.

Senate Republicans will also consider a proposal from Sen. Rick Scott that any increase in the debt ceiling must be accompanied by equal cuts in federal spending.  This debate could be a window into how much traditional fiscal conservative policies still resonate with members.  Calls for “Cut, Cap, and Balance” dominated Republican politics while President Obama was in office.


China – The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will markup the bipartisan Strategic Competition Act on Wednesday, while Majority Leader Schumer and Sen. Todd Young (R-IN) hope to unveil their “Endless Frontier” legislation this week following the Senate Commerce Committee’s hearing on the subject last week.  Other committees continue to work on their portions of the package such as the Senate Finance Committee, which is discussing supply chain and forced labor provisions.  Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-FL) “Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act” now has 44 bipartisan co-sponsors.  Consideration of a comprehensive China response package could slip until the May work period.