Washington Update 4.27.21

House Republican Conference – At the House Republican Conference retreat yesterday morning, Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) rolled out the leadership of the GOP’s new policy task forces. They are:

  • Jobs/Economy – Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC)
  • Big Tech Censorship – Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA)
  • Energy/Climate/Conservation – Rep. Garrett Graves (R-LA)
  • Domestic Security – Rep. John Katko (R-NY)
  • Health – Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-KY) and Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA)
  • China – Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX)
  • American Freedoms – Jim Jordan (R-OH)

These task forces demonstrate Leader McCarthy’s effort to develop a substantive policy agenda.  To this end, he is relying on ranking members to have legislative proposals drafted, scored, and ready for potential floor votes.  These proposals can then be broached if and when Republican votes are needed or used as a policy platform should Republicans regain the majority next Congress.

The current breakdown in the House is 218 Democrats to 212 Republicans. Conventional wisdom holds that some moderate Republican votes may be ‘up for grabs’ to help Democratic leadership pass key bills in the House.  But at the moment, no House Republican appears ready or willing to help Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) pass any substantive legislation.  Bipartisan bills will likely only pass the House after consultation with Republican leadership.

House Republicans also welcomed the US Census Bureau’s announcement yesterday that Texas will gain two congressional seats along with Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina and Oregon each gaining one seat.  California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia will all lose congressional seats ahead of the 2022 midterm elections.

Senate Bipartisanship – While the media has spent this work period focused on competing infrastructure proposals, the Senate has been making bipartisan progress on several other issues.  The prospects for a bipartisan, comprehensive China response package continue to improve.  Following last week’s markup of S. 1169, the Strategic Competition Act, in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the focus shifts to the Senate Commerce Committee this Wednesday, when it will mark up S.1260, the Endless Frontier Act. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Sen. Todd Young (R-IN) garnered 6 Democratic and 6 Republican co-sponsors for the bill’s introduction.

With other committees having completed negotiations on their portions of the China package, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Ranking Member Mike Crapo (R-ID) continue to work in good faith on counterfeit goods, Chinese media censorship, forced labor, and supply chains.  Other trade policies related to China could come into play as well.  It’s not clear yet whether the committee will hold a markup of any potential agreement.  Leader Schumer wants to have the final China package on the Senate floor by the next work period, and potentially as soon as the week of May 10th.

Bipartisanship has extended beyond committee work to the Senate floor.  Following negotiations and consideration of a handful of amendments S. 937, the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, passed by a vote of 94 to 1.  This week the Senate is expected to proceed to S.914, the Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act, which was unanimously advanced by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.  While disagreements on big-ticket legislation may get the most attention, these are clear indications that the Senate is capable of legislating even under a 50-50 split.

Senate Republican Conference – The Senate Republican Conference last week elected to keep their current ban on earmarks and adopted Sen. Rick Scott’s (R-FL) proposal stating that any future increase in the debt ceiling should be accompanied by an equal amount of spending cuts or major budget reforms.  While non-binding, the decisions demonstrate that Senate Republicans are returning to traditional pre-Trump fiscal conservativism.  The House Republican Conference lifted its ban on earmarks in March.

Senate Floor This Week – Leader Schumer announced that the Senate will consider S. J. Res. 14, which is a resolution under the Congressional Review Act to eliminate the Trump administration’s methane-emissions rule (note: the CRA covers the so-called methane “policy rule,” not the “technical rule”).  A bipartisan vote in support of the CRA is expected.  The Leader also filed cloture on the following nominations:

  • Jason Scott Miller to be Deputy Director for Management, Office of Management and Budget
  • Janet Garvin McCabe to be Deputy Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency
  • Colin Hackett Kahl to be Under Secretary of Defense for Policy

Administration – President Biden will mark his 100th day in office this Friday, and will make an address to a Joint Session of Congress on Wednesday evening.  Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) will be delivering the Republican response.  Before his address, President Biden is expected to unveil his $1.8 trillion “American Family Plan,” which will focus on education, childcare, family leave, and social well-being.  It remains to be seen whether the White House will also push for health care reforms in the package.  The proposal will be paid for by changes in individual tax policies, including tax increases on capital gains, estates, and several other wealth taxes.