This week: House to vote on Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus bill
© Greg Nash

Democrats are preparing to take up a $1.9 trillion coronavirus plan that will test their unity in a closely divided government.
 
House Democrats are expected to vote on the bill, modeled after President BidenJoe BidenNoem touts South Dakota coronavirus response, knocks lockdowns in CPAC speech On The Trail: Cuomo and Newsom — a story of two embattled governors Biden celebrates vaccine approval but warns 'current improvement could reverse' MORE’s plan, this week, allowing for the Senate to vote as soon as next week. Democrats want the bill signed into law by mid-March, when federal unemployment benefits will expire.
 
“I feel as if we've worked the staff 24/7 for a number of weeks now to make sure that we stay on schedule with the American Rescue Plan, the Biden plan,” Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiMcCarthy: 'I would bet my house' GOP takes back lower chamber in 2022 After vote against coronavirus relief package, Golden calls for more bipartisanship in Congress Democrats don't trust GOP on 1/6 commission: 'These people are dangerous' MORE (D-Calif.) told reporters during a press conference late last week
 
Pelosi is hoping to have the bill on the floor by Friday, but it first needs to go through both the Budget and Rules Committees.
 
The Budget Committee is scheduled to meet on Monday, where it will condense the various pieces of the package into one bill. The panel is expected to need to tweak the package, which is currently estimated to cost more than the $1.889 trillion allowed under a budget resolution that included the instructions for crafting the coronavirus bill.
 
“This reconciliation bill is the next step toward implementing the American Rescue Plan and finally changing the direction of these crises. ... We are in a race against time,” House Budget Committee Chairman John YarmuthJohn Allen YarmuthHouse Democrats pass sweeping .9T COVID-19 relief bill with minimum wage hike House set for tight vote on COVID-19 relief package Budget Committee chair pledges to raise minimum wage: 'Hold me to it' MORE (D-Ky.) said in a statement Friday.
 
The House Rules Committee hasn’t yet said when it will take up the coronavirus bill. It already has a meeting scheduled for Tuesday to set up for the debate for two other unrelated bills on the House floor this week.
 
House GOP leadership is whipping against the bill, which they’ve named “Pelosi’s Payoff to Progressives Act.”
 
“Democrats rejected hundreds of Republican amendments and any efforts to advance bipartisan solutions that are targeted, temporary, and tied to COVID relief. It’s clear Democrats have no interest in approaching COVID relief in a timely and targeted fashion and are instead using the reconciliation process to jam through their liberal wish list agenda,” House Minority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseMerrick Garland is right to prioritize domestic terrorism, but he'll need a bigger boat Why Congress must invoke the 14th Amendment now The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by The AIDS Institute - Ahead: One-shot vax, easing restrictions, fiscal help MORE’s (R-La.) office said in a notice to GOP members about the bill.
 
That means Pelosi will likely need to pass the bill with only Democratic votes. Rep. Jared Golden (Maine) was the only Democrat to join every Republican earlier this year in voting against a budget resolution that teed up passing the subsequent coronavirus bill under reconciliation.
 
After the bill passes the House, it goes to the Senate, where it faces the potential for more significant roadblocks.
 
Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerThe bizarre back story of the filibuster Hillicon Valley: Biden signs order on chips | Hearing on media misinformation | Facebook's deal with Australia | CIA nominee on SolarWinds House Rules release new text of COVID-19 relief bill MORE (D-N.Y.) said on Sunday that he has been shaping the bill as it has been drafted by the House.
 
Schumer also sent a letter to his caucus late last week urging them to provide input to his office and Senate committees.
 
“We have already incorporated many of your suggestions, as well as a number of bipartisan proposals, into the bill and the Senate is on track to send a robust $1.9 trillion package to the president’s desk before the March 14 expiration of Unemployment Insurance benefits. We will meet this deadline,” Schumer said.
 
Because Democrats are using reconciliation to pass the coronavirus bill they’ll be able to bypass the 60-vote legislative filibuster in the Senate and pass it by a simple majority and without GOP support.
 
Several Republican ranking members sent Senate leadership a letter arguing that the process is “devoid of any shred of meaningful bipartisanship.”
 
Schumer, in his letter, said Democrats were willing to work with Republicans on “constructive amendments.” Like the budget resolution, the Senate will need to go through a vote-a-rama, where any senator can force an amendment vote, before it passes the coronavirus bill. Any changes will require it to go back to the House.
 
But Senate Democrats are still waiting to see if the $15 per hour minimum wage can pass muster with the parliamentarian, who needs to make a determination on if it complies with the Byrd rule that governs what can, and cannot, be passed under reconciliation.
 
Even if the parliamentarian greenlights it, the increase, which would be phased in, faces pushback from some Democratic senators. Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinProgressives fume over Senate setbacks Politics, not racism or sexism, explain opposition to Biden Cabinet nominees House Democrats pass sweeping .9T COVID-19 relief bill with minimum wage hike MORE (D-W.Va.) has said he opposes it.
 
Democrats also supported several GOP amendments during the budget vote-a-rama, including the idea of further targeting the next round of relief checks, voicing support for the Keystone pipeline and preventing checks from going to undocumented immigrants.
 
Republicans are likely to force similar votes during the Senate’s consideration of the coronavirus bill.
 
Garland
 
D.C. Circuit Judge Merrick GarlandMerrick Brian GarlandDOJ faces swift turnaround to meet Biden voting rights pledge Merrick Garland is right to prioritize domestic terrorism, but he'll need a bigger boat The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by The AIDS Institute - Finger-pointing on Capitol riot; GOP balks at Biden relief plan MORE will testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee this week, nearly five years after Senate Republicans refused to give him a hearing or a vote for his 2016 Supreme Court nomination.
 
Garland will testify on Monday as part of his nomination to be Biden’s attorney general. An outside panel is expected to testify on Tuesday.
 
The Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol is expected to hover over the hearing, with the Justice Department leading a sprawling investigation into the riot.
 
Garland is expected to use his opening statement to note his law enforcement background. Before joining the federal bench, he worked as a DOJ attorney investigating and prosecuting the Oklahoma City bombing.
 
“If confirmed, I will supervise the prosecution of white supremacists and others who stormed the Capitol on January 6 – a heinous attack that sought to disrupt a cornerstone of our democracy: the peaceful transfer of power to a newly elected government,” Garland is expected to tell the committee, according to a copy of his prepared remarks
 
Sen. Dick DurbinDick DurbinPartisan headwinds threaten Capitol riot commission Murkowski undecided on Tanden as nomination in limbo Democrats ask FBI for plans to address domestic extremism following Capitol attack MORE (D-Ill.), who is overseeing his first hearing as committee chairman, is also expected to bring up the Capitol attack, telling Garland that, if confirmed, he “will be in a unique position with unique responsibility.”
 
“As the nation’s chief law enforcement officer, you will be tasked with the solemn duty to responsibly investigate the events of that day; to prosecute all of the individuals responsible; and to prevent future attacks driven by hate, inflammatory words, and bizarre conspiracy theories,” Durbin will say, according to his prepared remarks.
 
Durbin is also expected to paint DOJ as being at a crossroads after the Trump administration, when then-Attorney General Bill Barr found himself in the center of several scandals and faced claims of politicizing DOJ.
 
“Should you be confirmed — and I have every confidence that you will be — you will oversee a Justice Department in an existential moment.  After four tumultuous years of intrigue, controversy, and brute political forces, the future course of the Department is clearly in transition,” Durbin will say.
 
Garland is also expected to face questions on a litany of other topics, including DOJ investigations into Hunter Biden, John DurhamJohn DurhamSpecial counsel investigating Russia probe to retire as US attorney Biden administration withdraws from Connecticut transgender athlete case Garland seeks to draw sharp contrast with Trump-era DOJ MORE’s probe into the origins of the Russia investigation, criminal justice reform and reforms to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, Courts.
 
Even though Republicans stonewalled Garland during the Obama administration, members of the committee, including Sens. John  Cornyn (R-Texas) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamOvernight Defense: Biden sends message with Syria airstrike | US intel points to Saudi crown prince in Khashoggi killing | Pentagon launches civilian-led sexual assault commission Graham: Trump will 'be helpful' to all Senate GOP incumbents John Boehner tells Cruz to 'go f--- yourself' in unscripted audiobook asides: report MORE (R-S.C.), have praised Biden for picking him, signaling that they are likely to support him.
 
Capitol attack
 
The Senate Rules and Homeland Security committees will have their first public hearing as part of their probe into the January 6 attack on Tuesday.
 
Paul Irving, the former House sergeant at arms, Steven Sund, the former Capitol Police chief, and Michael Stenger, the former Senate sergeant at arms, are expected to testify. Each of the men were either fired or stepped down in the wake of the January 6 attack amid fierce backlash about the lack of security at the Capitol, despite public plotting online by insurrectionist groups about storming the building.
 
Robert Contee, the acting D.C. police chief, is also expected to testify.
 
A House Appropriations subcommittee will also hold a hearing on Thursday about security failures ahead of the attack. Timothy Blodgett, the acting House sergeant at arms, and Yogananda Pittman, the acting Capitol police chief, are expected to testify.
 
Nominations
 
In addition to Garland, the Senate is expected to work on several additional nominees this week.
 
The Senate will hold an initial vote on Linda Thomas-GreenfieldLinda Thomas-GreenfieldPolitics, not racism or sexism, explain opposition to Biden Cabinet nominees The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - J&J A-OK, Tanden in Trouble The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by The AIDS Institute - Finger-pointing on Capitol riot; GOP balks at Biden relief plan MORE’s nomination to be U.N. ambassador on Monday night.
 
The Senate Budget and Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committees will hold votes this week on Neera TandenNeera TandenPolitics, not racism or sexism, explain opposition to Biden Cabinet nominees On The Money: Democrats scramble to save minimum wage hike | Personal incomes rise, inflation stays low after stimulus burst Media circles wagons for conspiracy theorist Neera Tanden MORE’s nomination to be OMB director. Her path to confirmation was thrown into limbo after Manchin said he couldn’t support her.
 
But Biden has indicated that he’s not pulling the nomination and Schumer told reporters on Sunday that he is working to try to find the votes.
 
On Tuesday the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing for Rep. Deb HaalandDeb HaalandPolitics, not racism or sexism, explain opposition to Biden Cabinet nominees OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden returns to Obama-era greenhouse gas calculation | House passes major public lands package | Biden administration won't defend Trump-era relaxation of bird protections Indigenous groups post billboards urging senators to confirm Deb Haaland MORE’s (D-N.M.) nomination to be Interior secretary and California Attorney General Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraPolitics, not racism or sexism, explain opposition to Biden Cabinet nominees The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden vs. Trump, part II The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by The AIDS Institute - Senate ref axes minimum wage, House votes today on relief bill MORE will testify before the Health committee for his nomination to be secretary of Health and Human Services.
 
The Senate Intelligence Committee will hold a hearing Wednesday on William BurnsWilliam BurnsCIA formed task force to address suspected microwave attacks The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by The AIDS Institute - Ahead: One-shot vax, easing restrictions, fiscal help Biden's picks face peril in 50-50 Senate MORE’ nomination to be CIA director.

Equality Act

The House is slated to take up the Equality Act — led by Rep. David CicillineDavid CicillineHouse passes sweeping protections for LGBTQ people The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - J&J A-OK, Tanden in Trouble Six ways to visualize a divided America MORE (D-R.I.) — which aims to extend federal discrimination protections for LGBTQ people.

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The legislation would amend current civil rights laws to bar discrimination against the LGBTQ community in the workforce,  education, credit and housing, in addition to other areas.

Proponents argue it is a necessary step to ensure there are equal rights for all Americans.

“In 2021, every American should be treated with respect and dignity,” Cicilline said in a statement. “Yet, in most states, LGBTQ people can be discriminated against because of who they are, or who they love. It is past time for that to change. I’m proud to introduce the Equality Act today, and I look forward to continuing to work with Senator Merkley to get this bill signed into law.”

The legislation previously passed the lower chamber in 2019, but was blocked by the then-Republican controlled upper chamber.