This week: Congress returns with lengthy to-do list
Lawmakers are returning from a weeks-long break with Democrats eager to make progress on a lengthy to-do list.
The Senate will come into session on Monday after a two-week break, while the House is returning on Tuesday from a three-week break.
The legislative session will take Democrats and the White House through President Biden’s first 100 days. The House will be in D.C. for two weeks, followed by a committee work period, compared to three weeks for the Senate.
“We still have much to do to deliver on our promises to the American people, and the April legislative work period will see the House consider a number of key bills to achieve our goals,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) wrote in a “Dear Colleague” letter sent late last week.
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), in a letter sent late last month, has vowed that the Senate needs to “make progress” on “major issues facing the American people” with a focus on voting rights and civil rights, the economy and gun reforms.
“We will try to work with our Republican colleagues on a bipartisan basis when and where we can. But if they choose to obstruct, rather than work with us to deliver for American families, we must make progress nonetheless. Failure is not an option,” Schumer wrote in the letter to Senate Democrats.
Democrats and the White House are increasingly turning their focus to Biden’s “American Jobs Plan,” a sweeping proposal that includes roads and bridges but also includes broadband, the nation’s water supply and manufacturing.
Biden and Vice President Harris will meet with a group of lawmakers on Monday to discuss their proposal. Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Reps. Garret Graves (R-La.), Donald Payne Jr. (D-N.J.), David Price (D-N.C.) and Don Young (R-Alaska) are expected to attend.
Top Democrats have said that they want to get bipartisan support but have signaled that they are willing to go it alone under reconciliation, a budget process that allows them to bypass the legislative filibuster in the Senate.
Republicans have panned Biden’s proposal, predicting that it won’t pick up GOP votes.
“I think that package that they’re putting together now as much as we would like to address infrastructure is not going to get support from our side because I think … the last thing the economy needs right now is a big whopping tax increase on all the productive sections of our economy,” he said.
Democrats could face headaches from their own ranks if they have to use reconciliation.
Biden is proposing increasing the corporate tax rate to 28 percent to help cover the cost of his plan.
But Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) has poured cold water on that, saying he would vote for increasing the tax rate from 21 percent to 25 percent. Under reconciliation Biden will need the support of all 50 members of the Senate Democratic caucus, giving Manchin, or any other one member, significant sway.
“As the bill exists today, it needs to be changed,” Manchin told Hoppy Kercheval, the host of West Virginia Metro News’s “Talkline” show.
In addition to infrastructure, Hoyer said that the House will vote during the current work period on D.C. statehood, as well as legislation rejecting former President Trump’s travel ban.
Lie in honor
William “Billy” Evans, the police officer who died in the line of duty from the car attack at the Capitol on April 2, will lie in honor in the Rotunda on Tuesday.
“The United States Congress joins all Americans in mourning the tragic death of one of our Capitol Police heroes, Officer Billy Evans,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Schumer said in a joint statement.
“In giving his life to protect our Capitol and our Country, Officer Evans became a martyr for our democracy. On behalf of the entire Congress, we are profoundly grateful,” they added.
Evans was killed after the suspect in this month’s attack, Noah Green, rammed his car into him and another Capitol Police officer stationed at a security checkpoint along the fence lining the Senate side of the Capitol before crashing into a barricade.
He served in the Capitol Police force for 18 years and was the father of two children. There will be a tribute ceremony shortly after his remains arrive at the Capitol, followed by a viewing period for fellow members of the Capitol Police and members of Congress.
Evans will be the second Capitol Police officer to lie in honor this year. Congressional leaders gave the same tribute to Brian Sicknick, the Capitol Police officer who died after engaging with members of the violent mob of former President Trump’s supporters during the Jan. 6 insurrection.
Schumer has teed up legislation for this week from Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) to address an uptick in hate crimes targeting Asian Americans during the coronavirus.
The bill requires the Justice Department to designate an individual responsible for overseeing the expedited review of coronavirus-related hate crimes.
Biden urged Congress to pass the bill last month after eight people were killed in Georgia, including six Asian women.
“I urge Congress to swiftly pass the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, which would expedite the federal government’s response to the rise of hate crimes exacerbated during the pandemic, support state and local governments to improve hate crimes reporting, and ensure that hate crimes information is more accessible to Asian American communities,” he said.
Hoyer predicted that the House would also be taking up additional legislation, after passing a resolution last year condemning crimes targeting Asian Americans.
“It is clear that the House will have to take further action in the coming weeks, and bills introduced by Reps. Meng and Beyer are under review by the Judiciary Committee, which I anticipate will move forward expeditiously with their consideration,” he said.
The House will vote this week on the Paycheck Fairness Act, which previously passed the chamber last year.
The bill would bar employers from inquiring about prospective employees’ salaries and ban retaliation against employees who compare wages.
The House will also vote on the Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act, which requires health care employers to develop workplace violence prevention plans.
“We owe it to our nation’s health care and social service workers, who have been on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19, to ensure that they can do their jobs with every safety precaution taken,” Hoyer said in his letter to House members.
Schumer has teed up votes on several nominations: Polly Ellen Trottenberg to be deputy secretary of Transportation, Wendy Sherman to be a deputy secretary of State, Gary Gensler to lead the Securities and Exchange Commission and Brenda Mallory to lead the Council on Environmental Quality.
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