This week: Biden to pitch Congress ahead of 100-day mark
President Biden is heading back this week to his old haunt — Capitol Hill — as he seeks to make his case to lawmakers, and the American public, nearly 100 days into his administration.
Biden’s speech to a joint session of Congress comes as the House is in the middle of a committee work period, with many members out of town, and the Senate is set to leave town on Thursday for a one-week break.
Biden’s speech is going to be unlike any other previous president’s speech to Congress given the ongoing coronavirus pandemic restrictions.
Roughly 200 people will be allowed in the House chamber, with no lawmakers allowed to bring guests. The attendance cap also means some members won’t be able to attend. A memo from acting House Sergeant at Arms Timothy Blodgett warned that any members who do not have an invitation from congressional leadership “will not be permitted in the Capitol after 5 p.m.”
In a shift, there will also be no first lady’s box, which is often filled with guests of the first family. Though first lady Jill Biden will not bring guests to Wednesday’s event, she will attend the speech in person.
Biden is expected to use his address to a joint session of Congress Wednesday to lay out his next legislative proposal focusing on child care and education, as well as to call for police reform and expanding access to health care.
Sen. Tim Scott (S.C.), viewed by some as a potential 2024 contender, will deliver the Republican response to Biden’s speech.
A group of House Republicans urged Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to reschedule the address to a week when the House is in session and invite all members of Congress.
The speech comes as Congress is in the midst of a months-long slog over Biden’s sweeping $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan. Biden’s plan includes money for roads and bridges, broadband, rail and water systems but also includes funding for in-home care, housing, clean energy, public schools and manufacturing.
A group of Republicans unveiled a $568 billion counteroffer to Biden’s plan on Thursday that would focus more narrowly on roads and bridges, public transit systems, rail, wastewater infrastructure, airports and broadband infrastructure.
Democrats have acknowledged they are likely to use reconciliation — an arcane budget process that avoids them to avoid a 60-vote Senate filibuster — to pass much of Biden’s plan.
But to do that they’ll need total unity from the 50-member Senate Democratic Caucus, and there are differences over strategy and some horse-trading over the details of the legislation.
Biden pitched raising the corporate tax rate to 28 percent, but Democrats have signaled that it could end up around 25 percent.
There’s also pressure from some Democratic senators to break the plan into pieces and pass what can get bipartisan support in one package and what can’t under a separate reconciliation package.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), a key vote, said on Friday that Biden and Democrats should focus first on “conventional” infrastructure and handle Biden’s broader plan “step by step.”
“What we think the greatest need we have now, that can be done in a bipartisan way, is conventional infrastructure whether it’s the water, sewer, roads, bridges, internet — things that we know need to be repaired, be fixed,” Manchin said.
“Why don’t you take the greatest need that we have and do it on something that we all agree on?” Manchin added.
The Senate will vote on nixing a Trump-era rule that limits regulation of methane under the Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress to get rid of regulations completed in the prior 60 legislative days with a simple majority vote.
The rule put limits on the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate methane emissions from the oil and gas sector.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) has said she will join Democrats to nix the Trump rule.
As Congress is haggling over a larger infrastructure package, the Senate will also take a small step on the floor this week.
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) has teed up a $30 billion water resources bill, which cleared the Environment and Public Works Committee with unanimous support.
“The water infrastructure bill is a small but important part of that overall effort,” Schumer said from the floor. “It will authorize tens of billions of dollars to make sure American families, especially low-income families, have access to safe and clean drinking water.”
Schumer has teed up votes on three additional Biden nominees on the Senate floor.
The Senate will hold an initial vote on Jason Miller’s nomination to be deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget.
After that, the Senate will vote on Janet McCabe’s nomination to be deputy administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency and Colin Kahl’s nomination to be under secretary of Defense for policy.
Vice President Harris broke a tie to advance Kahl’s nomination to the full Senate last week. She’s expected to be needed to break ties this week to end debate and ultimately confirm Kahl, unless a GOP senator is absent.
The Senate Judiciary Committee will also hold its first hearing on Biden’s judicial nominations this week.
The panel will hold a nomination hearing on Wednesday that will include three nominations for the district courts and two circuit court nominees.
Much of the hearing is likely to focus on District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, who was picked by Biden to fill the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals seat vacated by Attorney General Merrick Garland. The D.C. Circuit is the second most powerful court in the country, and Jackson is already getting Supreme Court buzz.