Chris Kearney | NSWA Vice President, Governmental Affairs
On January 14, President Biden announced his $1.9 trillion COVID-19 “American Rescue Plan,” an emergency legislative package to “fund vaccinations, provide immediate, direct relief to families bearing the brunt of the COVID-19 crisis, and support struggling communities.” The proposal includes $350 billion in emergency funding for state, local, and territorial governments “to ensure that they are in a position to keep front line public workers on the job and paid, while also effectively distributing the vaccine, scaling testing, reopening schools, and maintaining other vital services”; $25 billion for rental assistance to help renters and small landlords; and $5 billion for home energy and water costs and arrears through programs like the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), among many others.
Previous conversations with Congressional Republicans – who have pushed for a roughly $600 billion package – and the White House have broken down regarding a compromise on a bipartisan package and House and Senate Democrats are expected to advance COVID relief without GOP support.
The House is expected to consider COVID relief legislation the week of February 26th. Senate action on the measure is anticipated in early March, with the goal for the package to be signed by the President in mid-March (COVID-related unemployment benefits expire on March 14th).
Congress continues its work on advancing key cabinet secretaries.
EPA Administrator nominee Michael Regan and Department of Energy Secretary nominee Jennifer Granholm confirmations have been reported out of the respective committees of jurisdiction on bipartisan votes. On February 25, DOE Secretary-designee Granholm was confirmed 64-35 by the U.S. Senate. Michael Regan’s nomination is awaiting action by the full Senate.
Department of Interior Secretary nominee Deb Haaland has completed two days of hearings before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. She has drawn high-profile GOP Senate concerns over her past stated opposition to fracking, her concerns about methane, and oil and gas development in general.
Western – and oil and gas – state GOP Senators on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee questioned her aggressively on her previous comments and how she might handle management of oil and gas access on public lands if she were to be confirmed.
Senators Daines (R-MT) and Barrasso (R-WY) have signaled deep concern regarding her nomination and are expected to oppose her confirmation.
Notably, Senate Energy Committee Chairman Joe Manchin (D-WV) has publicly declared his intent to support Rep. Haaland’s nomination – likely ensuring she will be confirmed.