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 other programs.
On February 3, the House passed its fiscal year (FY) 2021 budget resolution (H. Con. Res. 11) by a vote of 218-212, which directs 12 House committees to draft pieces of a filibuster-proof (legislation needs at least 60 votes to be considered filibuster proof) reconciliation bill by Feb. 16 that will include President Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief. Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-VT) introduced the upper chamber’s version of the FY2021 budget resolution (S. Con. Res. 5) on Feb. 2, which sets out targets to 11 Senate committees and directs them to also finalize their work by Feb. 16; the Senate adopted the resolution by a vote of 51-50 in the early hours of February 8th.
Congressional Leaders are aiming to have the legislation ready for President Biden to sign into law before March 14, the date when federal $300 weekly unemployment insurance benefits lapse.
The House Budget Committee is expected to assemble the reconciliation legislation package – as reported by the 11 committees – and report it out of the Budget Committee the week of February 22, with House consideration of the package possible that same week. After passing the bill, the House would send it to the Senate as early as the week of March 1. House and Senate Democrats are likely to engage in “behind the scenes” negotiations on the package, thus allowing the bill to bypass the traditional Senate legislative process (committee markups, etc.) and go straight to the floor.
Renewable Energy Tax Legislation
Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee’s Subcommittee with jurisdiction over energy taxes, reintroduced his sweeping clean energy tax package – that would extend and expand a host of credits dedicated to electric vehicles, renewable energy, efficiency and other technologies. The Growing Renewable Energy and Efficiency Now (GREEN) Act (H.R. 848) was included in House Democrats $1.5 trillion infrastructure bill that passed the House last year but died in the Senate.
This year, the bill is likely be included – in some form – as a key component of the Biden administration and Congress’ approach to climate action, potentially as part of a broader infrastructure package – now expected to move through Congress in the late Spring-Early Summer.
Congress has gotten off to a fast start with several confirmation hearings for cabinet secretaries in the first weeks of the Biden Administration. State, Treasury, Defense, and Transportation Secretaries, among others, have been confirmed.
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. The Granholm and Regan nominations are awaiting action by the full Senate.
Department of Interior Secretary nominee Deb Haaland has yet to have a hearing scheduled on her confirmation. She has also drawn high profile GOP Senate opposition, with Senators Steve Daines of Montana and John Barrasso of Wyoming.