Critical time in Congress: Lawmakers rush to recess


With just days to go before the Congressional recess in August, House and Senate members have a busy legislative slate between them and a comeback from Washington — especially with November’s midterm elections looming. loom and control of both chambers up for grabs.

For Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, time is running out to pass key legislation — and plead with voters to keep their ruling party in November, not to mention expanding their razor-thin margins in both chambers.

“It is extremely important for [voters] to see that Democrats understand that the job isn’t done and they keep pushing and pushing for more,” Laura Rodriguez, vice president of government affairs at the Center for American Progress, told Spectrum News.

With only a handful of votes to spare in the House and no room for error in the Senate 50-50, for the Democratic majority, party leaders must be careful how they prioritize their legislative agenda, which includes a draft $280 billion domestic policy stimulus bill. manufacturing of semiconductors, a measure codifying same-sex marriage, admitting Sweden and Finland into NATO, a bill to help veterans exposed to toxic combustion stoves and a partisan bill on the pricing of prescription drugs and the extension of Obamacare subsidies.

The House is also expected to pass a number of public safety bills, including an assault weapons ban and a bipartisan fund to raise police salaries.

On Monday, two leading moderate lawmakers — the Senses. Joe Manchin, DW.Va., and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska — announced they had tested positive for COVID-19, ruling them out of any Senate votes this week. Manchin and Murkowski’s announcements make them the fourth Senate lawmakers to announce positive COVID-19 tests last week — and unlike the House, the Senate doesn’t allow proxy voting, making every lawmaker’s attendance crucial in the equally divided chamber.

Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont is also recovering from hip surgery, although his office told Politico he may be available to vote in person if needed.

Here are some of the top priorities lawmakers hope to get through before the August recess:

Semiconductors

On Monday, the Senate was scheduled to hold a closing vote on the CHIPS Act, a $280 billion budget aimed at boosting domestic semiconductor production. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle back the measure, saying it’s crucial to easing supply chain disruptions, bolstering national security and increasing competitiveness with China.

President Biden on Monday convened a virtual meeting with CEOs and labor leaders to discuss the importance of passing the CHIPS law, calling it crucial for national and economic security.

The measure includes $52 billion in subsidies for the microchip industry, including $39 billion in financial assistance to “build, expand or upgrade national facilities and equipment for manufacturing, assembly, testing, advanced packaging or semiconductor research and development”. Of this figure, $6 billion can be used for loan guarantees or direct loans.

An additional $11 billion will go to the Commerce Department for advanced research and development programs, $2 billion will go to the Pentagon for labor demands and national defense programs, $500 million will be used by the State Department to “support international information and communications technology.” Security and Semiconductor Supply Chain Activities,” and $200 million will be used for a national workforce and education fund.

The measure also includes certain “safeguards,” including language that states that federal funds cannot be used for stock buybacks, or to “build advanced semiconductor production facilities in countries that exhibit a national security issue”, including China.

The House and Senate each passed separate versions of the bill last year and negotiated compromise legislation, but a number of Biden administration officials have urged lawmakers to come together quickly on a fast-track version. and reduced by the measure.

The measure carries a number of sponsors from both sides, including an unlikely ally: former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who urged lawmakers to pass the bill last week in a Twitter post.

“I urge members of Congress to pass the CHIPS Act,” Pompeo writes. “The cost of compromising on this bill pales in comparison to the costs we will incur if we allow the Chinese Communist Party to ever own and control access to our most critical technologies.”

The bill cleared a key procedural hurdle in the Senate last week in a 64-34 vote, and looks likely to clear both chambers with strong bipartisan support.

Marital equality

The House of Representatives voted last week to pass a bill protecting the right to same-sex marriage nationwide, a rebuke to the Supreme Court amid fears the justices could revisit some landmark rulings after overturning Roe v. Wade.

In a concurring opinion to last month’s decision, Tory Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that the High Court “should consider” a number of other key decisions, including Obergefell v. Hodges, which guaranteed the right of same-sex couples to marry, and Griswold v Connecticut, which protects marital privacy rights from state restrictions on contraception.

“In future cases, we should reconsider all of the substantive due process precedents of this Court, including Griswold, Lawrence and Obergefell,” Thomas wrote at the time. “Because any substantive due process ruling is ‘demonstrably wrong’…we have a duty to ‘correct the error’ established in these precedents.

The House passed a series of laws in response to Thomas’ decision and concurring opinion, including the Respect for Marriage Act, which would codify marriage equality rights and repeal the Defense Act. of Marriage, a 1996 law that defined marriage as between a man and a woman and allowed states to deny same-sex marriages legally solemnized in other states.

The bill was sponsored by Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin, who was the first openly LGBT woman elected to both the House (in 1999) and the Senate (in 2013).

The measure passed by a vote of 267 to 157, with 47 Republicans joining all Democrats present in passing the bill.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., said last week he was “impressed” with the bipartisan support the measure has received in the House, and said they were working to secure enough Republican votes to overcome the 60-vote legislative filibuster. threshold.

Democrats have about half of the 10 votes they need to get 60 votes: The bill was sponsored by Republican Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Rob Portman of Ohio. North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis said he would “probably” support the bill, and Sen. Ron Johnson, the other member of the Wisconsin Senate delegation, said in a recent statement that he saw “no reason to oppose” the bill. Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski is also widely considered a likely yes.

Several other Republicans were largely evasive, saying they would like to revisit the bill or would wait for it to be introduced, while others vehemently opposed the bill, with some calling it a distraction by Democrats. or a so-called “courier”. bill”, believing that the matter had been settled by the decision of the Obergefell high court.

One Republican, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, went so far as to call the move a “stupid waste of time.”

Proposed reconciliation between prescription drug pricing and extension of Affordable Care Act subsidy

After sinking President Biden’s $2.2 trillion social and climate spending plan late last year, Sen. Joe Manchin has returned to the negotiating table to try to strike a deal with the leader of Majority Chuck Schumer on a spending bill that could be passed using reconciliation. process, which would require simple majority approval.

Manchin announced earlier this month that he would not support a spending package that included spending to fight climate change or tax increases for wealthy individuals and businesses, citing inflationary concerns.

A slimmed-down bill is expected to focus on lowering prescription drug prices by allowing Medicare to negotiate prices and expand Affordable Care Act subsidies.

According to Punchbowl News, Democratic and Republican aides met with the Senate congressman last week to discuss whether the bill meets the very specific requirements of the chamber’s reconciliation rules. Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough could make a decision in the coming days, allowing the reconciliation process to begin.

Ryan Chatelain of Spectrum News contributed to this report.

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