Washington Update - Feb 21, 2021

Billy Moore    Dc2

House Democrats will push a partisan $1.9 trillion coronavirus reconciliation relief bill through two committees to floor passage this week, citing the urgency of the moment for failure to reach agreement with Republicans. Democrats hope the popularity of many provisions in the bill that Republicans supported previously – payments to individuals, funding for small businesses, vaccine delivery, nutrition and housing aid – will overcome the label “payoff to progressives” urged by House Republican leaders.

It is unlikely more than a handful of Republicans will vote for the bill’s final passage and a few Democrats could vote against it. The bill’s provision to boost the minimum wage to $15 per hour is a major hurdle for moderate Democrats and Republicans, and the provision looks likely to be sacrificed in the Senate due to its violation of Senate requirements for reconciliation legislation. Yet, the package and President Joe Biden’s handling of the pandemic continue to poll well, giving pause to undecided fence-sitters.

While the Senate waits for the coronavirus package to cross the Capitol Rotunda, votes are planned several of President Biden’s nominations, including Tom Vilsack to be Secretary of Agriculture. Democratic Senator Joe Machin announced his opposition Friday to Neera Tanden's nomination to head the Office of Management and Budget. Unless she wins support from one or more Republican Senators, Senator Manchin’s opposition would likely sink her confirmation.

President Biden approved two disaster declarations for Texas last week after winter weather created a power and water crisis across the state. The President plans to travel to Texas this week to inspect the recovery work, provided his trip won’t interfere with government meeting people’s needs.

Searching for Democratic vulnerabilities, Republicans have seized on the President’s muddled messaging over how and when to vaccinate teachers and open schools for in-person learning in the Administration’s first 100 days.