Washington Update - Feb 28, 2021

Billy Moore    Dc2

Congressional Democrats are moving quickly to clear a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package for President Joe Biden’s signature before enhanced unemployment benefits expire on March 14. Early Saturday morning, the House passed a coronavirus reconciliation bill over the unanimous opposition of Republicans and two Democrats, contrary to President Biden’s calls for bipartisanship and unity.

The President argued the nation had no time to waste on advancing the bill, saying action is essential now to control the virus and get the economy back on track. Before the week is out, Senate Democrats plan to take up the House bill, although it is uncertain how the chamber will resolve a House provision to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour that the Senate Parliamentarian has determined would violate Senate reconciliation rules. It is also unclear whether the package will win the support of any Senate Republicans on final passage.

A purely partisan outcome on the coronavirus bill could poison the well for bipartisanship on the next major priority for President Biden, a sweeping infrastructure package. Last week, the leaders of the House and Senate committees with jurisdiction over the initiative promoted a bipartisan approach. Bipartisanship could be enhanced by a resurrection of congressional earmarks after a decade-long prohibition, giving lawmakers a renewed ability to deliver projects to their districts.

President Biden offered bipartisan reassurance to Texans battered by recent winter storms and the coronavirus pandemic, joining with Republicans Governor Greg Abbott and Senator John Cornyn in pledging to help the state rebuild.

Last week, the Senate confirmed three Presidential nominations and plans to tackle three more this week. On Thursday, the House passed a bill to ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. This week, Representatives will take up policing reform.