Adam S. Olsen- Washington, D.C.
January 28, 2021

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) said this morning that Democrats are willing to proceed without Republican support on the next COVID relief package, potentially starting the process as soon as early next week.  Speaking from the Senate floor, Schumer said that it was the preference of Democrats to work with Republicans on the sixth COVID relief package, but that if Republican senators wanted to move too slowly, or go smaller than Democrats want to, they will proceed forward without them.  To pass more COVID relief without any Republican support, Democrats will need to use reconciliation, a budget process that lets some bills bypass the 60-vote legislative filibuster.  Democrats would first need to set the stage by passing a budget resolution that provides instructions to committees for drafting legislation and Schumer told Democrats on a conference call on Tuesday that they should be prepared to vote on that budget resolution as soon as next week.

Today, White House NEC Director Brian Deese and COVID Czar Jeff Zients are scheduled to call into the weekly Democratic Senate lunch meeting.  The White House is attempting to figure out what a “60-vote package” looks like which will be far short of Biden’s $1.9 trillion proposal, likely $700-$800 billion. A 60-vote deal would potentially have less funding for state and local relief, less money for vaccine distribution, unemployment insurance and nutritional assistance, and it would have far more targeted relief checks.  The potential plan for the Biden White House is to pass a bipartisan, smaller COVID relief bill, and then take the items that were removed and add it to Biden’s “Build Back Better” plan. That would be passed using reconciliation, which requires a simple majority.  If a 60-vote package never emerges, the White House could use budget reconciliation to pass the full COVID relief package and the “Build Back Better” legislation.

Today, the Senate will continue work on President Biden’s Cabinet Nominees and the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee will have a full committee hearing on the nominations of Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) to be HUD secretary; and Cecilia Rouse to be chair of the Council of Economic Advisers.

Although the House is out this week, at 1 p.m. The House Energy and Commerce Committee will have a full committee meeting to organize for the 117th Congress.

At the White House today, President Biden will sign two executive actions that will begin to restore and strengthen Americans’ access to quality, affordable health care. The Biden-Harris administration will re-open enrollment to the Health Insurance Marketplace, take additional steps to strengthen Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act, and protect women’s health.

Adam S. Olsen, Washington, D.C.