Adam S. Olsen- Washington, D.C.
February 2, 2021

A group of 10 Senate Republicans held a two-hour meeting with President Joe Biden on Monday night to discuss coronavirus relief legislation, emerging to sound upbeat about continuing to work together, but with no deal in hand.  Biden has proposed a $1.9 trillion relief package that Democratic leadership wants to move quickly through Congress. The 10-member GOP group led by Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) countered with a much narrower $618 billion proposal, and appealed to Biden to make good on his campaign promises to seek bipartisan unity.  Although several GOP senators left the meeting with the impression that Biden was open to negotiating some elements of his plan, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement afterward that Biden had pointed out deficiencies in the GOP proposal and that his proposal, the American Rescue Plan, “was carefully designed to meet the stakes of this moment, and any changes in it cannot leave the nation short of its pressing needs.”  Just hours before the meeting began, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced they were filing budget bills designed to fast-track Biden’s relief package through the Senate, without any GOP votes if necessary.  House Budget Chairman John Yarmuth (D-Kentucky) introduced a bare-bones fiscal blueprint that includes reconciliation instructions directing 12 House committees to write the bill by February 16th.

At that point, the reconciliation bill’s contents would be sent to the Budget committees to package up for floor action the following week, a process that’s likely to start in the House and may skip Senate markups altogether, given that chamber’s 50-50 split.  The House budget resolution is expected to go to the Rules Committee on Tuesday and to the floor Wednesday. The Senate is taking up a mostly identical version that incoming Budget Chairman Bernie Sanders of Vermont will introduce, and will begin with a motion to proceed as early as Tuesday.  Report     Section-by-Section Analysis

The Senate convened at 10:30 am and will work on the following nominations:

9:30 a.m.: The Senate Armed Services Committee will have a hearing on the nomination of Kathleen Hicks to be deputy Defense secretary.

10:30 a.m.: The Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee is having a hearing on the nomination of Tom Vilsack to be Agriculture secretary.

10:30 a.m.: The Senate resumes consideration of the nomination of Pete Buttigieg to be Transportation secretary, with a vote expected at noon.

Afterwards, the Senate will resume consideration of the nomination of Alejandro Mayorkas to be DHS secretary, with a confirmation vote on his nomination expected to take place around 2:30 p.m.

12 p.m.: The Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee will vote on the nomination of Denis McDonough to be Biden’s Veterans Affairs secretary.

The House meets at 2 PM and will begin work on the rule for the above discussed budget resolution.  In addition to the budget work, this week the House will also vote on the bipartisan National Apprenticeship Act, which would authorize $3.5 billion for apprenticeships and other training opportunities.  Also this week House Democrats are moving expeditiously to remove Georgia GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene from her committee assignments, a decisive step that comes as they pressure Republicans to rebuke the Georgia congresswoman over recently unearthed incendiary past statements.  House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer is planning to deliver an ultimatum to House minority leader Kevin McCarthy on Greene this week.  Hoyer is expected to tell McCarthy that Republicans have 72 hours to strip Greene of her committee assignments, or Democrats will bring the issue to the House floor.  Of note, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) said last night, “Loony lies and conspiracy theories are cancer for the Republican Party and our country. Somebody who’s suggested that perhaps no airplane hit the Pentagon on 9/11, that horrifying school shootings were pre-staged, and that the Clintons crashed JFK Jr.’s airplane is not living in reality.”  Thus far, however, GOP leaders in the House have been reluctant to criticize Trump supporters, like Greene, out of concern that they could alienate the former president’s most ardent voters, underscoring a bitter divide over how the totally out-of-power party should navigate the two years until the next congressional elections.

Adam S. Olsen, Washington, D.C.