Adam S. Olsen- Washington, D.C.
March 23, 2021

The Senate convened at 10 a.m. and is continuing work on the nomination of Shalanda Young to be Deputy Director of the Office of Management and Budget.  At 11:45 a.m., the Senate will vote on the motion to invoke cloture on the Young nomination and then the Senate will recess until 2:15pm to allow for the weekly caucus meetings.  Later today the Senate is expected to vote on confirmation on the Young nomination and then will vote on the motion to invoke cloture on the nomination of Vivek Murthy to be Surgeon General of the Public Health Service followed by a vote on confirmation.  Finally, at 10 a.m. the Senate Foreign Relations Committee began a hybrid hearing on the nomination of Samantha Power to be administrator of the USAID.  Power testimony.

At 10 a.m. the Senate Judiciary Committee began a hearing to examine steps to reduce gun violence. On Monday evening, a gunman opened fire at a grocery store in Boulder, Colorado, killing 10 people and with another community grieving in the aftermath of the second mass shooting in a week, the hearing “Constitutional and Common Sense Steps to Reduce Gun Violence” — gained new urgency.  The hearing follows House passage on March 11th of two pieces of legislation which now face a battle in the evenly divided Senate.  The Bipartisan Background Checks Act would expand background checks on individuals seeking to purchase or transfer firearms. It would not create a registry or other federal mechanisms for review but would expand the cases in which a background check is required for the sale or transfer of a firearm, including for private individuals and groups, closing the “Gun Show Loophole.” The requirements would apply to online sales.  The bill passed the House by a margin of 227-203. It received eight Republican votes, and one Democrat voted against it.  The Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2021 would similarly close the “Charleston loophole,” a gap in federal law that lets gun sales proceed without a completed background check if three business days have passed. It is linked to a shooting in 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina, where a white supremacist used the loophole to obtain firearms he used to kill nine people during a Bible study at Mother Emanuel AME Church. The bill would extend the initial background check review period from three to 10 days.  The legislation was passed 219-210 with two Democrats opposed and two Republicans in support.

The House is in a Committee work week and will next convene on Tuesday, April 13th, after a two week recess.  For today, at 11 a.m.: The House Rules Committee holds a virtual hearing on reforming the war powers resolution and at 12 p.m. the House Financial Services Committee will have a virtual hearing on the Treasury Department and Federal Reserve’s pandemic response, with Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen (Prepared Remarks) and Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell testifying.  Mr. Powell is expected to tell lawmakers that the economy’s recovery remains far from complete despite recent improvement and that the central bank plans to continue providing support.  “The recovery has progressed more quickly than generally expected and looks to be strengthening,” he said in prepared remarks released Monday. “But the recovery is far from complete, so, at the Fed, we will continue to provide the economy the support that it needs for as long as it takes.”  The Fed has held its benchmark interest rate near zero since the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic slammed the U.S. economy a year ago. Most central bank officials don’t expect to raise the rate until 2024 at the earliest. The Fed also plans to continue buying at least $120 billion a month of Treasury debt and mortgage-backed securities until the economic recovery makes “substantial further progress,” it said in its latest policy statement.  Tuesday’s hearing before the House Financial Services Committee is the first of two days of congressional testimony; Mr. Powell and Ms. Yellen will testify before the Senate Banking Committee on Wednesday.

This afternoon President Biden will travel to Columbus, Ohio to visit the Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute which is part of The Ohio State University and one of the 45 National Comprehensive Cancer hospitals. Biden’s trip to Columbus will mark the 11th anniversary of the Affordable Care Act signed by former President Barack Obama.

Adam S. Olsen, Washington, D.C.