Adam S. Olsen- Washington, D.C.
September 14, 2021

The Senate convened at 10 a.m. and resumed consideration of the nomination of James Richard Kvaal to be Under Secretary of Education.  The Senate is also expected to consider the nomination of David G. Estudillo to be United States District Judge for the Western District of Washington, Angel Kelley to be United States District Judge for the District of Massachusetts and Veronica S. Rossman to be United States Circuit Judge for the Tenth Circuit.  The Senate may adjourn tonight for the rest of the week for the Yom Kippur Holiday.

A group of Senate Democrats unveiled new voting rights legislation this morning in another attempt by the party to pass sweeping changes to federal elections in the face of a Republican filibuster.  The new bill, called the Freedom to Vote Act, was released by Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota), along with several co-sponsors, including Democratic Senators Joe Manchin (West Virginia), Tim Kaine (Virginia), Jon Tester (Montana) and Raphael Warnock (Georgia).  Senior Senate Democrats have reached agreement with Senator Manchin on a broad overhaul of U.S. voting rights law, a development that should unify all Democrats in the chamber behind a single plan for the first time.  The measure would create an automatic voter registration system through each state’s motor vehicle agency, makes Election Day a public holiday and provide voters with at least 15 days of early voting for federal elections.  It also is designed to curtail “gerrymandering” of congressional districts and would put in place new campaign finance disclosure requirements that include mandating Super-PACs and other outside groups report their donors.  Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) said Monday that a deal was near and that he would hold a vote next week to bring up the measure. Even without the support needed to prevail, such a tally would put all senators on record and allow Democrats to show unity on the matter heading into next year’s midterm elections.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken began testifying at 10 a.m. in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the United States withdrawal from Afghanistan.  Blinken Testimony.  Yesterday, in front of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Secretary Blinken beat back criticism of the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan at a contentious hearing where at least two Republicans called on him to resign.  In five hours of often testy exchanges with lawmakers, Blinken defended President Joe Biden’s decision to pull out and pushed back on accusations that the State Department should have done more to help Americans and at-risk Afghans to be evacuated, blaming the previous administration for lacking a plan.

As committee work on President Biden’s $3.5 trillion infrastructure plan wraps up, the House Ways and Means Committee is holding the third day of its markup of key portions of Democrats’ social spending package and tax provisions are expected to be front and center during the remainder of the markup.  Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Massachusetts) released legislation on the child tax credit, infrastructure financing and energy tax credits last week, and then on Monday, he released legislation that would increase taxes on high-income individuals and corporations in an effort to offset the cost of spending and tax cuts elsewhere in the package.

Adam S. Olsen, Washington, D.C.