Good morning from Washington, where the sun is shining after rain dominated the weekend. With the sun on the horizon, a glimmer of hope remains as a bipartisan deal was announced on border security, tax policy, and appropriations funding for agencies. Could it be that both houses are finally coming together to do their jobs on behalf of the American people? Or will partisan politics in an election year get in the way of legitimate legislative victories? It may be too soon to tell, but perhaps this underdog Congress is inspired by this weekend’s comeback by the 49ers against the Lions after being down 24-7. Much remains to be seen if congressional leaders will spike the ball in February, but one thing remains certain: drama continues to fill the air! Welcome to the Week Ahead!
President Biden is hoping a bipartisan deal on border security will be what he needs to move forward with the supplemental package for funding to Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan. As discussed more below, the deal, which legislative text has yet to be released, focuses on allowing the administration the ability to shut down the border should crossings reach a certain amount per day among other provisions. Former President Trump blasted any negotiations as a deal could signal a win for President Biden. The administration is also facing pressure from both sides after Iranian-backed drones killed three soldiers and injured more than 30 in Jordan this past weekend. Republicans are calling for direct strikes in Iran while some Senate Democrats are calling for a more measured and proportionate response. Whichever way the administration acts will provide plenty of fodder for election season.
Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas is set to face the first steps of an impeachment proceeding as the House prepares to markup two articles of impeachment this Tuesday. House Democrats believe the articles are politically motivated and are set to vote against them. Some Republicans have publicly voiced opposition to the articles of impeachment, but much is riding on the upcoming votes for Speaker Johnson and his leadership team. All of this comes at a time when Republicans are rejecting a border security package (for which they have not seen any language) they wished to tie to a supplemental package. The plot thickens as election season motivations show its ugly head in critical policy issues.
The Senate returns to business Tuesday considering more nominations. The big news however remains around the border security deal brokered by bipartisan negotiators Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Sen. Craig Lankford (R-Okla.). Both senators took the Sunday talk show circuit pushing for the Senate to pass the package. A procedural vote could be set for this Wednesday or Thursday. The package includes money for foreign aid and contains border security provisions. Lankford is urging Republicans to support the package since they tied up the supplemental with demands for changes in border policy. The Senate could lead the way in demonstrating bipartisanship by moving forward with the package despite calls from Trump to tank it.
On the appropriations front, Senate and House negotiators reached an agreement late Friday night on funding allocations for federal agencies. The agreement spells out how they will handle the twelve full-year funding bills. The agreement, led by Senator Patty Murray and Rep. Kay Granger, is another win for women leading by example. Congress has until March 1 to prevent a partial government shutdown.
The US Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs will host a hearing focusing on veteran centers supporting the mental health needs of veterans, service members, and their families on January 31.
The House of Representatives is back after the weeklong recess and there is an official stalemate with border security, Ukraine, Israel, and any other legislation besides the tax bill.
Speaker Johnson sent a letter to colleagues that stated he disagreed with the Senate bill, and the President has the right to act with Executive Orders to control the chaos at the U.S. Southern border. The border deal is what is holding up other official funding as House Republicans will not vote on any legislation that funds other countries without border security reform. Former President Trump continues to encourage Republicans not to support the Senate deal as he sees this as a winning political issue. This should make for some exciting fireworks between the House and Senate in addition to government funding till the President’s Day work period.
In other news… Chairman Jason Smith (R-MO) and Ranking Member Neal (D-MA) continue to make headway with a tax bill.
In addition to addressing the new March 8th deadline for those expiring programs, House leaders are expected to continue a push for legislation that cleared the House with broad bipartisan support late last year—the Support for Patients and Communities Reauthorization Act and the Lower Costs, More Transparency Act. Added to the mix is the continued push from the House Republican Doctors Caucus and physician organizations for relief from the 3.37% cut in Medicare payments that took effect on January 1. While relief once seemed a distant possibility, some form of relief being passed by Congress in the coming weeks now seems to be within reach of becoming reality.
As the legislative sausage-making conversations ensue, House committees will also hold two health-related hearings on Wednesday with the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee holding a hearing to explore rising health care costs and spending titled “Health Care Spending in the United States: Unsustainable for Patients, Employers, and Taxpayers” (January 31 at 10am) and the House Oversight and Accountability Committee holding a hearing the same day titled “Overseeing the Department of Health and Human Services’ Compliance with Congress.”
While the week back will be relatively light—at least publicly, House committee activity on health issues is expected to pick up in February and March with telehealth, laboratory-developed tests, and efforts to address rare diseases among the topics that are expected for further congressional attention.
As always, please send us your thoughts for this week and what’s next. Create a great week!