Odds of September CR Increase
Senate Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Richard Shelby (R-AL) said bicameral appropriators aren’t likely to agree on topline Fiscal Year (FY) 2023 spending levels until after the midterm election in November, meaning Congress will probably have to pass a continuing resolution (CR) to ensure government funding beyond the current deadline of September 30. To date, the Senate has yet to introduce any appropriations bills, while the House is much further along in the process, having passed a six-bill minibus on Tuesday.
Launch of 988 Deemed a Success
Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Xavier Becerra touted last Saturday’s rollout of the new 988 national suicide hotline number a success, with the hotline seeing a 60% jump in calls compared to the previous weekend for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The administration has spent over $430 million to help states prepare for higher call volumes by hiring more mental and behavioral health counselors to take calls. Meanwhile, Congress is working on its own proposals to boost access to mental health care services. In particular, the Senate Finance Committee is set to release legislation that would expand the behavioral health care workforce and allow the integration of mental and primary health care.
Advocates Call for More Government Action on Long COVID
The federal government really needs to step up its work on addressing long COVID, according to health care providers and patients who testified before a House Oversight and Reform Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis hearing on Tuesday. Some of the reforms witnesses called for include paid medical leave for patients, enhanced access to disability benefits, and more support for long COVID clinics. During the hearing, Subcommittee Chairman James Clyburn (D-SC) stressed that more research is needed to understand the causes, risk factors, and effects of long COVID. Witnesses also discussed the economic impact of long COVID, such as patients leaving the workforce.
Senate Weighs in on Reforms to Electoral College
A pair of bipartisan Senate bills aim to reform the Electoral Count Act of 1887, which controls the acceptance of presidential votes. One proposal would increase the threshold to one-fifth of the members of the House and the Senate to object to the election results. Currently, only a single member of the House and Senate can object to a state’s Electoral College votes. Another bill would increase the maximum penalty for people convicted of intimidating or threatening candidates, voters, and election officials to two years and make tampering with voting systems a federal crime. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) has said that she hopes both bills can be signed into law by the end of the year.
ICYMI: 8 House Offices Are Unionizing
Eight House Democrat offices filed petitions to form unions after a new rule went into effect to allow legislative branch employees to unionize. Relatively low pay as well as cases of harassment and burnout are among the reasons why staff have long been pushing for the right to organize on the Hill over the past few years. Now, staff in the eight Democratic offices must wait on the Office of Congressional Workplace Rights to review the petitions before they can hold a secret ballot election to ultimately decide on unionizing.