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March 7, 2022

What to expect in Washington (March 7)

Government funding expires at the end of the week, on March 11, an omnibus appropriations bill hasn’t been finalized for votes, and an additional continuing resolution may be necessary. A $32.5 billion emergency supplemental package could move with the omnibus, including Ukraine funding and $22.5 billion in COVID money, which is controversial. The March 6 Washington Post reported on two letters from groups of Senate Republicans – one citing “skyrocketing prices” in saying the bill needs “proper consideration and scrutiny,” and another promising to block swift consideration over funding for vaccine mandates.

A broader group of Senate Republicans had previously requested more information about the allocation of prior COVID funding. The Wall Street Journal March 6 reported the funding could go toward supplies of antivirals, vaccines for children, monoclonal antibodies, new booster shots, and testing capacity. The report said the urgency of the Ukraine funding could make it more likely the omnibus comes together this week.

At 5:30 p.m. today, the Senate will hold a procedural vote related to the Postal Service Reform bill (H.R. 3076). House Democrats are holding an issues conference/retreat in Philadelphia during the latter half of the week, with President Biden expected to deliver remarks on Friday, so leaders are aiming for the chamber to clear a government funding measure early in the week. No hearings are scheduled in the tax-writing committees. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) last night released a letter on legislation related to the situation in Ukraine, including $10 billion in the omnibus.

On Meet the Press March 6, Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) said the situation in Ukraine makes a reconciliation deal more “realistic” – when asked if it was easier or harder – and drew a contrast between all of “these aspirational things we want to do” and energy, which is an area the United States can lead on. He cited $4/gallon gas and said, “I’m willing to at least do something and say whatever it would take, we’re going to ramp up our energy, we’re going to basically produce the oil, the natural gas, build the pipelines. We’ve been stymied. We’re not getting anything done from the standpoint of energy.”

Senator Manchin said climate change is global, the US must look at “what we can do,” and “our energy we produce in America is better and cleaner than any place else in the world. So, anything that we backfill is going to be better than what they [Russia] produce.” Asked if addressing energy production is a condition of any reconciliation deal, he said other priorities can be pursued but “you’ve got to get your financial house in order.” Citing unanimous Democratic opposition to the 2017 TCJA, he said, “If you have one thing that you are all united on, fix it.”

Senator Manchin said, “the most important thing and the thing that I am worried about every day is inflation,” and the high prices US consumers are facing are unsustainable. High gas prices are attracting a tremendous amount of attention, and the Senate is expected to consider bills combatting inflation at some point in March. The New York Times reported that “high gas prices pose a risk to Democrats ahead of midterm elections,” and energy experts suggested President Biden should more forcefully connect the situation in Ukraine to “the need to more swiftly sever an economic reliance on fossil fuels.” European officials are expected to announce this week a strategy on efficiency and renewable energy and view liquefied natural gas imports from the US – which Senator Manchin referenced – as a short-term measure.

A story in the March 5 Washington Post said President Biden is planning at least one event on the economy this week, following recent events and efforts to highlight positive economic news, and suggested that the government takes the blame for inflation but is not given credit for a good economy. “Still, some experts say Biden could do more to fight inflation. Several economists have recommended, for example, that Biden try ideas such as a gas tax holiday, which has been discussed on Capitol Hill, or another round of stimulus checks for people at the lower income ranges, perhaps funded by leaning on companies that have profited handsomely during the pandemic. White House aides, however, downplayed the notions that any new shifts in policy are coming.” 

A March 5 press release from Senator Todd Young (R-IN) announced a letter to leadership with fellow Finance Committee member Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and a dozen other senators calling for restoration of immediate expensing for R&D, which is now subject to five-year amortization under a provision of the TCJA. Senators Young and Hassan previously introduced a bill, the American Innovation and Jobs Act, to expand the refundable R&D tax credit for small businesses and startups and ensure that companies can continue to fully deduct R&D investments each year.

President Biden tweeted March 5, “Let’s cap the cost of insulin at $35 a month,” consistent with the Affordable Insulin Now Act (S. 3700, H.R. 6833) sponsored by Senator Raphael Warnock (D-GA) and Rep. Angie Craig (D-MN).


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