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April 4, 2022

What to expect in Washington (April 4)

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen will appear before the House Financial Services Committee on Wednesday, April 6 (at 10 a.m.), for “The Annual Testimony of the Secretary of the Treasury on the State of the International Financial System.” However, customary post-Budget release tax hearings, which allow members to ask questions about Budget proposals, haven’t been set at Ways & Means and Finance, and may not be for some time. “A Treasury spokesperson said the department is working to schedule Yellen’s budget testimony and noted that she’ll be before lawmakers next week but, didn’t delve into when she might appear next before the tax committees and what might be causing the delay,” Politico said. “The word on the Hill is that it could be weeks still before the committees have a budget hearing with Yellen — perhaps even into May — and aides are wondering why it’s been such a chore to schedule the Treasury secretary’s testimony.”

The Senate Finance Committee has set a hearing on “The IRS, the President’s Fiscal Year 2023 Budget, and the 2022 Filing Season” with IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig for Thursday, April 7 (10:00 a.m.). Finance hosts Health & Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra for a hearing on the President’s Budget on Tuesday, April 5 (at 10 a.m.). The House Ways & Means hearing with Secretary Becerra was postponed.

The Judiciary Committee will vote on Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to be a Supreme Court Justice today. Democratic leaders say they are on track to have Judge Jackson confirmed by the end of the week. The Senate last week passed, 50-49, a “motion to discharge” Fed Board nominee Lisa Cook’s nomination, which the Wall Street Journal reported, “could set up a full Senate vote later this week for her and three of President Biden’s other Fed nominees, including Fed Chairman Jerome Powell…” Punchbowl reported that other business in the Senate this week could include a potential $10 billion COVID funding package and a vote to go to conference with the House on competitiveness legislation.

The House this week may vote on bill to replenish the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, the Relief for Restaurants and other Hard Hit Small Businesses Act (H.R. 3807). The House schedule also notes “Possible Consideration of Legislation Related to COVID-19 Supplemental Funding.”

After this week, the House and Senate are out of session for two weeks (April 11-22) for their spring break/Easter recess. Politico this morning: “Senate Democrats are preparing to make one last push for a deal with Joe Manchin on a huge party-line tax and spending bill. And they say they’ll do it differently this time… rather than a redux of the slow-motion collapse of that $1.7 trillion plan, they say they’ll swiftly meet Manchin where he is. ‘You either do it before Memorial Day or you’re not going to do it,’ said Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), who is close to Manchin.”

Politics – There is a lot of attention on the public’s view of the economy and what can and should be done to improve the economic mood and the President’s poll numbers between now and the midterm elections. A column in the April 3 Washington Post said despite Friday’s positive jobs report, “Nearly half of all Americans say they worry a great deal about the affordability and availability of energy… Higher prices and other concerns have helped to keep Americans in a gloomy mood about the direction of the country. About one quarter of all Americans say they are satisfied with the direction, a level that has not changed much since last summer.” The analysis said the President is limited in fighting inflation caused by trillions of dollars spent by the federal government; pent-up consumer demand outrunning supplies; pandemic-related disruptions of global supply chains; and geopolitical events, at least in the case of the latest gas price surge.

White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain said on ABC’s This Week that “the unemployment rate is one of the lowest months in the past 50 years; we have fewer people requiring unemployment assistance today than we did anytime since 1970. So, we’ve solved the jobs crisis. We got America back to work. America has protection from the existing forms of COVID.” He continued, “I think there are a lot of encouraging signs in terms of this economy coming back to being a robust jobs and business-creating economy,” but acknowledged “gas prices are a problem.” He said, “we also have an agenda to cut taxes for people, to bring down the cost of everyday things,” and compared that to Senator Rick Scott’s (R-FL) plan for tax increases.

Asked about Klain’s response to critics of the President’s Budget that the deficit has come down from the high level under President Trump, fourth-ranking Republican Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) said, “I think the most reckless thing the president did in spending is the March decision on a totally partisan way for the first time in anything dealing with COVID, to try to come back and put $2 trillion into an economy that was already well on the way to recovery,” referring to the American Rescue Plan Act. He said, “All you have to do is go to the gas station or the grocery store or pay your winter heating bill to know that something unacceptable has happened. I think that’s the excessive level of spending that Democrats all on their own put $1.9 trillion into the economy in March.”

New Democrat Coalition Chair and Ways & Means member Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-WA) was asked on Fox News Sunday about reversing the President’s low approval numbers and said: “I think we had a great meeting with the president, and we talked about the work that we have ahead, lot of important work that's been done with the American Rescue Plan, with the infrastructure bill. We're seeing that impact on our communities already. But there’s more that we need to do. We need to pass a bipartisan innovation bill … We talked about budget reconciliation and the ongoing work there because we have important issues we want to address in that legislation and want to work with the president.” She said, “We have a lot of time left in his Congress to legislate and we’re going to do everything we can to pass policies that really impact and positively impact the lives of our American families. We want to tackle the issues that families are facing today, and that’s why it’s important that we move forward on competition legislation, address supply chains…”


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