One good thing will happen in the Senate: Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson will be confirmed for a big promotion to the U.S. Supreme Court before the week is out (possibly Thursday, probably Friday). Because Republicans are by and large assholes (see Sen. Roy Blunt: “I won’t be supporting her, but I’ll be joining others in understanding the importance of this moment.”) and the vote will be tied in the Judiciary Committee, they have to go through a couple of extra steps to discharge the nomination from the committee. But it will happen. She will be seated at the beginning of the October term, after Justice Stephen Breyer retires.
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The Senate will also try to pass a COVID-19 funding package at $10 billion, less than half of what the Biden administration has asked for. That will come from unspent funds from other pandemic relief bills, but likely not from states. The biggest issue they are grappling with is whether to include funding the United States Agency for International Development for foreign assistance, and if so how much—possibly $1 billion. But that would be stripped from domestic funding.
While they’re arguing that out, states are in crisis as funding for testing, vaccinations, and treatment for the uninsured runs out. The impasse in Congress is preventing them from moving forward with plans to manage a disease that is not going to go away. “They’re cutting the legs out from under a solid Covid response in the future,” Arkansas Secretary of Health José Romero told Politico. “This is going to cripple the response.” They are also lobbying to make sure there is no repeat of what happened last month: Congress taking existing but unspent funding away from the states to repackage into a new one.
Republicans are demanding a Congressional Budget Office score on any package, and that any new spending bills are paid for with already appropriated funds. So somebody is going to be losing out on COVID-19 funding they already got. Whether they can wrap that up this week is questionable; the Jackson confirmation will eat up a lot of time because Republicans are forcing extra processes, and if they want to move anything faster, they need the agreement of all 100 senators. Any one of them (cough, Rand Paul, cough) can stop a bill from moving quickly.
While the House is waiting for whatever the Senate is or is not going to do, they could vote on a small-business COVID-19 package. It would provide $42 billion for restaurants and $13 billion for other hard-hit businesses. A source told Roll Call that the funding would come from “all funds rescinded, seized, reclaimed, or otherwise returned” from various programs in prior pandemic relief laws.
“We under-appropriated to begin with,” Rep. Dean Phillips (D-MN) said. “So this is about a make-good and not picking winners and losers. And that notion is picking up some steam, recognizing this is not a prospective COVID relief bill. This is a retrospective make-good.” In addition to restaurants, the funding would include entertainment venues, hotels, gyms, minor leagues sports, and tourism-related businesses.
The Senate has a similar bill authored by Small Business Committee Chair Ben Cardin (D-MD) that might be wrapped up with the COVID-19 relief bill the Senate may or may not pass this week. Democratic leadership wants to make that happen, and Schumer has been trying to get Republicans to agree. It’s remotely possible that the House acting could spur the Senate on. Or not. Because Republicans.