The World Health Organization announced Monday that COVID-19 remains a global health emergency, but that it could be nearing an “inflexion point” where higher levels of immunity as a result of both vaccination and infection will lower the death rate. But the world isn’t there yet, and at least 170,000 COVID-19 deaths were recorded globally in the last two months.
Never mind the realities of science. Barely Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s House GOP is going to spend the better part of the week declaring the pandemic over—literally they will vote on a bill called the “Pandemic is Over Act”—and punishing and endangering the health care and federal workforces. The four bills related to the pandemic they’ve got scheduled would end the original national COVID emergency from 2020, end the public health emergency declared in 2020, eliminate the COVID–19 vaccine mandate on health care providers, and require federal agencies to return to pre-pandemic telework policies.
The U.S. is officially averaging 521 COVID-related deaths a day, “a troublingly high figure that is about double the number of daily deaths typically seen in a bad flu season,” and 46,021 newly reported cases. Every day. The Department of Health and Human Services renewed the public health emergency for the pandemic a few weeks ago. This is the 12th renewal of the emergency since the first declaration in January 2020. The renewals extend for 90 days. The Senate is unlikely to take up this push, which is a nice reminder that the House GOP isn’t in control of anything.
The House Rules Committee will meet for the first time with its new Freedom Caucus-ish controlling bloc of three members to determine the process for these votes. You can bet that the open amendment process they had in place last week for a putative energy-related bill won’t be repeated for this bunch of bills.
Additionally, the House will vote on the ever-critical denunciation of the horrors of socialism. For real. The gotcha bill H. Con. Res 9 declares that “Congress denounces socialism in all its forms, and opposes the implementation of socialist policies in the United States of America.”
Now do fascism, Republicans. I dare you.
The House still has committee organizing to finish, and that might include the vote on whether Rep. Ilhan Omar retains her seat on the Foreign Affairs Committee. McCarthy’s math on that one is still a problem for him—there are two pretty definite GOP “no” votes, a number of undecideds, and one GOP member out for a least a few more weeks. This could be the first instance where McCarthy’s very slim four-vote majority, along with his decision to end of proxy voting, could come back to bite him.
It’s also going to be “oversight” time in the House, which will basically mean a lot of screeching from Reps. Jim Jordan and James Comer. Jordan’s Judiciary Committee will have a hearing on “The Biden Border Crisis.” The Oversight Committee, packed with election deniers, QAnon adherents, and conspiracy theorists, will have one titled “Federal Pandemic Spending: A Prescription for Waste, Fraud, and Abuse.”
The Senate still hasn’t voted on an organizing resolution because six new GOP senators still haven’t figured out the committees they want to be on—not after the massive faux pas of newly elected Missouri Republican Sen. Eric Schmitt, who asked senior members to please exit their plum Judiciary Committee seats so he could have one.
This might just be a petty delaying tactic by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. You might remember last session, when the Senate was tied 50-50 and McConnell dragged the organizing resolution out for nearly a month to prevent the Democrats from getting a jump start on legislating. There really aren’t big things at stake this time around since with a GOP House, legislating is definitely back-burnered, but McConnell’s default mode is obstruction.
Nearly a month in and the Senate hasn’t been able to finish organizing. But there is a roll call vote scheduled for late Monday afternoon. They just haven’t determined yet what that vote will be about.
The Freedom Caucus in now going to be in charge of House Rules. Wheeeeee!!!!
On this episode of The Downballot, don't miss a special double-guest episode. Hear from Tiffany Muller, the president of End Citizens United, as she discusses the group's efforts to roll back the corrupting effects of the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision and their plans for campaign finance reform. Then, law professor Quinn Yeargain joins to discuss the surprising setback Gov. Kathy Hochul faced in the state capitol and what it means for the future of New York's top court.