What's on Congress's Agenda

Legislation | April 22, 2021 | by Andrea Price-Carter

Based on a conversation with key Senate and House leadership staff, LeadingAge has pulled together an outlook for upcoming Congressional action.

Based on conversations with key Senate and House leadership staff, LeadingAge has pulled together an outlook for upcoming Congressional action.

LeadingAge expects the Senate to confirm the nominations of Chiquita Brooks-LaSure as the CMS administrator, in spite of an evenly split vote on her nomination from the Senate Finance Committee, which was the result of pushback over CMS’ decision to rescind the Texas Section 1115 waiver extension. The Senate is also expected to confirm Andrea Joan Palm to be Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Biden’s Joint Session. President Joe Biden will address a joint session of Congress on April 28, delivering his first remarks to both chambers nearly 100 days after taking office. President Biden will share his vision for addressing the challenges and opportunities of his administration, and how he plans to continue to respond to the pandemic. His infrastructure proposal will also likely be the focus of his remarks.

American Jobs Plan - Infrastructure Plan. Since they are in the early stages, House Leaders are unclear of the exact process in terms of how they will consider the President Biden’s American Jobs Plan. House Leadership is still attempting to work in a bipartisan manner. However, it is likely the reconciliation process will be used to move the infrastructure proposal, since the majority party does not expect to have much support from Republicans. Stakeholders have been encouraged to stay in close touch with Committees, Agencies, and others in the Administration that work on relevant issues. LeadingAge will continue to promote the LeadingAge Blueprint for a Better Aging Infrastructure, which offers a series of recommendations that ensure aging services are an essential part of Congress’s infrastructure work.

The Senate is expected to continue hearings over the next two to three months, addressing President Biden’s plan to invest in infrastructure needed for broadband, and the importance of the “caring economy,” and affordable housing. Congress’s work on the “caring economy” will likely address the caregiving crisis, including expanding access to home and community based services (HCBS), and upgrading child care facilities. The Senate Special Committee on Aging will hold a virtual hearing on April 29, on “A Changing Workforce: Supporting Older Workers Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic and Beyond.” Senate staff emphasized they want to be sure to use “regular order” to consider new proposals outlined in the infrastructure plan and allow for debate within each congressional committee that has jurisdiction on the issues.

President Biden’s second infrastructure proposal, the “American Families Plan” will be unveiled in of the coming weeks. It will probably address child-care and health care reforms and may include affordable housing, as well as aspects of what is called the “social infrastructure.” Congress might consider the first infrastructure package, then the second, or might combine the two.

President’s Budget Request. Appropriators are busy to ensure the President’s “Skinny Budget” priorities for fiscal year 2022 (FY22), released on April 9, does not get lost with all of the discussion that’s expected on the infrastructure plans. LeadingAge will continue to amplify our support for the discretionary funding priorities that were outlined in the request, specifically those that invest in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)’s Section 202 program and access to broadband. We also support the increased investments for HHS’ Administration for Community Living that allocates $551 million to help older adults HCBS, increases for meal programs and funding for the Lifespan Respite Care program.

Timing of Immigration Reform Legislation. There currently is not a firm time-line on when Congress will consider immigration reform legislation. However, staff did state Congress will first consider the American Dream and Promise Act of 2021 (H.R. 6), that gives permanent resident status to long-term residents who entered the U.S. as children. Then they will consider the Farm Workforce Modernization Act (H.R. 1603), that changes the H-2A temporary worker program for agricultural workers.