A Return to the Era of US Earmarks? On February 26, House Appropriations Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Senate Appropriations Chair Patrick Leahy (D-VT) reached mutual agreement on earmarks. Appropriations members from across the aisle appear to be on board with the plan. The House Appropriations Committee released a fact sheet to accompany the agreement, but some highlights include: • Earmarks will not exceed one percent of total spending. • Each subcommittee will review requests and they must follow the 2010 standards. • The Government Accounting Office will review some FY 2022 earmarks to make sure they meet the standards. • There will also likely be a limit on the amount of earmarks a member can have included. This breakthrough agreement comes just days after conservatives in the House and Senate launched an effort to ban earmarks, planning a letter to Appropriations chairs and an op-ed in support of the Earmark Elimination Act. Representative Ted Budd (R-NC) and Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) are leading the charge in support of the Act, which would permanently ban earmarks from the legislative process. Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) has said he can “guarantee” the return of earmarks “will be bipartisan.” While some Republicans in both chambers have tentatively signaled openness to the return of earmarks in annual spending bills, House Republican leadership has been quiet on the issue.
Congress Looks Ahead to Reinstatement of the Debt Ceiling The US federal debt limit will be reinstated August 1 after a two-year suspension, and House and Senate Democratic leaders have not said how exactly they will address the debt ceiling. Under the House “Gephardt rule,” a vote to adopt a budget resolution automatically triggers passage of a sep- arate resolution suspending the debt limit for that full fiscal year. A House Budget Committee spokesperson indicated that Democrats plan to use the rule later this year on a fiscal year 2022 budget resolution. Democrats could use the recon- ciliation process to pass a debt limit measure through the Senate with a simple majority, but that process only allows lawmakers to increase the debt limit, not suspend it, meaning leadership would likely have to choose between the Gephardt rule and reconciliation. Another option would be to attach a debt limit measure to another must-pass piece of legislation such as an appropriations bill, but the exact timing of this
would depend on how long the Treasury can delay breaching the debt ceiling by using “extraordinary measures” to pause outlays. Becerra’s Confirmation to HHS Appears On-Track Once considered one of President Biden ’s most vulnerable nominees, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra appears headed toward confirmation as the nation’s first Latino Secretary of Health and Human Services. Several days of hearings were held at the end of February with only a few fireworks and no serious blows inflicted to derail his confir- mation. Members of the Senate Finance Committee pointed to the COVID-19 crisis in opposing or backing him as the right choice to lead the nation’s health agency, and Republicans expressed concern with his record of support for abortion rights. But even Republicans acknowledged that Becerra will probably be confirmed.
T H E N E W S L E T T E R O F T H E B I O P H Y S I C A L S O C I E T Y