The House and Senate will convene hearings on the COVID-19 pandemic as negotiations on the next coronavirus relief package are still not likely to begin until after the 4th of July holiday followed by a vote before the August recess. In addition, House Democrats are expected to introduce legislation to strengthen the Affordable Care Act (ACA) the week of July 20 with a vote on the House floor likely the following week just before the recess.
Following President Trump’s remarks that he told administration officials to “slow the [coronavirus] testing down” in order to keep case numbers low, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) pointed out that the administration has yet to disburse nearly $14 billion in appropriated funding. This includes more than $8 billion to expand testing and contract tracing capacity and nearly $4 billion for public health surveillance and contact tracing. In addition, they noted that “only $10.8 million, or 0.5% of the $2 billion” to provide free testing for the uninsured has been obligated.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) stated that the House Energy and Commerce (E&C) Committee would question the administration’s coronavirus task force on “why President Trump wants less testing when experts say much more is needed.” Tomorrow’s hearing features Dr. Anthony Fauci (Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the NIH), Dr. Robert Redfield (CDC Director), Dr. Stephen Hahn (FDA Commissioner), and Dr. Brett Giroir (Assistant Secretary for Health). The panel last appeared together before the Senate HELP Committee on May 12 to discuss reopening the economy.
Also, on Tuesday, the Senate HELP Committee will continue its discussion on lessons learned from COVID-19 to inform a forthcoming pandemic preparedness package championed by Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN). Other hearing topics include racial inequities exacerbated by COVID-19, the dynamic between the Defense Production Act and small contractors, the role of the Strategic National Stockpile in a pandemic response, and telehealth at the VA.
Later this week, Congress is slated to take up legislation aimed at making structural changes to the way police officers do their jobs. The House is scheduled to vote on Democrats’ George Floyd Justice in Policing Act (H.R. 7120) on Thursday, while the Senate will vote on Republicans’ JUSTICE Act (S. 3985) as soon as on Wednesday. Speaker Pelosi has said that she “would like to end up in conference” and “try to reconcile the legislation.”