Update From Washington, D.C.
Articles of Impeachment; Budget Reconciliation Steps; Category B Emergency Protective Measures
January 28, 2021
Earlier this week, House Democrats delivered to the Senate a single article of impeachment against former President Trump. However, at the urging of President Biden, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) have agreed to delay the start of the trial until the week of February 8th. This will give the upper chamber an opportunity to spend more time filling cabinet posts and working on another COVID-19 relief package.
With regard to President Biden’s cabinet nominations, the Senate on January 25 confirmed Janet Yellen to serve as the next Treasury Secretary. One day later, the chamber approved the selection of Antony Blinken to lead the State Department. They will join Avril Haines and Lloyd Austin, who were confirmed last week as Director of National Intelligence and Secretary of Defense, respectively. Pete Buttigieg, Biden’s pick for Transportation Secretary, could be confirmed before the end of the week.
House Democrats Set to Take First Steps in Budget Reconciliation Process
House Democrats are in the process of drafting a fiscal year 2021 budget resolution that the full chamber is likely to consider sometime next week. This would represent the first step in the reconciliation process, a fast-track budget procedure that could allow parts of President Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19-relief proposal to pass Congress without GOP support. While Democrats have not closed the door on a bipartisan stimulus deal, this action would give them additional leverage in ongoing negotiations. If talks break down, Democrats would be able to quickly switch gears to pass their own proposal, though it should be noted that not all elements of Biden’s plan would qualify under the rules for reconciliation.
Biden Directs FEMA to Fully Reimburse Category B Emergency Protective Measures
In a recently signed executive memorandum, President Biden has directed FEMA to fully reimburse state and local governments for use of the National Guard to assist in pandemic response efforts, as well as other emergency assistance, which may include support for vaccination distribution and administration. Specifically, the federal government will provide a 100 percent reimbursement for Category B Emergency Protective Measures.
Among other things, this includes:
- Supplies needed to safely store and administer the vaccine;
- Transportation support for refrigerated trucks and support for leasing space to store and/or administer vaccines, including utilities, maintenance and security;
- Medical and support staff, including onsite infection control measures, personal protective equipment for staff, cloth face coverings for patients, temperature scanners, physical barriers and disinfection of the facility; and,
- Dissemination of public information and communication regarding vaccinations.
It should be noted that the COVID-19 Emergency Declaration, issued under the Trump administration, provided such assistance at a 75 percent federal cost share. This action would essentially waive the 25 percent local match.
Furthermore, the memo clarifies that funding can be used to provide for the safe opening and operation of schools, child-care facilities, healthcare facilities, non-congregate shelters, domestic violence shelters, transit systems, and other eligible activities. Such assistance, which will be available until September 30, includes funding for the provision of personal protective equipment and disinfecting services and supplies. Additionally, and in an effort to respond more quickly, FEMA is directed to expedite reimbursements for eligible emergency work projects, and in some cases, provide an advanced reimbursement.
At this time, it’s unclear whether the 100 percent reimbursement will apply retroactively to the date of the COVID-19 Emergency Declaration or from the date of Biden’s order. The agency is expected to release additional guidance in the coming days.