Burr to Take Top Republican Spot on HELP

Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) will become the top Republican on the Senate HELP Committee, replacing Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) who retired at the end of the last Congress. The panel is expected to hold a courtesy confirmation hearing for Xavier Becerra, nominee for Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), in the coming weeks. Sen. Patty Murry (D-Wash.) is set to chair the committee for the 117th Congress. Murray and Burr are expected to continue the panel’s past prioritization of working to lower health care prices.

Leadership of House Appropriations for 117th Congress

House Appropriations Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) has announced the lawmakers who will lead the panel’s subcommittees for the 117th Congress. DeLauro will remain chair of the Labor-Health and Human ServicesEducation Subcommittee, while Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-Ga.) will lead Agriculture-Food and Drug Administration and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) will lead Military Construction-Veterans Affairs. The picks must still be approved by the full Democratic caucus.

Coronavirus, Budget Panel Membership

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced Democratic appointments for the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis for the 117th Congress. The panel will be comprised of Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), Nydia Velazquez (D-N.Y.), Bill Foster (D-Ill.), Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), and Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.). The panel was established last year to oversee the efficiency, effectiveness, equity, and transparency of the use of taxpayer funds and relief programs to address the coronavirus crisis.

The Democratic members who will serve on the House Budget Committee during the 117th Congress were also announced and approved by the full caucus last week. Three new members will join the panel’s 17 returning lawmakers: Rep. Stacey Plaskett (D-V.I.), Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.), and Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.)

Kaine Considers Trump Censure Given Unlikelihood of Impeachment Conviction

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) has indicated that he may file a censure resolution against former President Donald Trump in the coming days. The move seems to be an attempt to give Republicans a more politically acceptable alternative to convicting Trump following his impeachment trial. Kaine has said that his censure resolution would state that the former president “gave aid and comfort” to “an insurrection against the Constitution of the United States.” Section 3 of the 14th Amendment provides that no government official can hold office “who, having previously taken an oath . . . to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.” Kaine believes that by mirroring this language a censure could be a barrier against Trump running for office again, though this theory remains legally ambiguous. It is also unclear whether Republicans would be more likely to support a censure, which only requires a simple majority vote.

Portman Announces Decision to Not Seek Reelection

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) announced that he will not seek reelection in 2022. He cited political polarization as one of the reasons for his decision. Portman was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1993. He left Congress in 2005 to serve as U.S. trade representative and director of the OMB during the George W. Bush administration and was later elected to the Senate in 2010. Portman is a senior member of the Senate Finance Committee and the third Republican senator to announce that he will not seek another term, following Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.). Senate Republicans have 20 seats to defend in 2022, compared to Democrats’ 14.

CDC Releases New Data on Lyme Disease

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has published new data on Lyme disease at the request of Sens. Tina Smith (D-Minn.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine). An estimated 476,000 people are diagnosed with and treated for the disease each year in the U.S., nearly 10 times the number previously reported. The lawmakers stressed the need for public health agencies to study the spread of tick-borne diseases.

Krishnamoorthi Continues Ventilator Probe

House Oversight and Reform Committee member Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) is continuing his probe into U.S. ventilator contracts. He sent letters to Safeguard Medical and AutoMedx last week, requesting information around the federal government’s purchase of SAVe II and SAVe II+ ventilators. Krishnamoorthi asserts that the previous administration wasted up to $70 million in taxpayer dollars on ventilators that were not appropriate for the intended purpose of treating coronavirus patients.

GAO Releases Latest Report On COVID-19 Response

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report asserting that the Trump administration failed to act on the agency’s past recommendations to improve the federal government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. As of January, 27 of the agency’s previous 31 recommendations had not been implemented. The GAO’s latest report contains 13 new recommendations to improve the nation’s health and economic recovery, including the creation of a comprehensive coronavirus testing strategy and a coordinated vaccine distribution plan.

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