12/20/2021 Weekly Legislative Update

You can make a difference

We are all disappointed that essential legislation—the two voting rights bills and the Build Back Better Act haven’t passed so far in the Senate. Many of us are furious that for now the Build Back Better Act has been torpedoed following months of compromise and negotiation after Senator Manchin withdrew his support of the bill on Sunday. (Causes) (Associated Press)

BUT take a look at what the Biden administration has accomplished in its first year:

  • An historic COVID-19 vaccination program – funded by the American Rescue Plan – that’s gotten 490 million shots in arms, and saved 1.1 million American lives and prevented 10.3 million hospitalizations. At this time last year: less than 1% of Americans were fully vaccinated. Today: More than 71% of American adults are fully vaccinated.
  • Schools Open: When POTUS and VPOTUS took office, only 46% of schools were open. Today, 99% of schools are open.
  • Economic recovery through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the DEMOCRAT only American Rescue Plan
    • The economy added nearly six million jobs this year – the most of any first-year president in history. When POTUS took office, the unemployment was 6.3%. Today it’s 4.2%. Before the American Rescue Plan, the US was not projected to reach 4.2% unemployment until 2025.
    • Unemployment Claims: The average number of Americans filing for unemployment over the last four weeks is at its lowest level since 1969. When POTUS took office, over 18 million were receiving unemployment benefits. Today, only 2 million are.
    • Child Poverty: Because of the American Rescue Plan and historic economy recovery, child poverty was cut in half.
    • Disposable Income: Americans on average have about $100 more in their pockets each month than they did last year, after accounting for inflation. •
    • GDP: Without the ARP, Moody’s estimates 2021 growth at 2.9%. After ARP: On pace for growth of 5-6 percent – best since 1984. U.S. was only G7 country to surpass pre- pandemic output by Q2 2021 and keep growing. No other G7 country had reached pre- pandemic output by end of 3Q 2021.
    • Long Term Unemployed: In the last 5 months of the Trump administration, 2.4 million Americans became long-term unemployed. In President Biden’s first 10 months, long- term unemployment fell by 1.8 million – the greatest drop in long-term unemployment in US history.
    • State and Local Jobs: In the final five months of the Trump administration, 229,000 state and local jobs were lost. In the first 10 months of the Biden administration, 330,000 state and local jobs were added.
  • The White House has also outlined progress in supply chain issues—improvements at ports and incentives and help in recruiting long-haul truck drivers—that are already showing results. (The White House)
  • Keep in mind that Biden accomplished all of the above with the narrowest congressional majority in history while the opposing party has been unwilling to admit to the legitimacy of his election. (The Message Box)

The Indiana General Assembly will be in session on January 4. Several bills have already been filed. House Bill 1001 provides what Governor Holcomb has said is needed in order for him to end the health emergency he declared in March 2020, even as Indiana has one of the highest numbers per capita of illnesses and deaths of all states and its health care system is stretched to breaking. The bill also effectively prohibits businesses from enacting vaccine mandates. This provision is adamantly opposed by the conservative Indiana Chamber of Commerce along with healthcare professionals. See below under ‘Indiana’ for more details.
A contentious bill that did not pass last year is back—Senate Bill 14, Firearms Matter—that allows permitless handgun carry. Public opposition defeated the bill last year.
Contact your representative and senator.

Enacted, signed into law by the President

S. 1301: [Increase of Public Debt Limit]
“Congress averted a catastrophic debt default early Wednesday morning after Democratic majorities in both chambers voted to send a $2.5 trillion increase in the nation’s borrowing authority to President Joe Biden over lockstep Republican opposition… Yet Republican arguments against debt limit increases often ignore inconvenient facts. The nation’s current debt load of $28.9 trillion has been racking up for decades. Major drivers include popular spending programs, like Social Security and Medicare, interest on the debt and recent COVID-19 relief packages. But taxation is also a major factor, and a series of tax cuts enacted by Republican presidents in recent decades has added to it, too. That includes $7.8 trillion heaped onto the pile during Trump’s four-year presidency, an analysis of Treasury records shows.” (Associated Press)


Passed the House and the Senate, President next

S. 1605: National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2022
GovTrack.us: “This is the yearly military spending policy bill, which governs how military and related federal appropriations can be spent under the law.”
Passed 363-70 in the House with all Indiana reps voting yea. View the vote. Passed 88-11 in the Senate with Senator Young voting yea and Braun voting nay. View the vote.
“The Senate overwhelmingly approved a compromise $768 billion defense policy bill on Wednesday…” (Politico) Read a summarized breakdown of the bill at Causes.

S. 3377: A bill to empower the Chief of the United States Capitol Police to unilaterally request the assistance of the DC National Guard or Federal law enforcement agencies in emergencies without prior approval of the Capitol Police Board.
Passed without amendment by Unanimous Consent in Senate and without objection in the House so no individual record of votes was taken.

H.R. 3537: Accelerating Access to Critical Therapies for ALS Act
Passed the Senate by Unanimous Consent so no individual record of votes was taken.

In the House

H.Res. 851: Recommending that the House of Representatives find Mark Randall Meadows in contempt of Congress for refusal to comply with a subpoena duly issued by the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol.
“The House voted Tuesday to hold former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows in contempt for defying a subpoena from the committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection.
The House voted 222-208 on the measure, which also urged the Justice Department to prosecute Meadows criminally for contempt. He would become the second aide to former President Donald Trump facing charges, after political strategist Steve Bannon.” (USA Today)

Passed the House, goes to the Senate next

H.R. 5665
: “This bill would establish the Office to Monitor and Combat Islamophobia in the State Department, which would be modeled off of a similar State Dept. office dedicated to monitoring and combating anti-Semitism.” Passed 219-212.

In the Senate

“The Senate during a rare middle-of-the-night session confirmed Rahm Emanuel to be President Biden’s ambassador to Japan. Senators voted 48-21 early Saturday morning on Emanuel’s nomination. Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore) voted against his nomination.” Senator Young voted in favor. (The Hill)

“Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough on Thursday ruled against Democrats’ third plan to use the budget reconciliation process to pass immigration reforms. The latest proposal would have provided millions of unauthorized immigrants with temporary protection from deportation along with work permits.” (Causes)

Passed the Senate, goes to the House next. These bills passed by Unanimous consent or by Voice Vote so no individual record of votes was taken.

H.R. 1192: PRRADA
Passed Senate with an amendment by Unanimous Consent. The Senate made changes so it goes back to the House.

S. 3437: A bill to extend certain COVID-19 bankruptcy relief provisions through March 27, 2022
Introduced in the Senate, read twice, considered, read the third time, and passed without amendment by Voice Vote.

S. 2551: AI Training Act
Passed Senate with an amendment by Unanimous Consent.

S. 854: Methamphetamine Response Act of 2021
Passed Senate without amendment by Voice Vote.

S. 2959: Supplemental Impact Aid Flexibility Act
Passed Senate without amendment by Unanimous Consent.

S. 1097: Federal Rotational Cyber Workforce Program Act of 2021
Passed Senate without amendment by Unanimous Consent.

S. 1543: STANDUP Act of 2021
Passed Senate with an amendment by Voice Vote.

H.R. 5746: NASA Enhanced Use Leasing Extension Act of 2021
Passed Senate with an amendment by Unanimous Consent. This bill has been passed in the House and the Senate, but the Senate made changes and sent it back to the House on December 14, 2021.

The Senate’s 2021 session drew to a close early Saturday morning. (Causes) The House has been in adjournment since last week. (Congress.gov)

To find and contact your Members of Congress:  https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials 

In other news

President Biden signed an executive order to make it easier to access services when dealing with the federal government. (The White House)

The courts
“A federal judge on Tuesday dismissed an effort from former President Trump to prevent the Treasury Department and IRS from providing House Democrats with his tax returns. Judge Trevor McFadden, a federal district court judge in Washington, D.C., who was appointed by Trump, said that “facially valid” congressional inquiries should not be impeded.” (The Hill)

“Former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin pleaded guilty Wednesday to a federal charge of violating George Floyd’s civil rights, admitting for the first time that he kept his knee on Floyd’s neck — even after he became unresponsive — resulting in the Black man’s death.” (Associated Press)

“A federal judge rejected OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma’s bankruptcy settlement of thousands of lawsuits over the opioid epidemic Thursday because of a provision that would protect members of the Sackler family from facing litigation of their own.” (Associated Press)

“The U.S. death toll from COVID-19 topped 800,000 on Tuesday, a once-unimaginable figure seen as doubly tragic, given that more than 200,000 of those lives were lost after the vaccine became available practically for the asking last spring.” (Associated Press)

The Supreme Court refused Monday to halt a COVID-19 vaccine requirement for health care workers in New York that does not offer an exemption for religious reasons. (Associated Press)

A U.S. appeals court on Friday reinstated a nationwide vaccine-or-testing COVID-19 mandate for large businesses, which covers 80 million American workers, prompting opponents to rush to the Supreme Court to ask it to intervene. “It is difficult to imagine what more OSHA could do or rely on to justify its finding that workers face a grave danger in the workplace,” said the opinion. “It is not appropriate to second-guess that agency determination considering the substantial evidence, including many peer-reviewed scientific studies, on which it relied.” (Reuters)

As strained U.S. hospitals brace for a new surge of COVID-19 cases caused by the fast-spreading omicron variant, doctors are warning of yet another challenge: the two standard drugs–antibody drugs from Regeneron and Eli Lilly—they’ve used to fight infections are unlikely to work against the new strain. (Associated Press)

The House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis released its year end report. Chairman Clyburn said about the report.  “As the nation continues progressing on a path toward ending this pandemic, the Select Subcommittee’s work remains essential to improving the ongoing response efforts and ensuring we are better prepared for future public health crises.”
It’s a damning analysis of the Trump administration’s response using lies and inaction that resulted in the deaths of 100s of 1000s. From its embrace of herd immunity to interference in CDC messaging, this is an important read.

Researchers at Harvard Medical School now say the Omicron variant is the culprit behind the current surge in cases in the northeast, an abrupt shift from expert opinion just a few days ago. New York City’s positivity rate has doubled in three days, triggering a wave of cancellations and closures, and the CDC estimated that Omicron accounted for 13 percent of cases in New York and New Jersey as of Wednesday. (Crooked Media)

Top health officials warned Tuesday that any lowered severity would not mean omicron isn’t dangerous. “Even if omicron does cause less severe disease, the sheer number of cases could once again overwhelm unprepared health systems,” World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. [Reuters /Stephanie Nebehay and Mrinalika Roy]

“Employers will be given more time to comply with a federal requirement that workers get vaccinated for COVID-19 or be regularly tested, the U.S. Department of Labor announced after a federal appeals court allowed the rule to go forward. Workers who are not fully vaccinated won’t have to be regularly tested until Feb. 9, more than a month after the original Jan. 4 deadline. The department said it is exercising enforcement discretion to “account for any uncertainty” caused by the legal challenges that had blocked the rule.” (USA Today)

“The Biden administration unveiled a new strategy Friday using increased Covid-19 testing to keep children in the classroom. The strategy includes a “test to stay” approach: Instead of mandatory quarantines for unvaccinated students identified as close contacts of a Covid-positive peer, those students could remain in school if they test negative for the virus at least twice during the week after an exposure. The move comes as some school districts are once again going virtual in an attempt to avoid the worst of the omicron variant.” (NBC News)

The economy
“Four of the biggest meat-processing companies, using their market power in the highly consolidated U.S. market to drive up meat prices and underpay farmers, have tripled their own net profit margins since the pandemic started, White House economics advisers said…Increases in meat prices accounted for 25% of the rise in consumer prices for food consumed at home in November, a big driver in the surge in inflation seen in recent months.” (Reuters)

The Federal Reserve will move to tighten credit to fight inflation. These moves will include hikes in interest rates and ending bond purchases. (Associated Press)

Read a measured prediction of economic conditions for the nation and in Indiana in 2022 at Ball State University Center for Business and Economic Research

In a review that spanned many months the Associated Press studied every potential case of voter fraud in the six battleground states disputed by former President Donald Trump and found fewer than 475 — a number that would have made no difference in the 2020 presidential election.” Not all of the 475 were for Biden and most were caught and not counted. (Associated Press)

“The nation’s biggest companies have steadily ramped up their donations to GOP lawmakers who voted against certifying the 2020 election results, largely ending the giving freeze instituted following the Capitol riot.” (The Hill)

Georgia Republicans have quietly reorganized six county boards in recent months through county-specific state legislation. The changes expand the party’s power over choosing members of local election boards ahead of the crucial midterm Congressional elections in November 2022. Critics say it gives republicans control over what votes to count in predominantly minority and democratic areas. (Reuters)

“President Joe Biden promised his infrastructure proposal would replace every lead pipe in the country. Now the White House says it has a plan to deliver, despite a significant funding gap. The administration’s plan for lead pipes and paints, unveiled by Vice President Kamala Harris in a speech Thursday, illustrates how officials are hoping to cobble together enough money to meet Biden’s goal through sources like the infrastructure law, Covid relief funding and the president’s stalled Build Back Better bill.” (NBC News)

January 6
“The special House committee investigating Jan. 6 revealed the existence of a PowerPoint presentation, shared among former President Trump’s team, that laid out strategies for keeping the 45th president in power, including having him declare a national security emergency and having former Vice President Mike Pence halt Congress’s certification of President Biden’s victory.”  Numerous text messages sent to Meadows show ideas about how to block the election were flowing from Trump’s inner circle to Capitol Hill and the GOP back to the White House as they mulled how to undermine Biden’s victory.” Some were from current congressmen, one already identified as Jim Jordan. 
“The Jan. 6 panel also disclosed a flurry of text messages [sent during the insurrection] sent by key Republicans to Trump’s ex-chief of staff Mark Meadows begging him to convince the president to call off the violent mob of his supporters.” (The Hill)

Several Fox News personalities who have publicly downplayed the seriousness of the January 6 insurrection privately begged for President Donald Trump to intervene on the days of the attacks, according to text messages from Mark Meadows, Trump’s former chief of staff. [Reuters]

“D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine on Tuesday used a law originally written to take on the Ku Klux Klan to file a civil lawsuit against the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers over the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.” (Daily Beast)


The most recent Indiana revenue report exceeded projections for the month of November with collections of monthly sales taxes, individual income taxes, and riverboat wagering taxes driving the revenue levels beyond expectations.   (Inside Indiana Business)

Indiana Governor Eric  Holcomb announced Wednesday  that an estimated 4.3 million taxpayers will receive a $125 refund after they file their 2021 taxes.  (Indy Politics)

Upcoming legislation
HB 1001
Indiana House lawmakers took testimony Thursday – for the second time in about three weeks – on a bill that would effectively ban private companies from enforcing COVID-19 vaccine mandates.  (WFYI)
An Indiana House committee heard more than seven hours of testimony Thursday on a bill that would effectively ban COVID-19 vaccine mandates by employers.  (The Statehouse File)
The Indiana Chamber of Commerce opposes the bill. ….They support the first three sections of HB 1001 regarding the emergency order and maintaining supplemental federal funding. However, the organization strongly opposes the remainder of HB 1001 and thus opposes the bill overall. “House Bill 1001 contains several provisions – led by employers’ footing the bill for COVID-19 testing for unvaccinated workers – that the Indiana Chamber simply cannot support. It also leaves many important questions unanswered, including around testing availability. To greatly discourage and inhibit employers from getting their employees vaccinated to promote health and safety within their workplaces – at a time when there are surging infections, hospitalizations and deaths as the Omicron variant has emerged – is simply the wrong policy in our view.” (Indiana Chamber of Commerce)

In the wake of contentious school board meetings throughout Indiana over critical race theory, leading Republican lawmakers said they will propose allowing parents to have more of a say in what their children are taught in schools. Indiana Republicans are drafting multiple education bills for the 2022 legislative session in response to these controversies, without mentioning critical race theory by name. (Chalkbeat Indiana)
Senate Bills 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 make up this package of bills and are described in the linked article, but have not been published on the General Assembly website.

Senate Republicans representing Marion County today announced a package of bills aimed at reducing crime in Marion County and the state as a whole. (Indy Politics)

A year after a state task force was created to improve Indiana’s juvenile justice system, recommendations for change are now headed to lawmakers.  (WFIU)

Indiana has been ranked the “least safe” state in the U.S. for COVID-19 by Wallethub.
The state ranks 31st in transmission rate, 45th in death rate, 46th in hospitalization rate, 49th in positive testing rate, and 48th in vaccination rate. (WIBC)

Indiana’s COVID-19 hospital census surpassed 3,000 for the first time in 2021. And hospitals are stretched ahead of the holidays.   (WFYI)

Last week, the University of Notre Dame announced it would require all students to get a COVID-19 booster shot. The university is now requiring all faculty and staff to get their boosters as well. (WBAA)

“New district boundaries for the Lake County Board of Commissioners and the Lake County Council were finalized Friday in the same spirit of bipartisan cooperation that’s defined this iteration of the once-a-decade task.” (NWI Times)

To find and contact your Indiana legislators: http://iga.in.gov/legislative/find-legislators/