COVID Relief Bill to Reach House Floor Week of Feb. 22
WASHINGTON – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that the next COVID-19 relief bill is on pace to reach the House floor the week of Feb. 22.
“We hope to have this all done by the end of February, certainly on the president’s desk in time to offset the March 14 deadline, when some unemployment benefits will expire,” Pelosi said during her weekly briefing with reporters.
The speaker said there are nine House authorizing committees currently marking up their respective portions of the aid package, and once they are done, the House Budget Committee will work on it, shaping it into a vehicle for budget reconciliation.
Pelosi said the Budget Committee is scheduled to begin its work on the bill next week, and that it will ultimately wind its way to the Rules Committee, which will determine the procedures governing debate.
The speaker also shed some light on one of Capitol Hill’s enduring formalities, the new president’s first formal address to a joint session of Congress.
The speech, known as the State of the Union address once a new president has been in office for a full year, is typically held in February.
But this year the speech is being held up both by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the work now being done on the COVID-19 relief bill.
“We won’t be doing any of that until we pass our COVID bill. That’s the first order of business,” Pelosi said.
Though it’s up to the speaker to formally invite the president to the House chamber for the joint session, Pelosi said a number of other people will have a say in the timing of the speech this year.
These include the sergeants-at-arms, Capitol Police and Office of the Attending Physician, all of whom must weigh in on the safest way to conduct a joint session in the middle of a pandemic and after a riot at the Capitol.
Pelosi suggested that much like the inauguration, the joint session will be scaled down in the face of the current realities.
One thing is for sure — there’s likely no way all 432 House members, 100 senators, the president’s cabinet and the Supreme Court justices will all be in attendance.
“They decide what that number is and what the criteria are for it,” she said.
On the security of the Capitol complex more generally, Pelosi said she met with retired Army Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré Thursday morning to learn the latest in his ongoing review of the security at the building, the congressional office buildings and surrounding properties.
She said Honoré has proposed establishing a formal commission to review interagency cooperation and command and control issues.
“We’re listening to folks about what answers we need in that regard, particularly … about what would be the most useful to protect us as we go forward,” Pelosi said.
She also suggested that Congress might consider authorizing the District of Columbia to mobilize its National Guard troops without first getting the permission of the federal government.
Such a change would put them on equal footing with state governors, who can call up their National Guard troops on their own authority.