The Biden Administration and the Democratic-controlled 117th Congress capped off the start of the new session by achieving a core campaign promise, enactment of the American Rescue Plan. The comprehensive COVID-19 response legislation totals $1.88 trillion and includes a combination of emergency public health funding and economic stimulus measures. The COVID package primarily provides resources for the vaccine roll out, testing, and related initiatives, but also includes $350 million in support for state and local governments.
Following the passage of the American Rescue Plan, Congress began its pivot to other timely issues. Most notably, the appropriations committees began their work on the Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 spending bills and House appropriations announced rules for the return of community project requests or “earmarks.” Hopes for a swift appropriations process have been complicated though by delays in the confirmation of a Director for the Office of Management and Budget and a rewriting of the FY 2022 budget request by the Biden/Harris White House.
The administration has also begun to shift its focus to a large infrastructure and tax modification package. While details and priorities are all extremely preliminary, Democrats can once again use budget reconciliation to pass such a package with a simple majority in the House and Senate. Such an approach though would require unanimous support and agreement throughout the Democratic caucus given the slim majorities.
Clinical and translational science advocates will be quick to point out the critical nature of research infrastructure programs (such as CTSAs, IDeA, and RCMI) within the emerging policy discussion as well as call for FY 2022 increases in funding through the annual appropriations process.