Senate preps more confirmations as House goes for committee work week

Spring break for both chambers begins next week

D.C. statehood activists gather Monday in front of the Capitol to show support ahead of the House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on a D.C. statehood bill.  (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)
D.C. statehood activists gather Monday in front of the Capitol to show support ahead of the House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on a D.C. statehood bill. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)
Posted March 22, 2021 at 11:25am

The Senate has the Capitol to itself this week, with several confirmation votes on tap, as well as the Senate Democratic caucus retreat, which gets underway Monday with a virtual meeting with President Joe Biden.

Before that, the Senate is voting Monday on the nomination of Martin J. Walsh for Labor secretary.

Walsh, who has served as mayor of Boston since 2014, would be the first union member in decades to serve as Labor secretary. His nomination advanced from the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee in February by a vote of 18-4.

"Mayor Walsh has the background, the skills, and awareness of the needs for balance of conversations between labor and management," HELP ranking member Richard M. Burr, R-N.C., said.

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer also set up votes on a number of nominations this week. The list includes Shalanda Young for deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, David Turk for deputy Energy secretary and Adewale "Wally" O. Adeyemo for deputy Treasury secretary.

Other nominees are testifying this week. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will question Samantha Power, nominated to lead the U.S. Agency for International Development, on Tuesday.

Cynthia Marten, Biden's pick for deputy Education secretary, will appear before the Senate HELP panel on Wednesday. And Deanne Criswell, nominated for administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, testifies Thursday before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

House work

The House is not in session this week, but its committees will meet throughout the week.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee is kicking off the week with a hearing Monday on a far-reaching infrastructure bill backed by all 32 Democrats on the panel.

Chairman Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J., sponsored the legislation, which is a candidate to make up the broadband aspect of an upcoming infrastructure package.

The bill would authorize more than $109 billion to expand broadband access throughout the country in an effort to close what's become known as "the digital divide," the gap between those who can access the internet at home and those who cannot.

Of that total, $80 billion would be set aside for deploying new broadband networks or expanding existing ones to reach those who currently can't get a signal. The committee said the investment would be enough to drive 100 percent connectivity throughout the country.

More infrastructure-related committee work is coming up later this week. The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee is holding a hearing on transportation infrastructure on Wednesday.

And on Thursday, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg will testify before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on the Biden administration's priorities.

DC statehood

House lawmakers are returning to the question of D.C. statehood after a start to the year that reframed the issue in stark terms.

The Jan. 6 insurrection highlighted Washington's inability to call in the D.C. National Guard as rioters breached the Capitol. The security perimeter surrounding Congress since the attack has vexed locals, including D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton.

District leaders, including Mayor Muriel Bowser, are testifying in a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on Monday on Norton's bill for D.C. statehood.

D.C. statehood advocates had highlighted the role of racism and voter suppression in keeping the District and its roughly 700,000 residents without meaningful representation in Congress. But now they're framing it as a safety issue, too.

"It has not diminished in one way, shape or form the fact that this is a voting rights and civil rights issue," said Joshua Burch, founder of the grassroots group Neighbors United for DC Statehood. "But it also has highlighted that this also is a national security issue as well, and it's a public safety issue."

Caroline Simone, Dean DeChiaro and Chris Cioffi contributed to this report.