The House will vote this month on legislation to make what is now the District of Columbia the 51st state and to amend labor standards to promote equal pay for men and women performing the same job, among other bills, House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer announced Tuesday.
He also announced that when the House returns from recess on April 13 the duration of votes will be reduced from 45 minutes each to 30 minutes, a step toward the pre-pandemic normal of 15-minute votes. The House will continue to use alphabetical voting groups to stagger member entrances and allow for social distancing, but there will be five groups instead of seven. Each group will have 87 members.
"With many Members and a growing number of staff and Capitol workers now fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and with safety measures like mandatory mask-wearing and proxy voting remaining in place, we can begin a graduated return to normal voting procedures," Hoyer said in a "Dear Colleague" letter.
One of the first bills the House will take up under the shortened voting period is the Paycheck Fairness Act. The measure aims to provide equal pay for men and women who do the same jobs by amending the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to provide remedies for employees who face gender discrimination.
The House passed the equal pay measure in 2019 on a 242-187 vote with seven Republicans joining all Democrats in support, but it died in the Senate. It will get another floor vote next week, along with a measure to direct the Department of Labor to protect health care and social service workers from violence and other workplace hazards. That bill also previously passed in 2019 on a 251-158 vote; 32 Republicans joined all Democrats in voting for it.
"We owe it to our nation’s health care and social service workers, who have been on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19, to ensure that they can do their jobs with every safety precaution taken," Hoyer said.
The week of April 19 the House will vote on the D.C. statehood bill, which passed last Congress 232-180 without any Republican support. The only Democrat who voted against it, Minnesota's Collin Peterson, lost reelection. The bill would make all but two square miles of what is now a federal district into a state with the name Washington, Douglass Commonwealth.
Also scheduled for votes that week are a bill to ban future administrations from instituting Muslim or other origin-based travel bans and a measure to ensure U.S. nationals, permanent residents, visa holders and refugees have access to counsel if they are subjected to inspection when entering the country. Like other legislation the House is taking up in April, both bills passed the House last Congress but died in the Senate.
Hoyer also said the House will act "in the coming weeks" on legislation to condemn, prevent and prosecute anti-Asian hate crimes, which have been on the rise since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. He did not provide exact floor timing as the bills under consideration still need to go through the Judiciary Committee.
Outside of the bills scheduled for floor action, Democrats will likely be spending a lot of time in caucus and committee meetings working on crafting President Joe Biden's more than $2 trillion infrastructure proposal into legislation the chamber can take up this summer.
"President Biden has called for major infrastructure legislation, and I expect Members will be carefully reviewing his proposals throughout this coming work period," Hoyer said.