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Congress at Work for December, 2021

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Congress at Work: Infrastructure Spending, Hiring Veteran Health Heroes and Initiatives for Education, Childcare and Immigration

HR 3684, S 1031, S 894, S 108, HR 5376Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act(HR 3684) – This legislation authorizes funding for federal highway, transit, safety, motor carrier, hazardous materials and rail programs of the Department of Transportation (DOT). The bill also addresses climate change with strategies to reduce the environmental impacts of the surface transportation system and facilitate the efficient use of federal resources. It was initially introduced on June 4; it passed in the House on July 1 and in the Senate on Aug. 10. It was passed again in the House in its final form on Nov. 5, and then was signed into law by the president on Nov. 15.

A bill to require the Comptroller General of the United States to conduct a study on disparities associated with race and ethnicity with respect to certain benefits administered by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, and for other purposes. (S 1031) – This bill was introduced by Rep. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) on March 25. It passed in the House on Aug. 6, then in the Senate on Nov. 15. It is awaiting signature by the president. Within one year, a study must be conducted and Congress briefed on how race and ethnicity impact VA compensation benefits, disability ratings and the rejection of claims for VA benefits.

Hire Veteran Health Heroes Act of 2021 (S 894) – The purpose of this legislation is to identify separating service members in healthcare occupations and refer them for jobs at the VA. The bill was introduced by Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN) on March 23. It passed in the Senate on July 21, the House on Nov. 15 and is currently with the president.

A bill to authorize the Seminole Tribe of Florida to lease or transfer certain land, and for other purposes (S 108) – This legislation allows the Seminole Tribe of Florida to lease, sell, convey, warrant or transfer any real property it owns that is not held in trust by the United States. The bill was introduced by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) on Jan. 28. It was passed in the Senate on May 26, in the House on Nov. 2 and is currently waiting to be signed into law by the president.

Build Back Better Act (HR 5376) – This bill is currently being debated in Congress as the second phase of President Biden’s effort to “build an economy from the bottom up and the middle out.” It includes funding for a wide array of initiatives, including education, labor, childcare, healthcare, taxes, immigration and the environment. Specifically, the legislation would provide for up to six semesters of free community college, free childcare for children under the age of 6, free universal preschool services, health benefits for eligible individuals who reside in states that have not expanded Medicaid, expand Medicare to cover dental, hearing and vision care; provide certain aliens with a path to permanent resident status (e.g., those who entered the United States as minors); and provide up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave. Funding mechanisms include increasing the tax rates for certain corporations and individuals with annual income over $400,000; and require the Department of Health and Human Services to negotiate maximum prices for certain brand-name drugs under Medicare. The bill was introduced by Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY) on Sept. 27 and is currently under consideration in the House.

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