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Congress Reaches Agreement on Debt Limit Increase and Defense Policy Bill

December 10, 2021

Updated Dec. 15, 2021

Following the passage of legislation that allows Democrats to raise the debt limit and avoid a federal default on the nation’s debt by circumventing a GOP filibuster in the Senate, Congress voted on Tuesday to increase the debt ceiling by $2.5 trillion. Final passage of a compromise $768 billion defense policy bill is expected this week as well. These agreements clear up much needed time for lawmakers to focus on the Build Back Better Act, the last major piece of legislation anticipated before the end of year.

To advance Build Back Better, Senate Democrats still need to come to agreement on paid family leave, immigration, and clean energy provisions to garner the 50 votes needed for passage. They also need to await a final ruling from the Parliamentarian, who will decide what provisions can be passed through the budget reconciliation process.

We continue to hear that the $150 billion for home and community-based services remains in the package, but Lutheran Services in America will continue to advocate to retain key provisions that would help address the acute direct care workforce shortage and expand access to home and community-based services including:

  • $150 billion to incentivize states to deliver or improve home- and community-based service programs, including through increasing wages and benefits for direct care workers;
  • $1 billion for a grant program funding strategies to recruit and retain direct care workers; and
  • the provisions of the WORK NOW Act to create a $50 billion grant program supporting nonprofits in paying wages and benefits.

 However, there are two provisions which are problematic for our members providing skilled nursing services which we’re asking Senators to oppose and remove:

  •  Mandating a registered nurse on staff 24 hours a day at skilled nursing facilities (from 8 hours/day), a late addition to the House bill and one that doesn’t include additional funding.
  • Requiring a three-year study of minimum skilled nursing staff levels and that the minimums be met within one year and without additional funding.

Please join us in raising our voice to Senators on these issues through our advocacy alert.

Worker Vaccine Mandates Temporarily Halted Nationwide by Courts

As of December 7, all three major vaccine mandates impacting employers have been at least temporarily halted nationwide.  Following previous court rulings preventing both The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) from enforcing their vaccine and testing mandates for employers, a federal court has now ruled that a similar mandate, applicable to most federal contractors and issued via Executive Order, may also not be enforced at this time.  The final deadline for full vaccination for all eligible employees under each of the mandates had been set at January 4, 2022.  While the Biden Administration has indicated that it plans to appeal the rulings, and most experts suggest that covered employers should continue planning as though they will eventually have to comply, currently none of the mandates may be enforced.

Lutheran Services in America has submitted comments on the OSHA mandate.  Lutheran Services in America has prepared a summary of the CMS rule, and will be submitting comments to CMS sharing questions and concerns from our network members.  Please contact Sarah Dobson, Senior Director of Public Policy and Advocacy, at sdobson@lutheranservices.org to share your input as we prepare our official comments on the CMS mandate.

Upcoming Congressional Town Hall Meetings

Members of Congress continue to hold virtual town hall meetings to address constituent concerns about coronavirus relief. Here is a look at upcoming sessions (click links below to find out how to join):

Member District Party Format Date & Time Link
Rep. Scott Peters CA-52 D Zoom Wed. Dec. 15, 4:30 pm PT More information
Rep. Chrissy Houlahan PA-6 D Telephone Wed. Dec. 15, 4:55 pm ET More information
Rep. Jahana Hayes CT-5 D Telephone Wed. Dec. 15, 6 pm ET More information
Rep. Colin Allred TX-32 D Telephone Wed. Dec. 15, 12 pm CT More information
Rep. Haley Stevens MI-11 D Telephone Wed. Dec. 15, 6:30 pm ET More information
Rep. Jackie Speier CA-14 D Telephone (federal response to pandemic) Wed. Dec. 15, 7 pm PT More information
Rep. Mondaire Jones NY-17 D Zoom (hosted by Rockland United) Wed. Dec. 15, 6 pm ET More information
Rep. Ayanna Pressley MA-7 D Virtual Wed. Dec. 15, 7 pm ET More information
Rep. Seth Moulton MA-6 D Virtual Thurs. Dec. 16, 6 pm ET More information
Rep. Mark DeSaulnier CA-11 D Zoom Thurs. Dec. 16, 12:30 pm PT More information
Rep. Andy Kim NJ-3 D Telephone (COVID and supporting small businesses) Thurs. Dec. 16, 5:30 pm ET More information
Rep. Victoria Spartz IN-5 R In person (Alexandria) Sat. Dec. 18, 9 am ET More information
Rep. Victoria Spartz IN-5 R In person (Fairmount) Sat. Dec. 18, 11 am ET More information
Rep. Victoria Spartz IN-5 R In person (Hartford City) Sat. Dec. 18, 1 pm ET More information

 


 By Sarah Dobson, Senior Director of Public Policy and Advocacy, and Josh Dubensky, Director of Public Policy and Advocacy for the Lutheran Services in America Disability Network