Hart Health Strategies provides a comprehensive policy briefing on a weekly basis. This in-depth health policy briefing is sent out at the beginning of each week. The health policy briefing recaps the previous week and previews the week ahead. It alerts clients to upcoming congressional hearings, newly introduced bills, regulatory announcements, and implementation activity related to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) and other health laws.


President Trump Impeached For the Second Time

The House of Representatives acted to impeach President Trump last Wednesday, making him the first U.S. president to be impeached more than once. The four-page impeachment resolution includes a single article accusing the President of high crimes and misdemeanors for “Incitement of Insurrection,” and details the events surrounding the January 6 violence at the Capitol building. After about three hours of debate, the House voted to approve H.Res.24 by a vote of 232-197. It was supported by all Democrats and 10 Republicans, including Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the third-ranking GOP leader in the House. The vote marked the most bipartisan group of lawmakers to ever impeach a U.S. president.

Prior to the vote on impeachment, the House passed H.Res.21, which called on Vice President Mike Pence to immediately invoke the 25th Amendment and remove President Trump from office. The resolution cites three attempts by Trump to intervene in the presidential election vote counting and certification process. The resolution was adopted by a vote of 223-205. In a letter to House leadership sent shortly before the chamber approved H.Res.21, however, the Vice President said that he would not invoke the 25th Amendment and asserted that the nation needed to heal after the attack on the Capitol. He urged lawmakers to “avoid actions that would further divide and inflame the passions of the moment.”

While the timing for the Senate to conduct a trial remains unclear, it is not expected to begin before Joe Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) rejected a push to convene the chamber in an emergency session before the Senate reconvenes on January 19. In a letter to GOP colleagues, McConnell stated “There has never been any chance that any fair or appropriate trial would conclude before President-elect Biden is sworn in. In light of this reality, I believe it will serve our nation best if both Congress and the executive branch spend the next seven days completely focused on facilitating a safe inauguration and an orderly transfer of power to the incoming Biden administration.”

The Senate trial process will be triggered when the article of impeachment is sent to the Senate. While House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) signed the article of impeachment shortly after it was passed by the House last Wednesday, she may refrain from sending it to the Senate so as not to interfere with Biden’s first 100 days in office. This would allow the Senate time to confirm Biden’s cabinet nominees and begin work on his legislative priorities, including coronavirus stimulus legislation. The President-elect expressed hopes that the chamber would not entirely set aside work on the new administration’s agenda while carrying out their responsibilities with respect to the impeachment trial and has proposed that the Senate bifurcate its schedule to ensure that nominees can be confirmed and a COVID-19 relief bill can be passed. Biden said that he is waiting to hear from the Senate parliamentarian on whether such an option is possible. Historically, all 100 senators would need to agree to conduct any other work concurrently with the trial.

Pelosi has named the impeachment managers, led by Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), who will serve as prosecutors during the impeachment trial. Two-thirds of the Senate - 67 votes – would be needed to convict Trump. Several Senate Republicans have sharply criticized Trump’s actions, including McConnell. This would be the first presidential impeachment trial to extend beyond the president’s time in office, though past precedent suggest that the move is permissible. If Trump is convicted, the Senate could take a second vote to bar him from seeking federal office ever again, a measure which would require only a simple majority of votes.

Biden Details American Rescue Plan

President-elect Joe Biden laid out the details of his $1.9 trillion emergency relief plan – the American Rescue Plan – last week. The economic stimulus plan was developed by transition officials alongside Democratic lawmakers and their staff. The wide-ranging package aimed at containing the pandemic and supporting the economy includes increased direct payments to individual Americans, increased unemployment insurance benefits, and expanded medical and family leave. The package would send $350 billion in emergency aid to state and local governments, and seeks additional funding for coronavirus containment efforts. It includes $50 billion to increase COVID-19 testing capacity, $30 billion to address supply shortages, and $10 billion for domestic manufacturing of medical supplies. It proposes $20 billion for the creation of a national vaccine distribution program that would provide free shots to all U.S. residents. The bill includes funding to expand the health workforce by 100,000 people to conduct outreach and contact tracing. It would also provide $9 billion for the federal Technology Modernization Fund and $690 million for the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. The package has been praised by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who have promised to work to pass the bill through both chambers so that it can be signed into law.

Biden’s transition staff briefed aides to congressional Democrats last week on the new administration’s plans to negotiate with the GOP on the initial stimulus package. The President-elect hopes that his COVID-19 relief package will gain the support of some Senate Republicans so that it does not require the use of budget reconciliation to pass. Reconciliation is a budgetary maneuver that would allow the legislation to pass with only a simple majority of votes in the Senate rather than the super-majority of 60 votes normally required to cut off debate and move to a vote.

Biden is expected to propose a second economic recovery plan in the coming weeks that would address his longer-term job creation and development goals.

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