WASHINGTON – Votes on a number of bills central to President Joe Biden’s policy agenda have been slowed in Congress due to the relentless COVID-19 epidemic.
The Commander-in-Chief himself tested positive for the highly transmissible BA.5 omicron variant last Thursday. Several lawmakers across the aisle have also been sickened by the virus in recent days.
COVID-19 has infected over 90 million Americans, And variant BA.5 comprises 80% of cases.
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Due to forced isolation, key pieces of legislation such as the highly debated CHIPS Act (to dramatically ramp up U.S. semiconductor manufacturing) and a bill to protect marriage equality have stalled in Congress. What will these bills do if passed? And who has tested positive for COVID-19 within the last two weeks? Here’s what to know:
Who has tested positive for Covid?
At least five lawmakers have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past few days. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-AK., confirmed her diagnosis in a July 25 post on Twitter.
“I will be following guidance and advice from doctors and will be quarantining at home in Alaska while continuing my work remotely,” Murkowski wrote. The 20-year career lawmaker is campaigning to retain her seat in the Senate.
West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin tested positive on Jul 25. The Democratic lawmaker said on Twitter that he will “isolate and follow CDC guidelines as I continue to work remotely to serve West Virginians.”
Sen. Tina Smith said she is looking forward to resuming her duties “as soon as possible” in a social media post about her July 20 COVID-19 diagnosis. The Minnesota Democrat said she was experiencing “mild symptoms” and following the CDC’s guidelines.
Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., tested positive for COVID-19 during a weekly test, according to a July 21 post on Twitter. The senator said he planned to isolate for five days and “will closely monitor my symptoms until then.”
Rep. Gerry Connolly also tested positive on Jul. 21, per a social media update. The Virginia Democrat said he is “experiencing very mild symptoms and will be self-isolating.”
What is the CHIPS Act?
The Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors for America, or “CHIPS,” Act, was introduced in the House by Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, in June 2020. It would provide $52 billion in subsidies and tax breaks for domestic chipmakers to decrease reliance on chips imported from Asian countries and to compete with China in the semiconductor race.
The bill still hasn’t passed Congress some two years later. The Senate cleared a path to a final vote on the bill this week, but a number of Republicans are reportedly put off by the high subsidies.
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Murkowski and Manchin were two of four senators who missed the vote Tuesday to advance CHIPS. The status of the vote is pending.
The Respect for Marriage Act
The House voted 267-157 to approve the Respect for Marriage Act Tuesday, codifying the right to marriage regardless of sexual orientation. Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., the bill’s sponsor, introduced it in the House on Jul. 18.
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The bill’s passage was prompted by concerns that the Supreme Court may revisit its 2015 ruling in favor of same-sex marriage. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas called the decision into question in his concurring opinion on Dobbs v. Jackson, which overturned Roe v. Wade and a constitutional right to abortion.
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So far, a concurrent bill has not been introduced in the Senate. And since 60 votes are needed under the Senate rules to bring any legislation to the floor being filibustered, a Senate vote on the marriage bill might have to wait until more senators can return to work.
Senators have not set a date to vote on the act.
Reach out to Chelsey Cox on Twitter at @therealco.