This week in Congress: Pandemic response remains lawmakers’ top focus


House lawmakers expect to approve the latest coronavirus relief bill by the end of this week, with a goal of Congress finalizing the bill’s $1.9 trillion in spending — including a significant amount of supplemental funding on veterans programs — by the middle of March

The measure has made national headlines because of plans to pay out up to $2,000 to millions of Americans and increase the national minimum wage to $15.

But the measure also includes about $17 billion in new Veterans Affairs funding, to help offset increased program use amid the pandemic, and includes significant changes to rules regarding the use of GI Bill benefits by for-profit colleges.

Lawmakers will debate that proposal amid other pandemic-related work on Capitol Hill. Defense officials will testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday to talk about the military’s role in vaccine distribution and delivery. Officials on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee will hold a hearing Wednesday on vaccine distribution among America’s veterans.

Tuesday, Feb. 23

Senate Armed Services — 9:30 a.m. — 106 Dirksen

Emerging technologies

Outside experts will testify on emerging technologies and their impact on national security.

House Armed Services — 11 a.m. — 2118 Rayburn

Military technology

The subcommittee on cyber and innovative technologies will hold its first hearing and hear from outside experts on innovation in military technology.

House Armed Services — 3 p.m. — 2118 Rayburn

Space and nuclear weapons

Outside experts will testify on recent advances in space technology and nuclear weapons systems.

Wednesday, Feb. 24

House Appropriations — 9:30 a.m. — Online hearing

Future defense spending

Outside experts will testify on long-term plans for military spending.

Senate Select Intelligence — 10 a.m. — 301 Russell


The committee will consider the nomination of William Burns to be director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

House Foreign Affairs — 1:30 p.m. — online hearing

International diplomacy

Outside experts including Ryan Crocker, former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, will testify on diplomatic policy under the Biden administration.

House Appropriations — 2 p.m. — online hearing

Service member PFAS exposure

Defense officials will testify on military members exposure to toxic chemicals on military bases.

House Judiciary — 2 p.m. — 2141 Rayburn

Domestic terrorism threats

Outside experts will testify on the threat of domestic terrorist groups in America.

Senate Veterans’ Affairs — 3 p.m. — G-50 Dirksen

Vaccines for veterans

VA officials will testify on efforts to vaccinate veterans against the coronavirus.

Thursday, Feb. 25

Senate Armed Services — 9:30 a.m. — G-50 Dirksen

Military coronavirus response

Defense officials will testify on their response to the ongoing pandemic and role in helping distribute vaccines to the public.


Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.

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