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.
Due to forced isolation, key pieces of legislation such as the CHIPS Act (to dramatically ramp up U.S. semiconductor manufacturing) and a bill to protect marriage equality were delayed in Congress before the August recess. 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-Alaska, 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. She is campaigning to retain her seat in the Senate.
West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin tested positive July 25. Manchin, a Democrat, said on Twitter that he would "isolate and follow CDC guidelines as I continue to work remotely to serve West Virginians."
Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn., said she was looking forward to resuming her duties "as soon as possible" in a social media post about her July 20 COVID-19 diagnosis. Smith said she was experiencing "mild symptoms" and following 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, D-Va., also tested positive July 21, per a social media update. Connolly said he was "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 Senate voted Wednesday to pass the CHIPS Act — despite reluctance from some Republican due to the high subsidies — but it still hasn't passed the House .
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Respect for Marriage Act
The House voted 267-157 last week to approve the Respect for Marriage Act, codifying the right to marriage regardless of sexual orientation. Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., the bill's sponsor, introduced it in the House July 18.
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.
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, 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.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Lawmakers in COVID-19 isolation delay voting on important bills