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Window On Washington - December 28, 2020, Vol. 4, Issue 52

Dec 28, 2020

Outlook for This Week in the Nation’s Capital

Congress. Due to President Donald Trump’s veto of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) last Wednesday, the House plans to vote to override the veto today, with the Senate following suit tomorrow. Meanwhile, though President Trump signed the omnibus and COVID-19 relief package into law last night, the House is still planning for a full floor vote today on the Cash Act, which would replace the $600 stimulus payments in the coronavirus-omnibus legislation with $2,000 stimulus payments. House and Senate Democrats both support the larger payments, but Republicans remain divided on the issue. The Senate may also consider legislation that repeals or reforms Section 230.

Separately, the House and Senate will meet next Sunday, Jan. 3 for the start of the 117th Congress and again next Wednesday, Jan. 6 for a joint session to formally count the Electoral College’s votes.

FY21 Appropriations and Next COVID Package. After refusing to sign the coronavirus-omnibus package throughout last week, President Trump last night signed the legislation into law, averting a government shutdown before tonight’s deadline and extending a handful of pandemic-related provisions, including unemployment benefits and an eviction moratorium. However, he reiterated his request that Congress continue to consider increasing stimulus payments to $2,000 and that there be a review of Section 230.

Biden Transition. President-elect Joe Biden did not meet his self-imposed deadline of announcing all of his Cabinet nominees by Christmas and has yet to announce his picks for CIA Director, Attorney General, Secretary of Labor, Secretary of Commerce, and Small Business Administrator, but he is expected to announce these remaining positions by early January. Separately, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced that he will appoint California Secretary of State Alex Padilla to fill Vice-President elect Kamala Harris’ Senate seat.

Meanwhile, we are just about one week away from the Georgia Senate Runoffs on Tuesday, January 5. As of last Thursday, more than 2 million Georgians (about 26.7% of registered voters) have already cast their votes. If Democrats flip both seats, they would have 50 seats in the Senate and take the majority given that Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris would serve as the tie breaker. A joint poll from InsiderAdvantage/FOX 5 Atlanta released last Wednesday shows that incumbent Senator Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) is now trailing Democratic challenger Raphael Warnock by two points, and in the state’s other runoff, incumbent Senator David Perdue (R-GA) has a one-percent lead on Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff.

Last Week in the Nation’s Capital

CONGRESS

Budget & Appropriations

GOP Blocks House Democrats’ Attempt to Pass $2,000 Stimulus Checks: House Republicans last Thursday blocked a Democratic attempt to pass $2,000 direct payments to Americans as part of their efforts to address President Trump’s objections to the package. (CNBC)

Congress Passes $2.3T Coronavirus Relief, Government Funding Deal: Congress last Monday passed a sweeping year-end bill to provide long-delayed coronavirus relief and fund the government, capping off a months-long fight for more assistance. Summaries of each bill can be found here. (The Hill)

Health

Surprise Medical Bill Prevention Included in Year-End Legislative Package: Bipartisan legislation to protect patients from getting massive “surprise” medical bills is included in a year-end package deal reached last week after almost two years of negotiations. (The Hill)

$96.5 Billion for HHS in Omnibus Appropriations Bill: The bill provides the Department of Health and Human Services $96.5 billion in base discretionary funding, an increase of $2.0 billion over the FY20 enacted level. (Clark Hill Insight)

Labor & Workforce

$12.5 Billion for Department of Labor in Omnibus Appropriations Bill: The bill provides the Department of Labor $12.5 billion in base discretionary funding, an increase of $97.3 million over the FY20 enacted level. (Clark Hill Insight)

Education

$73.5 Billion for Department of Education in Omnibus Appropriations Bill: The bill provides the Department of Education $73.5 billion in discretionary funding, an increase of $785 million from fiscal year 2020. (Clark Hill Insight)

Space/NASA & NOAA

$23.3 Billion Provided for NASA in Fiscal Year 2021 Omnibus Spending Bill: The bill would provide NASA with $642 million more than what it received in 2020 but nearly $2 billion less than the agency’s request of $25.2 billion, and it restores several science programs but falls far short of the funding sought for a lunar lander program. (Space News)

Defense

Veto Override Votes on Tap for Defense Authorization Act: Last Wednesday, President Donald Trump vetoed the fiscal 2021 defense authorization bill, making good on repeated vows to do so, and setting the stage for override votes in Congress – most likely today in the House, and tomorrow in the Senate. (Roll Call)

$696 Billion for DoD in Omnibus Appropriations Bill: The bill provides the Department of Defense with nearly $696 billion in discretionary funding for fiscal year 2021. (Clark Hill Insight)

Homeland Security & Immigration

Omnibus Increases Funding for ICE: $8.0 billion is provided for ICE, including $4.1 billion for immigration enforcement activities, personnel, 34,000 average daily detention beds, and associated transportation costs. (Clark Hill Insight)

Judiciary/Justice

$33.8 Billion for Department of Justice in Omnibus Appropriations Bill: The bill provides $33.8 Billion for the Department of Justice, $1.2 billion above the FY20 enacted level. (Clark Hill Insight)

Agriculture

$23.4 Billion for Ag, FDA, and Related Agencies in Omnibus Appropriations Bill: The bill provides nearly $23.4 billion for the Department of Agriculture, Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and Related Agencies for fiscal year 2021. (Clark Hill Insight)

Environment & Interior

$36 Billion for EPA, Interior, and Related Agencies in Omnibus Appropriations Bill: The bill provides just over $36 billion in discretionary funding for the Department for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Department of Interior, and other related agencies for fiscal year 2021. (Clark Hill Insight)

Energy

Omnibus Bill Was Packed with Energy and Environment Policy: The huge legislative package passed by the U.S. House and Senate last week, which the President has not yet signed, is a pile of unrelated bills stitched together but includes the most significant federal energy and climate policy in years, setting the agenda for Department of Energy research programs and authorizing higher funding levels for clean energy priorities. (Ars Technica)

EXECUTIVE BRANCH

Budget & Appropriations

Trump Signs $2.3T Relief, Spending Package: President Trump signed off on the $2.3 trillion package from his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida last night, days after he had expressed displeasure with the spending outlined in the omnibus and complained that the coronavirus relief measure should include direct payments of $2,000 per person, up from $600. (The Hill)

Trump Eyes Unusual Move on Government Accountability Before Biden Takes Office: The White House is considering changes to the budgeting process that require agencies to spell out their policy goals and show progress in achieving them, an unusual move given the imminent change in administration. (The Hill)

Health/HHS/NIH

Birx Says She Will Help Biden Team but Plans to Retire: Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus task force coordinator, said last Tuesday that she would help President-elect Joe Biden’s incoming administration “for a period of time” but ultimately plans to retire. (The Hill)

Labor & Workforce

Unemployment Benefits Lapsed While Stimulus Bill Stuck in Limbo: Emergency unemployment benefits for millions of Americans lapsed this past Saturday with President Trump and Congress unexpectedly deadlocked about how much to give people in relief checks as part of a massive coronavirus economic stimulus bill.  (The Hill)

Department of Education

Biden's Education Secretary Pick Acknowledges ‘Ongoing Crisis’ in Schools: President-elect Joe Biden formally introduced Dr. Miguel Cardona as his secretary of Education nominee last Wednesday, placing the Connecticut state education official atop the incoming administration’s sweeping plans to reopen the majority of American schools in 100 days and accelerate federal spending on education. (Politico)

Transportation/DOT

Transportation Nominee Buttigieg Says Millions of New Electric Vehicles Needed on U.S. Roads: Pete Buttigieg supports putting millions of new electric vehicles on America’s roads to help the nation meet climate goals, as well as building public charging infrastructure powered by clean energy which will need to be expanded to all parts of the country. (The Hill)

Defense/DOD

The Military is Scrambling to Understand the Potential Aviation Crash Risk From a New FCC 5G Sale: As part of a broader move to boost the 5G industry in the United States, the Federal Communications Commission on Dec. 8 began auctioning a portion of C-band electromagnetic spectrum, but more than a dozen commercial aviation groups warned that this portion of the spectrum could interfere with radar altimeters, a critical piece of aviation technology used by military, commercial and civil aircraft of all types. (Defense News)

Cyber

SolarWinds Incident Should be a Catalyst to Rethink Federal Cybersecurity: Federal chief information officers and chief information security officers have now spent a couple long weeks trying to get a handle on the impact on their networks, systems and data from the SolarWinds cyberattack, as well as preparing for increased interest from Congress and a new Administration on how to protect against future attacks. (Federal News Network)

EPA & DOI

EPA Revises Lead Rule, Sidestepping Calls for More Stringent Standards: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last Tuesday finalized a rule that will speed notification to homeowners who are drinking lead-tainted water but does not force cities to move more quickly to replace the lead pipes that deliver it. (The Hill)