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Window On Washington - February 1, 2021, Vol. 5, Issue 5

Jan 31, 2021

Outlook for This Week in the Nation’s Capital

Biden Administration. After ten days of dozens of executive orders, proclamations, and memorandums, President Joe Biden is expected to decrease the number of actions he takes this week, though he plans to sign an executive order this week to modernize the immigration system. Biden will also start detailing an infrastructure package in the month of February.

Congress. The House and Senate are both in session this week. House Democrats are preparing to introduce a budget resolution this week that could allow a simple-majority Senate vote on portions of President Biden’s coronavirus relief package. The measure will likely be introduced today, with the goal of reaching the House floor on Wednesday, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said the Senate would follow suit.

Separately, the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee plans to vote on Denis McDonough’s (Veterans Affairs) nomination, and the Senate Commerce Committee plans to vote on the nomination of Governor Gina Raimondo (Commerce) this week. For nomination hearings this week, Senate committees will meet for Kathleen Hicks’ nomination as deputy Defense secretary, Miguel Cardona as Education secretary, Marty Walsh as Labor secretary, Tom Vilsack as Agriculture secretary, and Michael Regan as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. The House Energy and Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations will also hold a hearing tomorrow on solutions to increase COVID-19 vaccines in states, and on Wednesday the Committee’s Subcommittee on Health will hold a hearing on ramping up vaccines, testing, and the supply chain.

Next COVID Package Negotiations. While Congressional Democratic leaders prepare to move forward with President Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package, either with Republican support to reach 60 votes or through the budget reconciliation process instead, a group of 10 Republican senators are putting forward a scaled-back COVID-19 relief bill that they believe will allow the two sides to reach a bipartisan agreement. Biden has invited the GOP senators to meet with him to further discuss the next relief package, and they are set to meet at the White House this evening. An overview of the group’s proposed $600 billion plan can be found here, and the senators plan to release more details today.

Impeachment. Senate Democrats, who are still working to pass the next COVID-19 relief package and to confirm President Biden’s nominees, are said to be considering keeping former President Donald Trump's impeachment trial as short as one week. The trial is set to begin next week, and though the five lawyers who were expected to represent Trump left his defense team over the weekend amid disagreements over the strategy for the trial, Trump last night announced his new legal team which will include two lead lawyers and a former campaign aide.

Last Week in the Nation’s Capital

CONGRESS

Budget & Appropriations

GOP Senators Propose Compromise on COVID-19 Relief: Ten Senate Republicans led by Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) proposed their own framework yesterday for a COVID-19 relief package in an apparent attempt to stave off accusations the GOP is unwilling to work with the Biden administration on pandemic aid. (The Hill)

DeLauro Announces Democratic Appropriations Subcommittee Roster: House Appropriations Committee Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) last Monday announced the Democratic rosters for the House Appropriations Committee’s 12 subcommittees in the 117th Congress, including the Subcommittee Chairs and full Committee Vice Chair who were elected by the Committee’s Democratic Members. (House Appropriations Committee)

Granger Announces Republican Appropriations Subcommittee Assignments for 117th Congress: Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX), Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Committee, announced the Republican subcommittee assignments for the 117th Congress last Thursday. (Appropriations Committee - Republicans)

Health

Burr Claims Top GOP Spot on Senate HELP Committee: Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) will become the top Republican on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. (Clark Hill Insight)

Banking & Housing

House, Senate Committees Plan Hearings Following GameStop's Surge: Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), who chairs the House Financial Services Committee, said she would "convene a hearing to examine the recent activity around GameStop (GME) stock and other impacted stocks with a focus on short selling, online trading platforms, gamification and their systemic impact on our capital markets and retail investors." Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), who is poised to become the new chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, also promised a hearing. (MarketWatch)

Senate Panel Advances Buttigieg Nomination in 21-3 Vote: The Senate Commerce Committee advanced President Biden’s pick to lead the Transportation Department, Pete Buttigieg, with a broad bipartisan vote. Buttigieg would make history as the first openly gay Cabinet member confirmed by the Senate, if he wins approval. Buttigieg’s nomination now advances to a full Senate vote, which has not been scheduled yet. (The Hill)

Space/NASA & NOAA

Colorado Delegation and Other Members Turns Up Heat on Space Command HQ Decision: The entire Colorado delegation to the U.S. Congress sent a letter to President Biden last week asking him to formally reconsider President Trump’s decision to locate the headquarters of U.S. Space Command in Alabama rather than Colorado, a surprising decision was announced in the final days of the Trump Administration. (Space Policy Online)

Defense

U.S. Space Force Acquisitions to Get Fresh Look, Key House Lawmaker Wants Hearings: Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN), chair of the House Armed Services Committee’s Strategic Forces Subcommittee and a leading proponent of establishing the U.S. Space Force, said he wants the Biden administration to put pressure on the service to clean up its procurement act because he believes they put the service at risk by not keeping up with rapid advances in commercial space technology and not modernizing fast enough. (Space News)

Homeland Security & Immigration

National Security Adviser Says U.S. Needs to Get 'Own House in Order' to Strengthen Position Abroad: Speaking at an event with the United States Institute of Peace alongside his predecessor Robert O’Brien, Jake Sullivan expressed support for some Trump-era policies while stressing a long list of challenges facing the U.S. (The Hill)

Judiciary/Justice

Nadler Presses DOJ to Prosecute All Involved in Capitol Riot: House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) expressed alarm at the possibility that some might not be charged, saying it was "critical that all of the perpetrators of this insurrectionist attack be identified, investigated, arrested, charged, and subsequently prosecuted,” he wrote in a letter to acting Attorney General Monty Wilkinson. (The Hill)

Environment & Interior

Cheney Offers Bill to Prohibit Suspension of Oil, Gas, Coal Leases: Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), the No. 3 House Republican and the representative of a major fossil fuel-producing state, said the bill would force the Biden administration to obtain a joint resolution of approval from Congress before implementing any federal moratorium on oil and gas leasing or permitting or coal leasing. (The Hill)

EXECUTIVE BRANCH

Budget & Appropriations

White House Says Relief Bill Could Still Get GOP Votes Via Reconciliation: The White House last Thursday signaled it could throw its weight behind passing President Biden's coronavirus relief package via the budget reconciliation process, arguing that doing so would not preclude the vote from being bipartisan. Administration officials also made clear that the administration would not break up the legislative proposal to pass it piece-by-piece. (The Hill)

Health/HHS/NIH

Biden Team to Buy 200 Million More Doses, Speed Up Vaccinations: President Joe Biden said his administration intends to order 100 million more doses each of Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc.’s coronavirus vaccines, and at least temporarily speed up shipments to states to about 10 million doses a week. (Bloomberg)

Biden Signs Health Care Executive Actions: President Biden signed an order directing federal agencies to open a special enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) exchanges from Feb. 15 to May 15 in response to the coronavirus pandemic and to review existing policies put in place under the Trump administration that limited access to health care. Biden also signed a presidential memorandum rescinding the Mexico City policy preventing federal funds from flowing to foreign aid groups that provide abortion-related services. (The Hill)

Labor & Workforce

OSHA Issues COVID-19 Worker Safety Guidelines, Considers Enforceable Orders: The Biden administration released guidelines for workplace safety last Friday in what Department of Labor officials said was a first step toward revamping national protections for workers from COVID-19. (USA Today)

Department of Education

States Challenge Biden on Rights for Transgender Students: The raft of legislation is intended to keep transgender female athletes from competing on sports teams — in elementary school through college — that don’t match their sex assigned at birth. (Politico)

Banking & Housing/HUD

Janet Yellen Confirmed By Senate, Making History As First Female Treasury Secretary: The Senate quickly confirmed Janet Yellen to be Treasury secretary last Monday, days after she won unanimous backing from both Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee. (NPR)

Transportation/DOT

Biden Vows to Electrify the Federal Government’s 600,000-Vehicle Fleet: It won’t be an easy goal to meet - in 2019, the most recent year for which data is available, the federal government owned fewer than 3,000 battery electric vehicles—less than one half of one percent of the federal vehicle fleet and Federal agencies need both a wide variety of vehicle types but also sometime operate in more rural areas that lack recharging infrastructure. (Ars Technica)

NY/NJ Gateway Program Hopes ‘Amtrak Joe’ Will Mean the End of its Woes: Proponents of the Gateway Program, a long-awaited $30 billion, multifaceted rail project aimed at easing congestion in the Northeast Corridor, say they are hopeful that a new administration and a Senate led by one of their own will be a game-changer that finally makes the project a reality. (Roll Call)

Space/NASA & NOAA

Industry Asks White House to Keep National Space Council, Civilian Astronauts Prepare for Flight: Seventeen industry groups are urging the White House to keep the National Space Council, and three wealthy customers have now booked an eight-day stay on the International Space Station with Axiom Space next year, which will be the station’s first crew that is entirely made up of private citizens. (Politico Space)

Rocket Report - FAA Grounds Starship, Biden’s Big Rocket Dilemma: SpaceX had been gearing up to launch its SN9 prototype last Thursday, but a little before 11am local time, the "Temporary Flight Restrictions" for the day's Starship launch were canceled, delaying the test flight and angering Elon Musk. President Biden faces rocket launch dilemmas for the Clipper mission and SLS reschedules green run test, pushing first flight to 2022. (Ars Technica)

Defense/DOD

Air Force Chief - Electromagnetic Spectrum Could be “Cheaper” Option to Defeat Enemies: Top nation-states, including China and Russia, have demonstrated significant prowess within the electromagnetic spectrum, rivaling the DoD in some respects – facing budget limits, the Air Force seems ready to reinvest in the field to achieve cost-effective advantages against rivals. (C4ISR Net)

The Pentagon’s Chance to Get Serious About Climate Change: An executive order the Biden administration released last week directs the national security and foreign policy agencies to thoroughly incorporate climate change into their missions, due in part to bases increasingly vulnerable to the effects of climate change and the opportunity presented to reduce the DoD’s enormous amount of energy consumption. (Defense One)

Cyber

Biden Administration Appoints Chris DeRusha as Federal CISO: The Biden administration has picked Chris DeRusha, the former top cyber official on the Biden campaign, to fill the role of federal chief information security officer. (The Hill)

Biden Administration Looks to Shake up U.S. Cybersecurity Policy: Cybersecurity issues loomed large over the presidency of Donald Trump and now with cyber-attacks against the U.S. public and private sector at an all-time high, as evidenced by the recent SolarWinds supply chain hack, the incoming Biden administration has a huge amount of work to do in the cybersecurity arena. (The Daily Swig)

EPA & DOI

Biden Aims New Executive Orders at Climate Crisis: The orders are intended to put the United States back into the mix on international climate initiatives, as well as better coordinate the country’s domestic efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. (Roll Call)

Texas Governor Promises Lawsuits Over Biden Climate Regulations: The governor claims to have sued the Obama administration 31 times when he was attorney general for the state. (The Hill)

Bureau of Land Management Lost 87 Percent of Staff in Trump HQ Relocation: The figures show that following a July 2019 announcement the Department of the Interior would uproot the majority of BLM employees, just 41 agreed to relocate, while a staggering 287 either retired or left the agency before the end of 2020. (The Hill)

Department of Energy

GM's All-EV Plan Could Shake the Energy Industry:  GM announced that by 2035 it would cease production of gas powered vehicles, an announcement that promises to bring changes to the oil industry, the automotive supply chain that suffuses the economy, and the electric grid, which would need dramatic changes to fuel the onrush of electric vehicles. (E&E News)

Biden DOE Nominee Questioned by Senate, Confirms Opposition to Yucca Mountain: In a broadcast hearing lasting almost three hours, former Governor Jennifer Granholm faced questions from senators on a diverse range of issues related to the DOE nuclear mission, including the cleanup mission at Hanford and the U.S. mining of critical minerals including uranium, as well as her thoughts on Biden's decarbonization goals. (World Nuclear News)