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Window On Washington - March 29, 2021, Vol. 5, Issue 13

Mar 29, 2021

Outlook for This Week in the Nation’s Capital

Congress. The House and Senate are both in recess until the week of April 12, though the House Administration Committee will hold a hearing Thursday on the state of voting in the United States.

Infrastructure Package. The White House is preparing to present President Joe Biden with a preliminary jobs and infrastructure package that is roughly $3 trillion. Officials will split the measure into two parts - one focused on infrastructure and one on other priorities, such as growing the newly expanded child tax credit, free community college, and universal prekindergarten. However, no final announcement on the package has been made yet, and it is subject to change.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is contemplating using Budget Reconciliation as a means of passing both proposed pieces of the Biden plan, bypassing the need for a 60-vote majority provided he can keep his Democratic colleagues voting together. (Politico Playbook)

FY22 Budget and Appropriations. President Biden is expected to send his FY22 “skinny” budget to Congress on Thursday. The full budget is expected to follow some time in April or May.

Biden Administration. President Biden will unveil the details of his jobs and infrastructure package in Pittsburgh on Wednesday.

Last Week in the Nation’s Capital

CONGRESS

Health

Senate Passes Bill to Extend Medicare Sequester Fix Through 2021: The Senate overwhelmingly passed legislation last Thursday to extend a pause on Medicare payment cuts through 2021, a major demand from providers still struggling financially during the pandemic. The House passed a similar bill earlier this month. However, the House is unlikely to take up the Senate’s legislation until next month as the chamber is in recess until the middle of April. (Fierce Healthcare)

Banking & Housing

Senate Clears PPP Bill, Extending Loan Applications Through May: The vote cleared the measure that would extend the program, now due to expire on March 31. The House passed the bill 415-3 earlier this month. It next heads to President Joe Biden for his signature. (Roll Call)

Transportation

Key Republican Signals Support for Augmenting Electric Vehicle Infrastructure: Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), a key Republican on infrastructure issues, is expressing willingness to work with Democrats on electric vehicle infrastructure, but also disagreed with the size and scope of the current infrastructure package expected to be proposed by the White House. (The Hill)

Defense

Lawmakers Quibble Over Extent of Military’s Extremism Problem: The lack of reliable data has divided lawmakers, some of whom are concerned that the issue of extremists in the military is being blown out of proportion, and that increased pressure within the services to root it out could hurt morale. A recent House Armed Services Committee hearing saw testimony from witnesses in and out of the military. (Roll Call)

Homeland Security & Immigration

Lawmakers Paint Conflicting Pictures of Border During Visits: Congressional delegations offered competing explanations for the recent rise in migration during visits to the U.S.-Mexico border, with Democrats calling for more humane treatment of migrants while Republicans accused the Biden administration of allowing “open borders.” (Roll Call)

Cyber

Lawmakers Reintroduce Legislation to Secure Internet-Connected Devices: Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) and Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) are again promoting their Cyber Shield Act, which would create a voluntary cybersecurity certification program for internet-connected devices, also known as Internet of Things (IoT) devices, to improve security standards and increase consumer confidence. (The Hill)

Energy

Top Democratic Tax Writers Differ on Clean Energy Breaks: Senate Finance Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR) is renewing his push to consolidate 44 energy-related tax incentives into just three that scale up or down based on reduced emissions or energy usage. House Ways and Means Chair Richard E. Neal (D-MA), on the other hand, is backing a plan to renew and expand dozens of existing policies while creating some new tax breaks as well. (Roll Call)

EXECUTIVE BRANCH

Budget & Appropriations

Biden to Unveil 'Skinny' Budget Proposal: President Biden is set to release a "skinny" budget proposal for fiscal 2022 this week, which will contain top-line spending numbers for defense and domestic discretionary spending, as well as major priorities. (The Hill)

Young Confirmed as OMB Deputy Director: The Senate confirmed Shalanda Young for White House deputy budget director last Tuesday. Young will begin her tenure as acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, while Biden decides whom he’ll nominate for the No. 1 position on a permanent basis. (Roll Call)

Health/HHS/NIH

Senate Confirms Murthy As Surgeon General: The Senate last Tuesday confirmed, 57-43, President Joe Biden's pick to be surgeon general, setting up Dr. Vivek H. Murthy for his second turn at the post. (Roll Call)

Senate Confirms First Openly Transgender Official, Approving Levine for HHS: The Senate last Wednesday confirmed Rachel Levine to be assistant secretary for health at the Department of Health and Human Services, making her the first openly transgender official ever approved by the upper chamber. (The Hill)

Labor & Workforce

Senate Confirms Boston Mayor Marty Walsh to Lead Labor Department: The Senate last Monday confirmed Boston Mayor Marty Walsh as Secretary of Labor, clearing him to take the helm of the agency amid historic unemployment and economic uncertainty. (Politico)

Department of Education

Where Schools Are Back in Session, and Where Kids Are Still Learning Virtually: The data shows that school districts across the South are the most likely to have sent children back to school already, while California has the highest concentration of districts that remain remote. (The Hill)

Transportation/DOT

Biden to Unveil Multitrillion-Dollar Infrastructure Proposal in Pittsburgh This Week: On Wednesday President Joe Biden will travel to Pittsburgh, where he kicked off his presidential campaign in 2019, to unveil a “Build Back Better” themed plan that could have a price tag as high as $4 trillion to pay for traditional roads and bridges while also tackling climate change and domestic policy issues like income equality. (Reuters)

Space/NASA & NOAA

NASA Looking for Earlier Launch of Lunar Orbiter Smallsat Mission, Could Leverage CLPS: NASA is looking at options to move up the launch of a small lunar orbiter mission, illustrating the challenges as well as the greater potential flexibility for ridesharing as the agency reassess many smaller missions and their launch opportunities and costs. (Space News)

Europe is Starting to Freak Out About the Launch Dominance of SpaceX: Thanks to its reusable, low-cost Falcon 9 rocket, SpaceX has been able to slash prices for large commercial satellites that could be lofted by the Ariane 6, as well as competing against ESA’s smaller Vega-C rocket, both nearing the end of development and testing. (Ars Technica)

U.S. Needs Solar Geoengineering Research Program, National Academies Says: An influential panel of scientists has recommended the US pursue a robust research program into solar geoengineering, a suite of techniques that can reflect sunlight and might forestall—temporarily—some of the worst effects of global warming. Such a U.S. program, if supported by the Biden administration, could total $200 million over 5 years, suggests a new report. (Science)

Defense/DOD

JAIC’s Joint Common Foundation to Accelerate AI Across DoD: The JCF is a new DevSecOps platform led by the JAIC that looks to lower the barriers to AI adoption by providing a secure testbed where users can share data sets, training data and algorithms across DoD components. (Federal News Network)

DHS & Immigration

Biden Fires Majority of DHS Advisory Council Members: The letter, which was first obtained by Politico, added that the council, made up of former intelligence and security officials and other experts who advise the secretary on a range of policy matters, will be formed again “in the next few weeks, once the new model has been developed.” (The Hill)

Cyber

US Military Conducted 2 Dozen Cyber Operations to Head off 2020 Election Meddling: In the run up to the 2020 presidential election, U.S. Cyber Command conducted over two dozen missions to block foreign adversaries’ efforts to undermine voting integrity, the commander told senators last Thursday during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. (C4ISR Net)

Agriculture/USDA

Debt Relief Will Be Distributed as Quickly, Carefully as Possible, Says Vilsack: The USDA will disburse up to $4 billion in Biden-backed loan forgiveness to minority farmers as speedily as possible, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack at the first-ever House Agriculture Committee hearing on the state of Black farmers. (Successful Farming)

EPA & DOI

Putin, Xi Among Leaders Invited to White House Climate Summit: The White House last Friday announced a list of 40 world leaders it has invited to participate in its Leaders Summit on Climate from April 22-23, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping. (The Hill)

Department of Energy

The ‘Green Energy’ That Might Be Ruining the Planet: Biomass power is a fast-growing $50 billion global industry, and it’s not clear whether the climate-conscious administration of President Joe Biden will try to accelerate it, discourage it or ignore it due to disagreements about exactly how clean or not it is. (Politico)

DOE Announces Goal to Cut Solar Costs by More than Half by 2030: The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has an ambitious new target to cut the cost of solar energy by 60% within the next ten years, announcing new grants and funding for research and pilots aimed at lowering costs, improve materials performance, and speeding the deployment of large-scale solar energy technologies. (Department of Energy)