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Window on Washington – April 11, 2022, Vol. 6, Issue 14

April 11, 2022

Outlook for This Week in the Nation’s Capital 

Congress. The House and Senate are both in recess for the next two weeks. Congress did not pass the bipartisan $10 billion COVID relief package before leaving for recess due to a dispute over using the legislation to extend the Title 42 immigration order. It remains to be seen how the Senate will address this issue once they return, especially given that both Senate Republicans and some Senate Democrats support the extension. Additionally, before they left for their two-week recess, Democratic and Republican leaders released the names of 26 senators and 81 representatives who will be part of the USICA/COMPETES conference committee. The goal has been to finalize the bipartisan innovation bill by Memorial Day Weekend, but no exact timetable for the conference agreement or floor consideration has been announced.

Budget and Appropriations. While the four corners of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees hoped to meet before leaving for recess, they were unable to do so and will now meet sometime after they return at the end of the month. This will be the first time the chairs and ranking members will have met since President Joe Biden’s FY23 budget request came out.  Their goal is to discuss their strategy for the FY23 appropriations timeline to avoid delays like the FY22 partisan standoff over spending levels. 

Biden Administration. Biden will meet virtually with Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India today. Biden will visit central Iowa tomorrow to discuss his economic agenda and the bipartisan infrastructure bill; this will be his first trip to Iowa since being elected. On Thursday, Biden will visit Greensboro, North Carolina to discuss rebuilding the U.S. supply chain.

Last Week in the Nation’s Capital


Budget & Appropriations

Senate Punts $10 Billion in Covid Aid Until After Easter Amid Stalemate Over Border Policy: Senators are delaying voting on a bill to pour $10 billion more into pandemic programs until after their two-week spring break, a decision top administration health officials have said further threatens the country’s ability to fight the virus and prepare for potential surges and variants. (Politico) 

Banking & Housing

Qualified Blind Trust Proposal Receives Chilled Reception at Congressional Stock Hearing: Members and experts raised doubts last Thursday about the effectiveness and practicality of placing lawmaker assets in qualified blind trusts as the House Administration Committee mulled possible reforms to congressional stock trading. (Roll Call)

Brown Urges Fed and OCC to Scrutinize Bank Mergers: U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, sent a letter to Federal Reserve Chair Pro Tempore Jay Powell and Acting Comptroller of the Currency Michael Hsu urging them to join the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) in ensuring that bank mergers, if approved, serve American families, small businesses, and communities – not Wall Street and big corporations. (Clark Hill Insight)


House Democrats Tell USPS to ‘Go Back to the Drawing Board’ on Electric Vehicle Cost Analysis: The top Democrat on the House Oversight and Reform Committee is telling the Postal Service to start over in determining how many electric vehicles it can afford to purchase as part of its 10-year next-generation delivery vehicle contract. Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) said last Tuesday that USPS “can and must increase the number of electric vehicles that it purchases.” (Federal News Network)


Rep. Sherrill’s NOAA Legislation Clears Science, Space, & Technology Committee:  Last week the full House SST Committee advanced Rep. Mikie Sherrill’s (D-NJ) bill, the NOAA Chief Scientist Act, out of Committee making it eligible for a House floor vote.  The bill would provide greater clarity on the qualifications of the presidentially-appointed Chief Scientist, direct the Chief Scientist to establish and enforce high scientific integrity standards within NOAA, and provide yearly public reports on NOAA’s scientific work.  (Tap Into) 

Homeland Security & Immigration 

Senators to Restart Bipartisan Immigration Reform Talks: A bipartisan group of senators wants to start formally convening meetings to try to restart immigration reform efforts after the Senate returns to Washington, D.C., from an April break. (The Hill)

Bipartisan Senate Group Bids to Block Lifting Title 42: Five Democratic and six Republican senators will introduce a new bill last Thursday that would prevent the Biden administration from lifting Title 42 without a detailed plan in place to stop an expected surge of migrants at the border. (Axios) 


Democrats Exasperated with Biden on Gun Control: Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) is leading a brigade of lawmakers and advocates pressing Biden to take unilateral action on guns. In a March 25 letter, previously unreported, Murphy and 127 other Democratic lawmakers demanded that Biden move expeditiously on three fronts including executive orders, naming a new nominee to lead the ATF, and rulemaking. (Politico)

Senate Confirms Ketanji Brown Jackson for Upcoming Supreme Court Vacancy: The Senate confirmed Ketanji Brown Jackson last Thursday as the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court, the end of a historic nomination process streaked with acrimony even for a justice who will not alter the court’s current conservative tilt. (Roll Call)

Congress Closes in on Cocaine Sentencing Disparity: Congress is on the cusp of eliminating the federal sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine crimes, which has led to the disproportionate incarceration of Black people — and whose elimination would free thousands from prison. Republican receptiveness to this targeted legislation is an indication of the potential for bipartisan criminal justice reform, despite the GOP’s law-and-order posture and “tough-on-crime” rhetoric. (Axios) 


Demand for Cyber Threat Intel Growing, White House Official Says:  Private sector companies are increasingly asking the federal government for cyber threat intelligence as they seek to shore up their defenses against growing online threats, a White House cyber official told lawmakers last Wednesday.  Robert Knake, a U.S. official in charge of budget and policy at the White House’s Office of the National Cyber Director, told a House Homeland Security subcommittee that companies are increasingly pushing for more data from government agencies.  (The Hill)

Environment & Interior  

Democrat Presses EPA Administrator on Climate Rule Pace: A Democratic senator last Wednesday pressed the Biden administration about why it has yet to complete certain climate regulations, raising concerns about how long it is taking. In a rare moment of intraparty tension, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) questioned EPA Administrator Michael Regan about how long it is taking the agency to develop new climate regulations for pollution sources including power plants, chemical plants, oil refineries, and aircraft. (The Hill)


Democrats Accuse Oil Industry of “Ripping Off” Americans, while GOP Blames Biden Policies: Democrats tore into oil company executives for high gasoline prices at a hearing last Wednesday of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee, while Republicans used the event to try to pin the blame on President Joe Biden’s green energy push. (Politico)

McConnell says GOP Will “Do Everything” to Push Biden on Domestic Energy: Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said last Thursday that the Republican Party will home in on domestic energy production as a policy priority in 2023. We’re going to do everything we can do to push this administration into domestic energy production,” McConnell told Axios’ Jonathan Swan during an exclusive interview. (Axios)

Casten, Tonko Introduce EV Grid Act to Meet Increasing Electricity Demand of EV Charging Infrastructure: U.S. Representatives Sean Casten (D-IL), Co-chair of SEEC’s Power Task Force and Paul Tonko (D-NY), Chair of the Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change introduced the Electric Vehicle Grid Readiness, Improvement, and Development Act (EV GRID Act) to meet the increasing electricity demand of EV charging infrastructure at the pace necessary to achieve President Biden’s climate, cost reduction, and energy independence goals. (Clark Hill Insight)



Federal Appeals Court Upholds Biden Vaccine Mandate for Federal Workers: A federal appeals court last Thursday ruled to uphold the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for federal workers, ordering that a preliminary injunction issued against the requirement be eliminated. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals’ 2-1 ruling reversed an earlier ruling by U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Brown, a Trump appointee in Texas, who in January blocked the mandate for federal workers. The 5th Circuit Court further ordered that the district court dismiss the case. (The Hill)

Labor & Workforce

A Top Federal Labor Official Declares War on Employer ‘Captive Audience’ Meetings: National Labor Relations Board General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo said last Thursday that she will ask the board to find that it is an unfair labor practice for employers to require workers to attend pro-company meetings during union organizing efforts. In a message to NLRB field offices across the country, Abruzzo argued that these types of mandatory meetings — during which employers present arguments against forming a union — “inherently involve an unlawful threat that employees will be disciplined or suffer other reprisals if they exercise their protected right not to listen to such speech.” (Politico)

Department of Education 

Biden To Erase Defaults for Millions of Federal Student Loan Borrowers: The Biden administration last Wednesday moved to expunge the defaults of millions of federal student loan borrowers who fell behind on payments before the pandemic, as the White House formally unveiled a four-month extension of the pause on monthly loan payments and interest. In a statement, President Joe Biden said he was extending the moratorium on most federal student loan payments through the end of August to give borrowers extra time “to get back on their feet after two of the hardest years this nation has ever faced.” (Politico) 

Banking & Housing/HUD 

Biden to Block New Investments in Russia by Americans: President Joe Biden signed an executive order blocking any new investments in Russia by Americans, White House economics adviser Brian Deese told reporters last Wednesday. “We will prohibit all inbound investment in the Russian Federation by any U.S. person. So, we have seen an overwhelming move by companies to take actions on their own to pull out of Russia and end investment in Russia,” Deese, director of the National Economic Council, said. (Roll Call)

Biden Taps Democrat, Republican to Serve on SEC: President Biden nominated two people last Wednesday to serve as commissioners for the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Biden nominated Jaime Lizárraga, currently a senior adviser to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and Mark Uyeda, an SEC attorney temporarily working with the Senate Banking Committee’s minority staff, as SEC commissioners. (The Hill)


FDIC Asks All Banks to Report Crypto Activities: The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) issued a financial institution letter – a letter sent to CEOs of FDIC-insured banks – requesting that banks should notify their regional FDIC director of their crypto activities. This request applies to both current and future crypto-related activities. According to the letter, the FDIC will review the information, ask more questions if necessary, and then issue “relevant supervisory feedback.” (CoinDesk)

Yellen Says U.S. Crypto Rules Should Support Innovation, Manage Risks: U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said crypto asset regulations should support responsible innovation while managing risks, sticking to the contours of a recent White House executive order that was well-received by the crypto market. In a speech on digital assets policy, Yellen said that in many cases regulators already have authorities that can manage crypto risks and provide appropriate oversight of new types of intermediaries such as digital asset exchanges. (Reuters)


Biden Highlights Administration’s Efforts to Boost Trucking Jobs: President Joe Biden last Monday highlighted gains in the trucking industry since he took office and said his administration will continue to remove obstacles in the sector in an effort to help improve U.S. supply chains. (NBC News)

White House Paying Close Attention to Rising U.S. Jet Fuel Prices: White House National Economic Council Director Brian Deese said last Wednesday the administration is closely monitoring rising jet fuel prices that could threaten the air travel recovery. (Reuters) 


U.S. Suspends Normal Trade Relations with Russia: The U.S. suspended normal trade relations with Russia and banned Russian energy imports last Friday after President Biden signed both bills into law. (Axios)


NASA IG Criticizes Management of VIPER and Multi-Mission Programs:  NASA’s Inspector General released two reports in the past few days. The first addresses management of the Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) Mission, a robotic rover that will search for water ice on the Moon. The second looks more broadly at how the agency manages programs that have more than one deliverable, particularly the Artemis program that will put astronauts back on the Moon.  (Space Policy Online)

Axiom Private Astronaut Mission Arrives at ISS:  A successful SpaceX launch last Friday delivered a Crew Dragon spacecraft carrying four private astronauts the following day to the International Space Station.  The four crew members are scheduled to spend eight days on the ISS conducting research and performing other commercial activities and outreach.  (Space News)


Military Brass Undercuts Biden Budget by Requesting Billions More:  Republicans and some Democrats on Capitol Hill skeptical of President Joe Biden’s proposed 2.2 percent increase in funding for the Defense Department next year are getting some help from the military’s top commanders.  In a series of unfunded requirement lists sent to lawmakers from military services and commands and obtained by CQ Roll Call, generals and admirals asked for billions in additional funds not included in Biden’s plan.  (Roll Call)

DoD Seeks ‘Huge Jump’ in Budget for Hypersonic Test Facilities:  Lawmakers boosted funding for Defense Department laboratory and testing infrastructure by $800 million in FY22, and undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, Heidi Shyu indicated last week that the FY23 contains a request for another large investment.  The Biden administration hasn’t yet released detailed budget tables, but Shyu said one thing in the request is an expansion of facilities at the Arnold Engineering Development Complex in Tullahoma, Tennessee, among other similar proposals.  (Defense News)

The Ukraine War is Giving Commercial Space an ‘Internet Moment’: Capabilities honed by commercial space companies to document the destruction inflicted by Russia in Ukraine are likely to have long-lasting effects on the industry.  Satellites have brought the world unprecedented glimpses into the brutal war, whether through commercial imagery showing the Russian destruction of a shelter clearly labeled as having kids inside, social-media videos shared via SpaceX’s Starlink satellites, or a photojournalist’s pictures from Mariupol filed through satellite phones.  (Defense One)

DHS & Immigration

ICE Lawyers Told to Dismiss Low-Priority Cases in Order to Clear Backlog Ahead of Surge: The Biden administration directed Immigration and Customs Enforcement attorneys to consider dismissing deportation cases that are not arrest priorities under the agency’s rules, according to a recently released memo. (CNN)


Biden to Take Second Crack at Filling Top Gun Official Role: President Joe Biden is expected to announce a new nominee to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives as early as this month, according to multiple people familiar with the White House’s planning. (Politico)


White House Reviewing Agency Zero Trust Cybersecurity Plans:  The White House has set a goal to modernize federal cyber defenses over the next several years using a “zero trust” approach, and agencies just delivered their initial plans to the Office of Management and Budget.  The plans describe how each agency proposes to adopt various zero trust approaches and capabilities by the end of fiscal year 2024, a goal set out by the White House’s zero trust strategy released in January. The memo required agencies to submit the implementation plans by March 27.  (Federal News Network)

State Department’s Cyber Bureau Begins Operations:  The Bureau of Cyberspace and Digital Policy officially launched last Monday at the State Department, with wide latitude to develop policy on diplomatic issues related to technology and the internet.  The announcement comes after years of back-and-forth between Congress and multiple presidential administrations about consolidating how the department handles cyber diplomacy.  (Cyber Scoop) 


EPA Moves to Ban Asbestos After Decades of Failures: EPA last Tuesday proposed banning nearly all remaining uses of asbestos, a material known to cause lung cancer when inhaled and that still lingers in millions of U.S. homes and schools. (Politico)

Interior to Reverse Key Indian Affairs Policy in Place Since 1975: Interior Secretary Deb Haaland last Thursday announced she will reverse a 1975 policy giving the Bureau of Indian Affairs final authority over tribal water plans. In the 1975 memo, then-Secretary Rogers Morton gave Bureau of Indian Affairs superintendents and local authorities veto power over any new ordinances or codes regulating tribal water use. In the announcement, Haaland described the memo as an unnecessary extra procedural hurdle that has created decades of confusion in relations between tribes and the federal government. (The Hill)

EPA Denies Requests for Biofuel Blending Exemptions: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last Thursday rejected 36 requests for exemptions from biofuels blending requirements for gasoline. Oil refiners are required to blend a certain amount of ethanol or other biofuels into what eventually becomes gasoline. But small refiners can request exemptions if this would cause it significant hardships. (The Hill)

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