Window On Washington - April 19, 2021, Vol. 5, Issue 16
Congress. The House and Senate are both in session this week. The House will take up the DC statehood bill (H.R. 51), the NO BAN Act (H.R. 1333), which would prohibit religious discrimination in immigration-related decisions, and the Access to Counsel Act of 2021 (H.R. 1573), which would require lawyers to be given to migrants in danger of deportation. The Senate will consider the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act (S. 937), which addresses the increase of hate crimes and violence targeted at Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs). The Senate is also still in the process of confirming President Joe Biden’s nominees, and on Wednesday the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee will hold a hearing on the nominations of former Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) to be NASA administrator and Lina Khan to be commissioner of the Federal Trade Commission.
Additionally, there are various other hearings throughout this week. Tomorrow’s include a Senate Armed Services hearing on U.S. Strategic Command and Space Command, a House Small Business hearing on the SBA’s pandemic response programs, a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) hearing on the COVID-19 recovery, a House Energy and Commerce hearing on an equitable transition to clean energy, and a House Natural Resources hearing on offshore wind pollution reduction and job creation. On Wednesday, Senate Judiciary will hold a hearing on behavioral health and policing, Senate Armed Services will hold separate hearings on the defense cyber workforce and on defense science and technology activities, and House Armed Services will hold a hearing on the FY22 Strategic Forces Posture.
FY22 Budget and Appropriations. Senate Republicans are expected to meet on Wednesday to discuss their rules around earmarks, otherwise known as “community project funding,” for the FY22 cycle. Both House and Senate Democrats, as well as House Republicans, have agreed to bring back the practice with some modifications. Separately, the House and Senate Appropriations Committee will hold numerous hearings this week. Tomorrow, House Appropriations will hold a hearing on the Department of Interior’s FY22 budget request and on Wednesday hearings on the FY22 budget requests for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The Senate Appropriations Committee will hold a hearing tomorrow on the Defense Health Program.
Infrastructure Package. The Senate Appropriations Committee will hold a hearing tomorrow on the American Jobs Plan, with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, EPA Administrator Michael Regan, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, and HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge joining as witnesses.
Biden Administration. President Joe Biden is hosting a virtual climate change summit with dozens of world leaders this week. Additionally, he will address a joint session of Congress on April 28 – the night before his 100th day in office.
Last Week in the Nation’s Capital
Budget & Appropriations
Senate GOP to Decide April 21 on Internal Earmark Ban: Senate Republicans are scheduled to meet April 21 to “affirm” conference rules, including the “permanent” ban members adopted in 2019, according to a Senate Republican aide not authorized to speak publicly. But if any GOP senators put forward amendments changing or removing the ban, the conference would vote on those as well, according to the source. (Roll Call)
3 Takeaways from Brooks-LaSure’s Confirmation Hearing to Become Administrator of CMS: Chiquita Brooks-Lasure faced the Senate Finance Committee last Thursday for a confirmation hearing for her nomination to serve as the administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). The hearing didn’t highlight any major opposition from Republicans to her nomination, likely signaling her confirmation as the head of CMS. (Fierce Healthcare)
Senate Committee Likely to Approve Kvaal: President Biden’s nominee for undersecretary of education, James Kvaal, appears likely to be headed to the full Senate for a vote on his confirmation after a relatively drama-free committee hearing on his nomination. (Inside Higher Ed)
Banking & Housing
Wall Street Bank CEOs to Testify Before Congress Next Month: The Senate Banking Committee and House Financial Services Committee scheduled hearings on May 26 and 27, respectively, to question the chiefs of six major banks. (Bloomberg)
Moderates’ $800B Infrastructure Bill is a Tough Sell with Democrats: A group of Republican and Democratic moderates in the Senate are circling around a compromise infrastructure spending proposal that would cost around $800 billion — a sum that falls well short of what most Democrats want and what President Biden has proposed. (The Hill)
Congress Proposes Stricter Buy America Provisions for Infrastructure Plan: Last Tuesday, U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Mike Braun (R-IN) and Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA) reintroduced the Made in America Act to strengthen Buy America requirements for the federal government. The proposed legislation identifies federal programs that fund infrastructure projects not currently subject to Buy America standards and ensures that materials used in these federal programs are domestically produced. (Office of Sen. Tammy Baldwin)
Space/NASA & NOAA
Nelson Confirmation Hearing This Wednesday: A Senate committee will take up President Biden’s nomination of former Senator Bill Nelson to be NASA Administrator on Wednesday. It is another step along the path to confirmation, which Nelson is expected to win, but his opposition to another politician taking the job in 2018 could prompt some pushback during the hearing. (Space Policy Online)
White House ‘Dragging Their Feet’ on Budget Request, Says Smith: The Democratic chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) tore into the White House last Tuesday for a delay in sending Congress its full 2022 budget request, which is in turn delaying the work of his Committee and he warns it could also lead to a continuing resolution for DOD spending, again. (The Hill)
Supreme Court Expansion Bill Faces Serious Blocks Across Political Spectrum: “I have no plans to bring it to the floor,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said of the measure, pointing instead to a 36-member commission President Joe Biden announced last week to study Supreme Court expansion and other issues with the federal courts. (Roll Call)
Senate Climate Bill Close: Senate Agriculture Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) is expected to release a new version of the bipartisan Growing Climate Solutions Act, which is intended to accelerate the development of ag carbon markets by putting USDA in charge of certifying technical assistance and credit verification services. (Agri-Pulse)
Environment & Interior
Greta Thunberg to Testify in Congress on Earth Day: Teenage Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg will testify before Congress at an Earth Day hearing on Thursday, the same day that President Joe Biden will convene world leaders for a virtual conference on climate change. (Politico)
Medicare Sequester Cut Pause Extended Through 2021: President Joe Biden last Wednesday signed legislation extending the pause on Medicare sequester cuts through the end of 2021. The cuts were put on hold through the CARES Act, though the pause expired April 1. (Healthcare Dive)
Fauci Says U.S. Will Likely Resume Use of J&J Covid Vaccine with Warning or Restriction: White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said Sunday he believes the U.S. will likely resume use of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine with a warning or restriction attached. (CNBC)
Banking & Housing/HUD
Gensler Confirmed as Top Wall Street Cop, Bringing New Era of Tough Scrutiny: The Senate last Wednesday confirmed Gary Gensler to lead the Securities and Exchange Commission, putting in place a battle-tested Wall Street watchdog at a moment when Democrats are looking to rein in financial market risk. (Politico)
Biden Prepares Sweeping Order on Climate-Related Risks: The order, titled “Climate-Related Financial Risk,” directs White House economic and climate advisers to work with the Office of Management and Budget on a government-wide strategy to measure, mitigate and disclose climate risks facing federal agencies. Banking, housing and agriculture regulators are among those that will be asked to incorporate climate risk into their supervision of major industries and the lending of federal funds. (Politico)
Biden’s Infrastructure Plan Goes Big on EVs, But His First Budget Starts Small, Analysts Say: Biden’s $1.5 trillion budget request for Fiscal Year 2022 included $600 million to electrify the federal fleet, but lacked other specifics on EVs. Experts say most of the long-term electrification investment will be made through the infrastructure bill now being developed by lawmakers. (Utility Dive)
Additional U.S. Sanctions Against Russia: Last Thursday, President Joe Biden issued an Executive Order imposing additional U.S. sanctions against Russia by targeting entities and individuals in response to Russian interference in the 2020 presidential election, the SolarWinds cyber hack, reports that Russia encouraged Taliban attacks against U.S. and coalition personnel in Afghanistan, and the increased Russian military build-up and provocations along the Crimean border with Ukraine. (White House)
Space/NASA & NOAA
Space Development Agency Could Select Three Manufacturers to Produce its Next Batch of Satellites: The Pentagon’s Space Development Agency is considering buying its next 150 satellites from three different vendors, but that could change after the agency evaluates companies’ bids – a request for proposals will be issued in August for the agency’s Transport Layer Tranche 1 — a network of hundreds of communications satellites in low Earth orbit projected to start launching in late 2024. (Space News)
The Era of Reusability in Space Has Begun: Northrop Grumman’s satellite services division has now demonstrated rendezvous-and-docking and the ability to deliver power and mobility to satellites, but they say that’s just the beginning of what is possible with in-orbit servicing. (Ars Technica)
SpaceX Wins First Human Lunar Lander Award: SpaceX has won a three-way contest to build a system to get astronauts from lunar orbit down to and back from the lunar surface. NASA earlier insisted it wanted to award contracts to two bidders to ensure at least one would be ready in time to meet a 2024 goal of putting astronauts back on the Moon, but lack of funding drove the agency to pick just one. For now, that is. (Space Policy Online)
Three Industry Teams Demonstrate Capability to Destroy Small Drones at Yuma: Three vendors demonstrated capabilities to destroy small drones using low-collateral effects interceptors at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona, earlier this month as part of a bigger Pentagon effort to develop enduring systems capable of combating the growing and evolving threat. (Defense News)
DHS & Immigration
Sullivan Says White House ‘Absolutely Committed’ to Raising Refugee Cap: President Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, confirmed that the U.S. would raise the cap on refugees allowed to enter the U.S. on Sunday but would not specify what target number the administration would aim for. The comments come after the Biden Administration drew criticisms from Democratic lawmakers for agreeing to keep the historically low 15,000 figure in place. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday that the administration would set a new cap by May 15. (The Hill)
Biden Defends His Gun Reform Strategy: Following a shooting at an Indianapolis FedEx facility last Thursday that left eight people dead, the latest in a recent wave of mass shootings, Biden was asked if he felt he needed to re-prioritize his agenda, which includes a massive infrastructure package. (Politico)
Biden Rolls Back Trump’s Anti-Abortion Curbs on Family Planning Funds: New rules proposed last Wednesday would largely return the Title X program to its pre-Trump formation, allowing more abortion clinics to participate in a program that provides free or subsidized contraception and other health services to about 4 million low-income Americans each year. (Politico)
FBI Opens a Case on Chinese Activity ‘Every 10 Hours,’ Intel Chiefs Say: FBI Director Wray testified last week that the FBI now has over 2,000 investigations that tie back to the Chinese government that run the gamut from cybersecurity attacks, intellectual property theft and even the covert harassment of Chinese individuals living in the United States. (Defense One)
SolarWinds Hacking Campaign Now Puts Microsoft in Hot Seat: While SolarWinds was the company whose software update Russian intelligence agents stealthily seeded with malware to penetrate sensitive government and private networks, it was Microsoft whose code the cyber spies persistently abused in the campaign’s second stage. (Federal News Network)
Bonnie Tapped to Lead USDA Farm Programs: Robert Bonnie, a proponent of ag carbon markets who has been serving as Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s chief climate adviser, will be nominated by President Joe Biden to oversee farm and conservation programs at USDA as well as federal crop insurance. (Agri-Pulse)
EPA & DOI
Haaland Revokes a Dozen Trump Orders: Interior Secretary Deb Haaland acted against multiple Trump-era orders last Friday, but the department said she did not reinstate a moratorium on coal leasing on federal lands despite revoking a Trump administration move to reverse it. (The Hill)
Department of Energy
Granholm Says Reconciliation May Be Possible for Clean Energy Standard: Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said last Tuesday there is a potential pathway for a clean energy standard under Senate reconciliation — a tool that allows passage of some bills with a simple Senate majority — but cautioned no final decisions have been made. (Politico)
Transmission Road Map Could Help Unlock Renewables: For the first time in a decade, the grid operator for much of the central United States has put forward a long-range transmission road map that calls for tens of billions of dollars in new projects to help states and utilities across the region unlock renewable energy potential and achieve their climate goals. (E&E News)
Corporations Agree to Transparency on Climate Lobbying: Insurer American International Group Inc., railroad company CSX Inc. and electric companies Duke Energy Corp., FirstEnergy Corp. and Entergy Corp. have pledged to report publicly about their influence on climate policy and alignment with the Paris Agreement, according to investors. (Roll Call)
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