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Window on Washington – August 1, 2022, Vol. 6, Issue 30

August 1, 2022

Outlook for This Week in the Nation’s Capital

Congress. The House is in recess this week, though the Senate is in session with an expected busy agenda this week. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is currently leading a Congressional delegation to Asia, with announced stops in Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea, and Japan to discuss mutual security, economic partnership, and democratic governance in the region. Reports this morning suggest that she is likely to visit Taiwan, a highly controversial move for its impact on US-China relations. (CNN)

Meanwhile, the Senate has a handful of items they hope to accomplish before leaving for their August recess at the end of this week, including trying to pass the veterans’ health care bill again (PACT Act) and bringing the new reconciliation bill to the Senate floor. The House may potentially come back from its recess depending on when the Senate passes the reconciliation bill. Hearings for the week include examining nominations, climate-resilient coastal communities, and the organ procurement and transplant network.

Reconciliation Package.  The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, introduced by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), is a $740 billion climate, tax, and health care package. The bill extends Obamacare subsidies for three years, raises corporate taxes, boosts IRS enforcement, provides nearly $385 billion for energy and climate programs, and cuts the deficit by around $300 billion. The Senate plans to bring the bill to the floor for votes this week, but as of now it is unclear where Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) stands. If it does advance in the Senate this week, House Democratic leaders indicated they are prepared to return from their August recess to vote on the measure and send it to President Biden’s desk.

CHIPS and Science Bill. President Joe Biden plans to soon sign into law the domestic semiconductor manufacturing and science and technology research and development bill, though the White House has not yet announced a specific date. The package includes $54 billion in appropriated funding for semiconductor manufacturing, design, and 5G wireless deployment. However, the science and technology funding is solely an authorization and is still subject to appropriations. An overview of the bill can be found here.

FY23 Appropriations. While the fiscal year ends in two months, the House and Senate are still working on their FY23 appropriations bills. The House has passed six of its twelve bills, but they were unable to bring any of the remaining six appropriations bills to the floor before leaving for recess. Meanwhile, Senate Appropriations Chairman Pat Leahy (D-VT) released all twelve of their bills last Thursday; however, the Committee does not plan to hold markups on them given the continued impasse over spending levels between Senate Democrats and Republicans. As seen in recent years, there will likely be continuing resolutions (CRs) that fund the government while the parties work through hang-ups such as defense and non-defense toplines.

Biden Administration.  Given President Biden’s rebound COVID-19 positive result, he will no longer travel to Michigan tomorrow to discuss the CHIPS and Science Act.

Mid-term Elections. Five states hold closely watched primaries on Tuesday, several of which are seen as the latest tests of former President Trump’s hold over the GOP.   Voters in Arizona, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, and Washington will decide Senate, House, and gubernatorial nominees, along with a key secretary of state’s race and a ballot measure on abortion. (The Hill)

Last Week in the Nation’s Capital


Budget & Appropriations 

Senate Democrats Make Their Move on Fiscal 2023 Appropriations: Senate Democrats unveiled their 12 appropriations bills for the upcoming fiscal year, setting the stage for a clash with Republicans over defense spending, abortion policy, border security, climate change, and more.

The bills, which were drafted without a bipartisan agreement on funding levels, amount to a wish list of $1.67 trillion in discretionary spending for fiscal 2023, which begins Oct. 1. The evenly divided Senate Appropriations Committee has not planned any markups for the bills this election year because of the partisan impasse over spending levels. Senate Democrats also disagreed with their House counterparts on how to divvy up funding between defense and nondefense programs. (Roll Call)

Senators Release Supplemental Appropriations Bill to Address the Ongoing COVID Crisis and Other Emerging Diseases: Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Subcommittee Chair Patty Murray (D-WA), and State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Subcommittee Chairman Christopher Coons (D-DE) last Thursday introduced a $21 billion emergency supplemental funding bill to provide the necessary resources to prepare for the next phase of the COVID-19 pandemic and to address other emerging diseases that pose a significant threat to public health. The bill provides $16 billion in emergency funding through the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund (PHSSEF) and $5 billion in emergency funding to support the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Office of Sen. Leahy)

Budget Office Forecasts Sharp Spike in Federal Debt Levels: The federal government’s budget deficit will soar in coming decades, after a brief reprieve this year from climbing deficits, according to a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report released last week. The nonpartisan agency warns that the nation’s fiscal position is set to become more challenging in the years ahead as deficits balloon and interest costs spike. (Axios) 


House Oversight Chairwoman Calls on HHS to Declare Monkeypox a Public Health Emergency: The chairwoman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee called on the Biden administration to declare monkeypox a public health emergency. “As the monkeypox virus continues to spread across the United States, I urge you to immediately declare a public health emergency so that the federal government can use every resource and tool available in its response and rapidly increase availability and access to vaccines, tests, and treatments nationwide,” Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) wrote in a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra. (The Hill)

Senate Appropriations Bill Expands Access to Mental and Behavioral Health Care, Increases Access to Reproductive Healthcare: The bill provides $9.1 billion for the Substance Use and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), an increase of $2.6 billion or nearly 40 percent above fiscal year 2022. The bill also includes numerous increases in funding for reproductive healthcare programs. (Clark Hill Insight)

Senate Appropriations Bill Aims to Rebuild the Public Health System: The Senate’s draft appropriations bill provides an increase for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), for a total investment of $10.5 billion, an increase of $2 billion or 23.5 percent. (Clark Hill Insight) 


Senate Draft Appropriations Bill Addresses Inequality in K-12 Education, Expands Early Learning: Overall, the bill provides nearly $49 billion, an increase of approximately $5.5 billion or 13 percent, for Federal K-12 education programs, including the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The bill also makes substantial investments in high-quality child care and early education programs by including $19.6 billion, an increase of more than $2 billion, or nearly 12 percent, over fiscal year 2022 levels. (Clark Hill Insight) 

Banking & Housing  

Senate Appropriations Committee FY23 Proposal Provides $70B for the Department of Housing and Urban Development: The Senate Appropriation Committee’s proposal of $70B for HUD would be a $4B increase from FY22 levels. The bill would invest $1.7B in the HOME Investment Partnership Program, the highest funding level in over a decade. (Clark Hill Insight)

Retirement Funds are Ground Zero in Senate GOP Opposition to ESG: Senate Republicans are teaming up to curb retirement plan sponsors’ ability to consider environmental, social, and governance factors in selecting investments, as a counter to the Biden administration’s efforts to expand worker and retiree access to such investing. Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN) unveiled a bill that would specify the fiduciary duty of plan administrators is to select and maintain investments based solely on monetary factors under 1974 legislation known as the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, a law that governs a broad range of retirement and health benefit plans. (Roll Call)

McCarthy Swipes at Pelosi over Ban on Lawmaker Stock Trading: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) took a swipe at Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) over reports that Democratic lawmakers are planning to introduce a ban on lawmaker stock trading in August. McCarthy during his press conference said it is not “proper” for Pelosi to write the bill regarding a ban on congressional lawmakers’ stock trading, pointing to investments her husband, Paul Pelosi, a venture capitalist, has made. According to Insider, the couple has attained the vast majority of their wealth through financial transactions made by Paul Pelosi. (The Hill)

Durbin to Lob Bill at Visa, Mastercard: Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) is poised to introduce legislation that would take another swipe at credit card giants Visa and Mastercard by mandating a minimum number of competitive networks be available for routing credit card payments. The bill from Durbin, who has long crusaded against what he calls a duopoly, would require that there be at least one card network competitor to the two heavyweights available to merchants for routing any credit card transaction. Visa and Mastercard are the biggest credit card network companies, with smaller routing rivals that include NYCE, Star, and Shazam. (PaymentsDive) 


Warren Set to Introduce New Bill Targeting Crypto Scams: On the heels of a Congressional hearing discussing potential cryptocurrency regulations, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) announced a new bill to encourage stronger consumer protections within the digital asset market.  Speaking with witnesses during a Senate Banking Committee hearing, Warren criticized both the fraudulent activity in the digital currency industry as well as the heavy investment coming from venture capital firms and hedge funds. (NextGov)


Senate Appropriations Committee FY23 Proposal Provides over $100B for Department of Transportation: The FY23 Transportation Appropriations Bill includes billions for highway, airport, and transit programs. An additional $36B was already provided to the DOT for Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) FY23 programs. (Clark Hill Insight)

Warren, Padilla Call on Buttigieg to Crack Down on Airline Industry: Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Alex Padilla (D-CA) wrote a letter last week to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Transportation Department general counsel John Putnam urging them to crack down on the airline industry as it experiences delays, cancellations, and high prices. (The Hill)


House, Senate Lawmakers Introduce Resolutions to Promote Digital Trade: House and Senate members introduced a bipartisan, bicameral resolution calling for strengthening digital trade and the burgeoning digital economy. The resolution calls for the White House to negotiate strong, inclusive, forward-looking, and enforceable rules on digital trade and the digital economy with like-minded countries. (Clark Hill Insight) 


2022 NASA Authorization Bill Makes CHIPS Package, Now Awaiting Biden Signature:  The House passed the first NASA authorization bill in five years by attaching it to the larger CHIPS and Science Act.  A policy bill, it does not provide any funding for NASA or even recommendations for funding, but lays out bipartisan and bicameral support for NASA’s human spaceflight, science, technology, and aeronautics programs. Among the highlights are extending the U.S. commitment to the International Space Station through 2030, enthusiasm for returning astronauts to the Moon and going on to Mars, and launching a space telescope dedicated to finding asteroids that might threaten Earth.  (Space Policy Online)

Senate Appropriations Releases FY23 NASA Funding Proposal:  While the overall amount is identical to NASA’s budget request, there are differences among the budgets of various programs.  Science, exploration, and space operations would each get small increases, while space technology would get nearly $175 million less than requested. The space technology funding of $1.264 billion would still be higher than the $1.1 billion it received in 2022.  (Space News)


Nearly 9% Boost for Defense Spending Under Draft Senate Appropriations Bill: Senate Democrats proposed a $792 billion defense spending package that would dramatically boost the White House’s military spending plans for fiscal 2023 but still didn’t total enough to satisfy congressional Republicans. The appropriations bill, unveiled one month after House Democrats backed a smaller $761 billion defense spending plan for next year, includes money for a 4.6% pay raise for troops, $1.4 billion to expand industrial base capacity, and $2.2 billion to accelerate the development of new military capabilities in space. (MilitaryTimes) 

Lawmakers Press Pentagon for Answers as Military Recruiting Crisis Deepens:  Lawmakers from both parties are putting increasing pressure on the Pentagon to fix the recruitment crisis that threatens to leave the military well short of its goals to bring new troops aboard this year, in what is widely considered the worst recruiting environment since the end of the Vietnam War.  While leaders from the different military branches have all acknowledged the problem, they also have been unable to move the needle in a positive direction, as the desire of young Americans to join the military falls off the statistical cliff.  (Politico) 

Homeland Security & Immigration

Senate Appropriations Committee FY23 Proposal Provides $59.9B for the Department of Homeland Security: The FY23 Homeland Security Appropriations Bill provides funding for immigration-related needs, including the facilitation of returning unaccompanied minors, H-2B visa reforms, border security, TSA pay reform, and the replenishment of FEMA disaster relief funds. (Clark Hill Insight) 

Lawmakers Form Caucus Focused on Disaster Preparedness, Recovery: A bipartisan group of lawmakers is forming a congressional caucus focused on disaster preparedness and recovery. The Bipartisan Congressional Disaster Preparedness and Recovery Caucus will focus on advancing legislation and policies that provide relief to disaster survivors and will promote measures that help communities impacted by disasters make a full recovery. (The Hill)


Senate Appropriations Committee FY23 Proposal Provides $38.6B for Department of Justice: The fiscal year 2023 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) Appropriations Bill provides a total of $85.833 billion in discretionary funding. This amount is $10.05 billion more than the fiscal year 2022 enacted level. The CJS bill invests in a wide range of critical programs that affect the lives of all Americans. The bill provides $38.6 billion, $3.3 billion more than the fiscal year 2022 enacted level, for the Department of Justice (DOJ) to keep America safe from criminals and terrorists. The bill contains $732 million, the highest funding level ever, for grants provided by the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW). This represents a 27 percent increase above the fiscal year 2022 enacted level for these lifesaving programs. (Clark Hill Insight) 

House Considers Potential Election Fallout of Upcoming Supreme Court Case: Congress has the ability to address the central issue in an upcoming Supreme Court case that could reshape federal elections, witnesses told the House Administration Committee. In the case, Moore v. Harper, the North Carolina legislature appealed a state supreme court ruling that tossed a congressional map as an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander. The Supreme Court agreed to decide the case next term, which starts in October and ends at the end of June. (Roll Call)

Jan. 6 Panel Dems Throw Shade at Senate’s Bipartisan Foray into their Turf: The Senate’s latest bipartisan project — reform of a 135-year-old election law Donald Trump tried to exploit on Jan. 6 — is landing with a thud in the House. Pivotal members of the Jan. 6 select committee are unimpressed by the proposal recently released by 16 senators in both parties to update the Electoral Count Act, the arcane statute Trump and his allies sought to manipulate to block certification of the 2020 election. And House members are signaling they want to go further. (Politico)

Bipartisan Bill Would Create Mechanism to Expunge Federal Marijuana Misdemeanors: Rep. Troy Carter (D-LA) introduced a bill that would create a mechanism for federal misdemeanor marijuana offenses to be expunged, amid a new push for decriminalization at the federal level. (The Hill)

Lawmakers Question DOJ’s National Security Division on Cybersecurity, Surveillance: The House Committee on the Judiciary held a hearing to discuss how the Department of Justice’s National Security Division is addressing threats to the nation, including a 2020 cybersecurity breach that impacted pending litigation. Matthew G. Olsen, assistant attorney general for national security at the U.S. Department of Justice, noted that the NSD has a wide range of tasks and responsibilities, including prosecuting terrorists and spies, protecting against cyber attacks, and enforcing export controls and sanctions laws, among other things. (NextGov)

20 House Republicans Voted Against Anti-Human Trafficking Bill: The legislation, titled the Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention and Protection Reauthorization Act, passed in a 401-20 vote, with all opposition coming from Republicans. Eight Republicans and one Democrat did not vote. (The Hill)

House Passes Assault Weapons Ban in Wake of Mass Shootings: The House passed a bill that would ban the sale of assault-style weapons and high-capacity magazines, for the first time since a similar ban lapsed in 2004. The 217-213 vote saw seven members cross party lines, but Democrats still overcame objections from Republicans, who argued it infringes on Second Amendment rights. Five Democrats voted against the bill, and two Republicans voted for it. (Roll Call) 


Bills to Boost Kids’ Online Safety Advance in Senate with Bipartisan Support: Two bills that would add regulations on tech companies in a way that aims to increase safety for kids online advanced out of a Senate panel with broad bipartisan support. The Senate Commerce Committee advanced the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA) and the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, also known as COPPA 2.0. (The Hill) 

House Passes Cyber Bill Aimed to Protect Energy Sectors:  The House passed bipartisan legislation last Wednesday that would address the rise of cyber threats against energy infrastructure in the United States.  The Energy Cybersecurity University Leadership Program Act, a bill co-sponsored by Reps. Deborah Ross (D-NC) and Mike Carey (R-OH), was part of a block of bills that passed in a 336-90 vote and would establish a grant program based at the DOE to financially assist graduate students and postdoctoral researchers studying cybersecurity and energy infrastructure.  (The Hill)

Congress Goes After Spyware Purveyors, but Will it Make a Difference?  Congress is waking up to the growing threat of foreign spyware on the heels of several high-profile episodes involving the improper use of the commercial surveillance technology against diplomats and government officials abroad.  The House of Representatives is set to vote on sweeping policy legislation to crack down on and even ban firms that sell the technology from working with the government.  (Cyberscoop)


Senate Appropriations Democrats Release Draft FY23 Ag Bill: The Senate draft bill would appropriate $27.1 billion, or $2.3 billion more than the fiscal 2022 enacted level, for the Agriculture Department and the Food and Drug Administration. Total funding for agriculture research is $3.9 billion, or a $248 million increase over fiscal year 2022. This includes $1.9 billion for ARS and $1.7 billion for NIFA. Overall discretionary funding for nutrition programs is $6.8 billion, an increase of $56 million over fiscal year 2022 in addition to mandatory funding for nutrition programs. Additionally, total discretionary funding for the FDA is $3.545 billion, an increase of $229 million over fiscal year 2022. (Clark Hill Insight) 

Reconciliation Bill Includes Ag Conservation Programs: The updated reconciliation bill would include a nearly $40 billion investment in agriculture, forestry, and rural communities to fight inflation and lower costs through the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022. (The Fence Post) 

Environment & Interior  

House Passes 48-Bill Wildfire-Protection Package: The House of Representatives narrowly passed legislation last week boosting the pay of wildfire fighters and taking steps to improve fire resilience in Western forests. The package combines nearly 50 Western resiliency and wildfire-related bills, including a provision to increase federal wildland firefighters’ pay to match that of their state counterparts. It would also give force of law to the Forest Service’s current 10-year plan. (The Hill)

Senate Appropriations Committee Releases Draft EPA, Interior Bill: The Senate Appropriations Committee’s draft bill provides $10.6 billion for the EPA, an increase of $1.1 billion to the fiscal year 2022 enacted level. To bolster efforts to tackle climate change and protect clean air, the bill increases EPA’s climate and clean air programs by $231 million (54 percent). The bill also provides $3.578 billion for the National Park Service, $313 million more than the fiscal year 2022 level, which will restore about half of staffing losses since 2010 and fully fund the request for deferred maintenance and construction. (Clark Hill Insight)

Senate Committee Releases FY23 Proposal for Forest Service, Wildland Fire: The Senate’s proposed bill provides $6.4 billion for the Forest Service, $499 million more than fiscal year 2022. The bill also provides a total of $4.4 billion for fire suppression, of which $2.55 billion is provided to the Wildfire Suppression Operations Reserve Fund and $450 million is provided as an emergency supplemental. This is $550 million (14 percent) more than fiscal year 2022. (Clark Hill Insight)

Senate Draft Appropriations Bill Increases Investments in Tribal Programs: The draft bill invests in the federal government’s treaty and trust responsibilities to Native Americans by providing $11.52 billion for tribal programs. For fiscal year 2023, the bill provides $7.38 billion for the Indian Health Service, an increase of $762 million above the fiscal year 2022 enacted level. (Clark Hill Insight)

Senate Draft FY23 Appropriations Funding for Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service: The bill proposes $1.53 billion for the Bureau of Land Management, $120 million more than fiscal year 2022. The bill also provides $1.8 billion for the Fish and Wildlife Service, an increase of $264 million (17 percent) to the fiscal year 2022 enacted level. This funding includes a number of increases to support wildlife conservation across multiple areas from combatting international wildlife trafficking, to supporting landmark conservation laws like the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and supporting the National Wildlife Refuge System. (Clark Hill Insight) 


Senate Appropriations Committee FY23 Proposal Provides Nearly $50B for Department of Energy: The draft Senate FY23 Energy Appropriations Bill provides $4.5B more than FY22 levels. Key areas of focus include new funding for a Defense Production Act Domestic Clean Energy Accelerator, $8.1B for the Office of Science, enhanced energy cybersecurity, and nearly $1B more than FY22 for applied energy research and development. (Clark Hill Insight) 

Clean Energy Tax Package Undergoes Substantial Shifts: Democrats made concessions to get Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) on board with spending hundreds of billions of dollars on clean energy incentives in the revamped budget package unveiled late last Wednesday, but they were able to preserve versions of key pieces that he’d targeted as concerns. (Roll Call)

Democrats Open to Manchin’s Push for Permitting Reform: Democratic leaders said a deal on permitting was crucial in getting Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) to “yes” on a separate climate and social spending package. And while not everyone is overjoyed with it, some see a silver lining. “The goal was to do permitting reform, not just for fossil fuel pipelines but for transmission lines,” said Sen. John Hickenlooper (D-CO). “They’re kind of bundling those together.” (E&E News)

Senate Passes Innovation Bill with Billions for DOE Research: The Senate approved a sprawling innovation and economic competitiveness package that contains tens of billions of dollars in research spending authorizations at the Department of Energy and National Science Foundation. The 64-33 vote on the bill, H.R. 4346, is the culmination of an effort that began early last year. (E&E News)

OSTP Director Nominee Arati Prabhakar Clears Committee Hurdle: The Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee voted 15 to 13 to advance the nomination of Arati Prabhakar to lead the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Despite a mostly favorable reception at her nomination hearing last week, every Republican on the committee voted against her except retiring Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO). Committee Ranking Member Roger Wicker (R-MS) explained that Republicans wanted more time to probe her views on “right to life issues,” apparently referring to concerns about her responses to questions for the record by Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) on abortion and fetal tissue research. (AIP)


Budget & Appropriations 

In Victory for Democrats, Congress Sends Chip Subsidy Bill to Biden: Congress approved a massive semiconductor subsidy and research bill known as the “Chips plus Science” Act, sending the legislation to President Joe Biden for his signature. The bill, in the works for almost two years, is intended to decrease U.S. reliance on computer chips manufactured in China and other countries, as well as fund science and technology research to keep American industries competitive with foreign firms. (Politico) 


HHS Buys 66 Million Doses of Updated Moderna Vaccine For ‘Early Fall’ Campaign:  The Biden administration announced that it is buying 66 million doses of updated Moderna COVID-19 vaccine targeting the omicron variant ahead of a planned booster campaign starting in “early fall.” The updated vaccine will specifically target the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants of omicron which are currently circulating and fueling a new increase in hospitalizations.  (The Hill)

Biden Promotes Health Care Proposals in Reconciliation Package on Medicare, Medicaid Anniversaries: President Biden emphasized the provisions on health care in the health, climate, and tax package that is set for a Senate vote in a statement recognizing the 57th anniversaries of the creation of Medicare and Medicaid. Biden said in the statement that the legislation, called the Inflation Reduction Act, will maintain the eligibility improvements to the Affordable Care Act that were included in the American Rescue Plan, which saved 13 million Americans an average of $800 per year on health insurance premiums, according to the statement. He said the act will also protect 3 million Americans from becoming uninsured. (The Hill)

HHS, DOL, And Treasury Issue Guidance Regarding Birth Control Coverage: The Departments made clear that contraceptive coverage is guaranteed at no additional cost under the Affordable Care Act no matter where someone lives or works. Following President Biden’s Executive Order on ensuring access to reproductive health care, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), alongside the Departments of Labor and of the Treasury (Departments), took action to clarify protections for birth control coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Under the ACA, most private health plans are required to provide birth control and family planning counseling at no additional cost. (HHS News Release) 

Labor & Workforce 

Biden Taps Former Union Official to Lead Labor Dept. Wage Unit: President Joe Biden is nominating Jessica Looman, a former trade union official and the acting head of the U.S. Department of Labor office that enforces wage laws, to fill the position permanently, the White House said. The announcement of Looman’s nomination last Wednesday came after the U.S. Senate in March rejected Biden’s first choice to lead DOL’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD), Brandeis University professor David Weil. (Reuters)

Department of Education 

The Education Department Has A Plan for Canceling Student Debt — If Biden Gives the Word: Top Education Department officials have developed detailed plans to carry out student loan forgiveness for millions of Americans as they wait on President Joe Biden to make a final decision, according to internal agency documents obtained by POLITICO. The documents sketch out the mechanics of how the agency expects to manage and operate a possible mass debt cancellation program on a scale that would be unprecedented in the history of the federal student loan program — if the White House were to give it the green light. (Politico) 

Banking & Housing/HUD

Treasury Department to Create Climate Research Hub: The Treasury Department is launching a new effort to provide financial regulators with the data, tools, and software they need to more precisely assess the threat that climate change poses to the U.S. financial system. The “Climate Data and Analytics Hub” will be housed in the Treasury’s Office of Financial Research, an independent bureau created in the wake of the 2007-2008 financial crisis. One of its main missions is to track and investigate emerging financial threats. (E&E News)

Fed Unleashes Another Big Rate Hike in Bid to Curb Inflation: The Federal Reserve raised its benchmark interest rate by a hefty three-quarters of a point for a second straight time in its most aggressive drive in more than three decades to tame high inflation. (AP)

Apple’s Move into BNPL Space Triggers Alarm at CFPB: Apple’s move into the buy now pay later (BNPL) space has the attention of Rohit Chopra, director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), who is now examining the larger implications of big tech companies becoming lenders. The CFPB is taking a close look at the “implications of Big Tech entering this space” and is considering a number of issues, including whether Apple Pay Later could “reduce competition and innovation in the market,” Chopra said. (PYMNTS.COM)


More than 175 Environmental Groups Urge Buttigieg to Reinstate Emission Regulation Rule on State Departments: More than 175 environmental organizations sent a letter to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg urging him to adopt a federal rule that requires state and city transportation departments to measure and set standards for their greenhouse gas emissions. The letter, signed by national groups such as Sierra Club, U.S. Public Interest Research Group, and Transportation for America, thanked the Biden administration for taking the first step toward implementation of the emission rule but urged them to adopt it as quickly as possible. (The Hill)


Russia Says We’re Actually Not Leaving the Space Station Until Our Own is Ready:  Reuters is reporting that a senior NASA official has indicated that Russia will continue to operate its portion of the ISS until it has its own station in orbit, something that’s currently targeted for 2028. Earlier statements from Russian officials indicated that construction of that station would be started in 2024 but had not provided a completion date. Roscosmos also posted a video indicating that completion would come in 2028, and the agency would “need to continue operating the ISS” until that date.  (Ars Technica)

NASA Knocks Chinese Officials for Falling Debris: NASA Administrator Bill Nelson is calling out China for failing to share information about debris from a rocket booster falling back to Earth. “All spacefaring nations should follow established best practices and do their part to share this type of information in advance to allow reliable predictions of potential debris impact risk,” the former senator said in a statement. (The Hill)


Army Pursues Shared Software Among Uncrewed Vehicles:  Seeking to bolster its development of uncrewed vehicles, the Army is using a separate acquisition pathway for software, paving the way for future coordination among platforms of all sizes.  The Army includes combat vehicle modernization as a top priority. The service has looked to develop three types of robotic vehicles — light, medium, and heavy — to use as “scouts” or “escorts” for crewed fighting vehicles.  (Defense News)

Navy Fleet Plan Needs 3-5% Annual Budget Increases for the Next Two Decades:  The U.S. Navy’s planned fleet of 2045 will require annual real budget increases of 3 to 5 percent, according to the Navy’s top officer, who called that a “realistic” schedule for amassing the 500 hyperconnected manned and unmanned vessels that national security will require.  (Defense One)

DHS & Immigration

Number of Migrants Crossing Border is Dropping, In Part Due to U.S. Agents Helping Nab Human Smugglers in Central America: Arrests of undocumented migrants crossing the U.S. southern border have fallen by nearly 14 percent from an all-time high in May, driven in part by an increase in U.S.-assisted arrests of smugglers in Central America, far from U.S. soil, according to internal briefing materials obtained by NBC News. Agents from Customs and Border Protection, as well as Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, some of them in Central American countries, were responsible for the arrests of an average of 240 smugglers in a single week in June, according to the materials, prepared by the Department of Homeland Security for a White House briefing. (NBC News)

U.S. to Fill Border Wall Gaps at Open Area near Yuma, Arizona: The Biden administration authorized completion of the Trump-funded U.S.-Mexico border wall in an open area of southern Arizona near Yuma that has become one of the busiest corridors for illegal crossings. Biden had pledged during his campaign to cease all future wall construction, but the administration later agreed to some barriers, citing safety. The Department of Homeland Security said the work to close four wide gaps in the wall near Yuma will better protect migrants who can slip down a slope or drown walking through a low section of the Colorado River. (AP)

Watchdog says Human Smugglers Often Target Migrants with Misinformation on Social Media: Migrants reliant on Facebook and WhatsApp as they make the journey to the U.S. are being targeted with immigration misinformation by human smugglers, a new report found. A study released last week from the Tech Transparency Project (TTP) found “an abundance of posts spreading misinformation about immigration law, conditions along the route to the United States, and the opportunities available to migrants to the U.S.” through the Meta platforms. (The Hill)


Justice Department Investigating Data Breach of Federal Court System: The Justice Department is investigating a data breach of the U.S. federal courts system dating to early 2020, a top official testified on Capitol Hill Thursday. House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) told fellow lawmakers that “three hostile foreign actors” attacked the U.S. Courts’ document filing system as part of a breach in early 2020 causing a “system security failure.” The comments — at a committee hearing on oversight of the Justice Department’s National Security Division — were the first public disclosure of the hack. (Politico)


Cyber Command Looking to Bolster Acquisition Office as it Prepares to Handle $3B Annually: Poised to gain “enhanced budget authority” in 2024, U.S. Cyber Command is looking to bolster its acquisition and procurement prowess to include hiring new personnel and maturing its main technology arm to handle its additional funding. “I need to build an organization that’s growing from $75 million a year to figure out how we posture to enable $3 billion a year,” Michael Clark, the director of Cybercon’s J9 acquisition and technology directorate, told reporters during the command’s procurement forum. (FedScoop) 


Biden EPA To Tackle Coal Industry Carbon with Rules on Other Pollutants: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency plans to use new limits on traditional pollutants like ozone and coal ash to help encourage the retirement of the nation’s remaining coal-fired power plants, after the Supreme Court limited the agency’s ability to impose sweeping climate regulations, according to EPA chief Michael Regan. The approach reflects how the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden intends to forge ahead with goals to decarbonize the power sector despite the recent ruling from the court. The power industry is the source of a quarter of the nation’s greenhouse gases and Biden campaigned on a pledge to cut its net emissions to zero by 2035. (Reuters)

Department of Energy

U.S. Regulators will Certify First Small Nuclear Reactor Design: The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) announced that it would be issuing a certification to a new nuclear reactor design, making it just the seventh that has been approved for use in the U.S. But in some ways, it’s a first: the design, from a company called NuScale, is a small modular reactor that can be constructed at a central facility and then moved to the site where it will be operated. (Ars Technica)

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