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Window on Washington – February 6, 2022, Vol. 6, Issue 5

February 7, 2022

Outlook for This Week in the Nation’s Capital


Congress. The House and Senate are both in session this week. The House plans to vote on bills related to the postal service, foreign affairs, and sexual assault and harassment. In the Senate, Democrats will continue to put forward some nominations for confirmation votes but at large will be unable to advance anything on the floor without Republican support given Sen. Ben Ray Luján’s (D-NM) absence for the next 4-6 weeks as he recovers from a stroke. In the meantime, both chambers are also focusing on FY22 appropriations and USICA negotiations. Hearings for the week include examining nominations, data challenges impacting anti-human trafficking R&D technology tools, protecting youth mental health, ARPA-H, the next Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), digital assets, NASA’s public-private partnerships, the health workforce shortage, and the American Nuclear Infrastructure Act.

Budget and Appropriations. Top Democrat and Republican appropriators failed to reach an agreement over the weekend on terms for an omnibus appropriations bill for FY 2022.  While both sides have agreed to provide $25 billion more for defense spending, they have yet to agree on a final increase for non-defense discretionary spending – a major sticking point for Democrats who want to see more than $25 billion added there to address priorities proposed in the Administration’s budget.  With the continuing resolution (CR) expiring in less than two weeks and no deal yet on the funding or policy riders, Congress will have to pass another short-term CR to avoid a government shutdown, with the House likely to act this week. The length has not yet been announced, but some have indicated it could go until mid-March. It also remains to be seen whether any COVID-19 and disaster relief funding will be added to the omnibus package. Separately, as of now the President’s FY23 budget request is expected to be released shortly after the State of the Union address, which is set for March 1.

Reconciliation. While both Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and other Democrats have mentioned that there are no formal talks going on to revive the reconciliation bill, it appears that some lawmakers have indicated they would be willing to salvage the parts of the Build Back Better (BBB) bill that Manchin has said he would support. Some would prefer that Manchin put forward a proposal of a pared-back BBB, but as of now it does not appear that he will make the first move. Manchin continues to state that the current BBB is dead, and yesterday during his appearance on CNN’s State of the Union show he said that any narrower version of the bill would need to go through regular order (a lengthier process that emphasizes the role of committees and requires that the legislation has relevant committee hearings and markups). His comments indicate there is still a long road ahead and that it will likely be months before anything passes on this front.

USICA. The House voted 220-210 to pass the America COMPETES Act (House USICA bill). Senate leaders are now expected to take up the House-passed bill, substitute their version of the legislation as a substitute and then seek a House-Senate conference as Leader Schumer and Speaker Pelosi suggested they would do last fall.  It remains unclear how quickly the conferees can resolve the considerable differences between the two measures.

Biden Administration.  President Joe Biden will host new German Chancellor Olaf Scholz at the White House today.

Last Week in the Nation’s Capital



Budget & Appropriations

Short-Term Stopgap Funding Bill Could Go to House Floor Tuesday: The House could take up a three-week stopgap funding extension through March 11 as soon as tomorrow to buy more time for appropriators to write final fiscal 2022 spending bills. The temporary spending bill under discussion would only move to the floor if an agreement on topline funding allocations for defense and nondefense programs is reached first. It wasn’t immediately clear whether the Senate would be on board with a three-week extension though, and the length is still under discussion. (Roll Call) 

Banking & Housing

McConnell says Biden Fed Nominee Seeking to ‘Bully’ Companies on Climate: Senate Republicans on Thursday stepped up their attacks on one of President Joe Biden’s Federal Reserve board nominees, warning that she would use the Fed’s powers to steer capital away from the oil and gas industries and undermine the central bank’s independence. (Politico)


Bipartisan Bill Proposes Tax Exemption for Small Crypto Transactions: Four members of Congress — two Democrats and two Republicans — have proposed a bill, the Virtual Currency Tax Fairness Act, which would exempt personal transactions made with digital currency when the gains are $200 or less. Currently, consumers are required to report any changes in a digital currency’s value against the US dollar from the time they purchased it until it is used in a transaction. This is counted as taxable income. (Blockworks)


Congress is Still Spinning its Wheels on Autonomous Vehicle Regulation: Last Wednesday, Congress held its first hearing on autonomous vehicles in over two years, and there was not a lot to show for it. At the end of the four-and-a-half-hour event, there was no indication that lawmakers were any closer to a consensus on how best to regulate this rapidly emerging technology. (The Verge)

FCC-FAA Skirmish Over 5G Leads to Lawmaker Frustration: Lawmakers on Thursday sharply criticized the process leading up to the deployment of 5G wireless technology around airports last month, repeatedly questioning how the Federal Aviation Administration and Federal Communications Commission had such a disconnect. “There’s no excuse for us to be in this situation,” Rep. Garret Graves (R-LA) said at a hearing of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Aviation. “It’s embarrassing. … It’s ridiculous and inexcusable.” (Roll Call)

Rush Introduces REPAIR Act to Ensure Equal Access to Auto Repair Data for Independent Repair Shops and Preserve Consumer Choice: U.S. Representative Bobby L. Rush (D-IL), a senior member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, introduced the Right to Equitable and Professional Auto Industry Repair (REPAIR) Act (H.R. 6570). This legislation would preserve consumer access to high quality, affordable vehicle repair by ensuring that vehicle owners and independent repair shops have equal access to repair and maintenance tools and data as car companies and licensed dealerships. (Clark Hill Insight)

Thune, Klobuchar Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Ease Export Shipping Backlogs, Boost U.S. Exports: U.S. Sens. John Thune (R-SD) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), both members of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, introduced the Ocean Shipping Reform Act, bipartisan legislation that would update federal regulations for the global shipping industry. The bill would level the playing field for American exporters by making it harder for ocean carriers to unreasonably refuse goods ready to export at ports, and it would give the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) greater rulemaking authority to regulate harmful practices by carriers. (Clark Hill Insight)


House Sets Up Senate Showdown with Vote on China Bill: A host of Democratic trade provisions in the House bill likely will be nonstarters with Senate lawmakers, including language that would impose tariffs on small-value shipments from China and other non-market economies; renew government aid to workers whose jobs are outsourced; strengthen the Department of Commerce’s tariff authorities; tighten labor and environmental rules for U.S. trading partners seeking relief from tariffs; and set up a new committee to screen American companies’ investments overseas. (Politico)


Homeland Security & Immigration

Lofgren Bill Would Move Immigration Courts Outside DOJ: Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) unveiled sweeping legislation Thursday to overhaul the immigration court system by moving the courts outside the executive branch and making them an independent entity. Currently, the courts are housed within the Department of Justice. Under Lofgren’s bill, immigration courts would be restructured under Article I of the Constitution, turning them into an independent system, such as the U.S. Tax Court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, and the U.S. bankruptcy courts. (Roll Call)

Homeland Security Panel Advances ICE Nominee, Again: The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs advanced, for the second time, the nomination of Texas sheriff Ed Gonzalez to lead U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The committee on Wednesday voted 7-4 along party lines to send the nomination to the Senate floor, paving the way for the Homeland Security immigration agency to have a Senate-confirmed leader for the first time in more than five years. (Roll Call)


Senate Committee Advances Bill Targeting Google and Apple’s App Store Profitability: The Senate Judiciary Committee passed its second tech competition bill of the year Thursday, this time targeting Apple and Google’s mobile app stores and their restrictions on developers. (CNBC)

Graham, Blumenthal Reintroduce Controversial Section 230 Bill: Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) reintroduced legislation Tuesday that would carve out liability protections for online platforms that have child sexual abuse content. The Eliminating Abusive and Rampant Neglect of Interactive Technologies (EARN IT) Act was advanced unanimously through the Senate Judiciary Committee in the summer of 2020, but was not given a floor vote before the end of the legislative calendar. (The Hill)

Republicans Stress Process for Supreme Court Confirmation Will be One of ‘Respect’: Key Senate Republicans keep signaling their approach to the upcoming Supreme Court confirmation process will be one of “respect” rather than obstruction, to contrast with how they felt Democrats treated former President Donald Trump’s high court appointees. (Roll Call)

Wyden, Booker and Clarke Introduce Algorithmic Accountability Act of 2022 To Require New Transparency And Accountability For Automated Decision Systems: U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), with Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Representative Yvette Clarke (D-NY), introduced the Algorithmic Accountability Act of 2022, a landmark bill to bring new transparency and oversight of software, algorithms and other automated systems that are used to make critical decisions about nearly every aspect of Americans’ lives. (Clark Hill Insight) 


Supply Chain Security Training and FISMA Overhaul Bills Clear House Committee:  Invoking cybersecurity threats posed by foreign adversaries, the House Oversight and Reform Committee unanimously approved efforts to create a program for training the government’s contracting officials and to strengthen the effectiveness of the Federal Information Security Modernization Act.  The committee chair highlighted a need for incident reporting and other requirements for federal contractors.  (NextGov) 


Shipping Reform Bill Makes New Advances in Congress: The Ocean Shipping Reform Act (OSRA), a bill aimed at ending port bottlenecks for ag exports, was introduced in the Senate last Thursday even as sponsors of a tougher House-passed version sought to ramp up pressure for its enactment. While prospects for the Thune-Klobuchar version of OSRA are good in the Senate as a stand-alone bill, Hill and industry sources say it’s less clear whether it gets included in the larger USICA legislation. (Agri-Pulse)

Environment & Interior

23 House Democrats Call for Biden to Keep Full Climate Funds in Build Back Better: Twenty-three Democratic members of Congress called on President Biden to ensure that any amended version of the ambitious Democratic reconciliation bill retain its current climate and resiliency provisions. (The Hill) 


Big Oil Board Members Decline to Testify Before U.S. House Climate Panel: Board members of four major oil companies declined to appear at a U.S. House oversight panel hearing scheduled for Feb. 8 to answer questions about their companies’ climate change plans, the committee said on Thursday. (Reuters)

New England Senators ask Biden Admin to Study Economic Impacts of Offshore Wind Plans: Sen. Angus King (I-ME) led a group of all senators representing the Gulf of Maine in a letter Wednesday asking the Biden administration to thoroughly research the impact of planned offshore wind power projects on local economies. (Roll Call)

As Energy Costs Rise, King Urges White House to Limit Natural Gas Exports to Address Heating Costs: U.S. Senator Angus King (I-ME), a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, led a group of ten Senators in urging the Biden administration to seriously reevaluate exports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) in order to reduce domestic energy and heating costs. (Clark Hill Insight)


Budget & Appropriations

OMB Nominee Says New Biden Budget Coming in March: President Joe Biden is likely to submit his fiscal 2023 budget request shortly after the March 1 State of the Union address, his acting White House budget chief told senators last Tuesday. However, if Congress can’t pass an omnibus spending package this month, it’s possible that White House plans for a new budget submission could slip. (Roll Call)


CDC Recommends Fully Approved Moderna Covid Vaccine: CDC Director Rochelle Walensky endorsed the recommendation of the agency’s independent advisers on Friday of Moderna’s two-dose Covid-19 vaccine series for all adults. Walensky’s decision came hours after the panel voted unanimously to make the recommendation, following on FDA’s formal approval of the product. (Politico)

Labor & Workforce

U.S. Employers Shrug Off Omicron, add 467,000 Jobs in January: U.S. employers added a burst of 467,000 jobs in January despite a wave of Omicron inflections that sickened millions of workers, kept many consumers at home and left businesses from restaurants to manufacturers short-staffed. The Labor Department’s Friday report also showed the unemployment rate ticked up to 4 percent from 3.9 percent. Job gains in December were also revised much higher. (Politico) 

Tax Reform/IRS

‘All Hands on Deck’ IRS Shuffling Workers to Cut Giant Mail Backlog: The IRS is returning employees who used to process tax returns and other paperwork back to their old jobs for the next eight months to help the agency cut through its massive backlog, Commissioner Chuck Rettig said in an internal email Wednesday night. (Politico)


USDOT Releases Charging Forward – A Toolkit for Planning and Funding Rural Electric Mobility Infrastructure: The USDOT released a new, free toolkit that will help rural communities and businesses across the country plan and fund electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure. This toolkit is being released in advance of upcoming announcements from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which will make nearly $5 billion available to states and an additional $2.5 billion available via competitive grant programs to accelerate the deployment of a national network of EV charging stations. (Clark Hill Insight)

TSA Defends Unaccommodating Screening Policy on Passengers with Disabilities: The TSA Wednesday contended that people with disabilities who can’t comply with security screening protocols due to their disability essentially won’t be able to fly, in a case heard before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. (Politico)

U.S. Wants Revised Pilot Training After Boeing 737 MAX Crashes: The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said Wednesday it is proposing training revisions to help pilots avoid overly reliance on autopilot and to ensure they focus on flightpath management. (Reuters)


Biden to Extend, but Modify, Trump’s Solar Tariffs: President Biden plans to maintain former President Trump’s tariffs on solar cells and panels, but loosen some restrictions on importing supplies from Asia to help combat climate change, according to people familiar with the matter. (Axios) 


NASA Again Delays SLS Rocket Rollout, Says Launch Date is Now TBD:  NASA officials on Wednesday said the agency would conduct an initial rollout of the massive Space Launch System rocket sometime in March, a multi-week delay attributed to “close-out” tasks that must be completed on the vehicle.  Until this week, NASA had been publicly targeting a February 15 rollout date, when a mobile tower would ferry the SLS rocket from the Vehicle Assembly Building to its launch site at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.  (Ars Technica)

NASA to Continue Buying Earth-Observation Datasets:  NASA already spends roughly $30 million a year evaluating commercial data sources and purchasing datasets. The increasing pace of commercial satellite launches is prompting NASA officials to look for ways to improve the data-acquisition process to make it both more predictable and more agile.  (Space News)


Pentagon Requests Information from Clean Energy Suppliers in Push to Reduce Emissions:  The federal government took a step toward lowering the military’s carbon footprint, seeking information on Thursday from potential clean electricity suppliers. The General Services Administration, which is in charge of federal purchasing, and the Pentagon put out a joint request asking for information from potential clean electricity suppliers.  The move comes as part of a broader push by the Biden administration to cut the federal government’s planet-warming emissions.  (The Hill)

DOD Debuts Office to Help It ‘Move Faster’ on Artificial Intelligence:  The Defense Department’s Chief Digital and Artificial Intelligence Office, a new hub to align disparate AI-centered pursuits across the vast enterprise, officially reached initial operating capacity this week—but much must still be puzzled out before it’s totally realized this summer.  John Sherman, DOD’s recently Senate-confirmed chief information officer, will play a major role in seeing it through.  (Defense One)

DHS & Immigration

USCIS Director says Federal Immigration Funds ‘Critical’ to Agency: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Ur Jaddou put out a plea Wednesday to Congress for more funding to help the immigration agency tackle lengthy visa backlogs and processing times that have kept applicants in limbo for months or longer. During a stakeholder briefing, Jaddou acknowledged mounting visa delays, which have caused individuals applying to receive and renew visas and work permits to wait months, some losing their jobs in the meantime. (Roll Call)

After Review, U.S. Maintains Border Policy of Expelling Migrants, Citing Omicron: After a recent internal review, the Biden administration decided to maintain a pandemic-era order put in place under former President Donald Trump that authorizes the rapid deportation of migrants from the U.S.-Mexico border. (CBS News)


Biden Vows Not to ‘Abandon our Streets’ During New York City Visit Focused on Violent Crime: President Joe Biden pledged a stepped-up federal fight against gun violence as he visited New York City Thursday and called for more funding for law enforcement and community anti-violence programs to address rising crime. (Politico)

White House Backs U.S. Antitrust Pushes: The White House has said it supports “the bipartisan progress being made in Congress” on reining in Big Tech through antitrust in a victory for would-be reformers in the U.S., according to a report by Politico. (The Protocol)


DHS Assembles Cyber Safety Review Board to Imitate Fed Agency That Studies Aviation Accidents:  The Homeland Security Department is establishing a Cyber Safety Review Board that will convene after major cyber events to review and act on them, according to a Federal Register notice.  The notice brings to fruition an idea long circulated among cybersecurity policymakers and thinkers, one set in motion by an executive order President Joe Biden signed in May 2021. The idea is to mimic the National Transportation Safety Board that reviews civil aviation accidents.  (Cyber Scoop)


Biden Inches Back Toward Michelle Obama’s School Nutrition Standards: The Biden administration last week issued a new rule asking schools to soon start meeting nutrition standards that were strengthened at the urging of former first lady Michelle Obama — but were suspended during the pandemic as schools struggled to procure more nutritious options. (Politico)

USDA Announces Partnership to Ease Port Congestion and Restore Disrupted Shipping Services to U.S. Grown Agricultural Commodities: Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced plans to increase capacity at the Port of Oakland in Oakland, California and improve service for shippers of U.S. grown agricultural commodities. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is partnering with the Port of Oakland to set up a new 25-acre “pop-up” site to make it easier for agricultural companies to fill empty shipping containers with commodities. (Clark Hill Insight)

USDA, DOJ Launch Online Tool Allowing Farmers, Ranchers to Report Anticompetitive Practices: Farmers and ranchers now can anonymously report potentially unfair and anti-competitive practices in the livestock and poultry sectors using an online tool the U.S. Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Justice (DOJ) launched. (Clark Hill Insight)


Biden Administration Urges Against U.S. Postal Service Plan to Spend Billions on Gas Vehicles: The Biden administration on Wednesday attempted to halt the U.S. Postal Service’s plan to spend up to $11.3 billion to replace its delivery fleet with thousands of gas-powered vehicles, arguing that the vehicles will worsen climate change and public health. (CNBC)

Biden Administration Sides with Tribes Over North Dakota In Mineral Dispute: The Biden administration has decided that contested minerals beneath a portion of the Missouri River belong to the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation, and not the state of North Dakota. The legal opinion from Interior Department solicitor Bob Anderson on Friday backing the Three Affiliated Tribes represents a turn from the Trump administration, which had backed North Dakota’s claims to the materials. (The Hill)

Department of Energy

U.S. Departments of Energy, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development Launch Joint Effort With Puerto Rico to Modernize Energy Grid: The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) joined the Departments of Homeland Security (DHS) and Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico to launch a new effort to accelerate work to strengthen the island’s grid resilience and advance new initiatives to enhance Puerto Rico’s energy future. (Clark Hill Insight)

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