Window on Washington - June 28, 2021, Vol. 5, Issue 26
Outlook for This Week in the Nation’s Capital
Congress. The House is in session this week, but the Senate is not. The House is set to vote on numerous bills this week, including the INVEST in America Act (H.R. 3684), which is a five-year, $715 billion surface transportation reauthorization and water infrastructure bill that would fund roads, bridges, transit, rail, Amtrak, and wastewater and drinking water infrastructure. The House Rules Committee will first meet today and tomorrow to markup the rule for floor consideration. This legislation has largely been on its own track separate from the proposed infrastructure package, as it is seen to be a must-pass bill. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said last Wednesday that the Senate plans to combine the Senate’s surface transportation bill with the infrastructure provisions agreed to by the bipartisan group of Senators. Once the Senate finalizes their legislation, only then could the House version move into a conference process, even if it passes this week. The deadline for reauthorization is September 30.
Other legislation that will be brought to the floor this week includes a bill that would remove Confederate statues from the Capitol (H.R. 3005), a bill that would make reforms to enhance the protections of inspectors general (H.R. 2662), and a measure to establish a select committee to investigate the Jan. 6 insurrection. Hearings for this week include a House Judiciary hearing on enhancing the Voting Rights Act, a House Science, Space, and Technology hearing on the state of federal wildland fire science, and a House Energy and Commerce hearing on the CLEAN Future Act and other energy bills.
FY22 Budget and Appropriations. House Appropriations Committee subcommittee markups for this week are for the Interior, State and Foreign Operations, Defense, and Homeland Security bills. Full Committee markups for this week are for the Financial Services and General Government, Legislative Branch, Agriculture, Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, Interior, and State and Foreign Operations bills. The full Committee will also consider the spending level allocations for each of the appropriations bills this week, which are known as 302(b)s. The Committee will finish the rest of the bills the week of July 12. House leaders are aiming to bring the bills to the floor the last two weeks of July. The Senate Appropriations Committee has not yet announced a markup schedule.
Infrastructure Package. President Joe Biden has endorsed a bipartisan infrastructure framework, marking significant progress in the negotiations between Republicans and moderate Democrats. However, while progress has been made, the infrastructure package still has a long way to go. The GOP senators involved in the deal have expressed they are frustrated that President Biden tied his signature on a bipartisan infrastructure bill to a separate reconciliation measure that focuses on his other infrastructure spending priorities. While Biden clarified that he does not plan to veto the bipartisan infrastructure bill if it comes without the reconciliation package, there is still work to be done to make sure all Democrats are on board with the approach, particularly since many progressive Democrats have already indicated they are not going to support the bipartisan deal unless they can secure assurances that there will be a separate bill with other Democratic priorities.
Policing Reform. Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Tim Scott (R-SC) and Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA) said they have agreed to a bipartisan framework for overhauling the country’s policing laws but will continue to work on it over the next few weeks, buying more time beyond their self-imposed deadline of the end of the June. The exact details of the plan are not yet clear.
Biden Administration. President Joe Biden plans to host Israel’s outgoing president, Reuven Rivlin, at the White House today. Tomorrow, Biden and U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack plan to travel to southwestern Wisconsin to discuss agriculture and rural economies. The trip will be Biden’s second visit to the state this year.
Last Week in the Nation’s Capital
Budget & Appropriations
House Budget Blueprint Won’t Veer Too Far from Senate’s: House Budget Chairman John Yarmuth (D-KY) said Democrats in his chamber may be zeroing in on a budget blueprint that would allow for more than $5 trillion in new spending over 10 years, and that ultimately he and his Senate counterpart are working on similar tracks that could avoid a time-consuming conference. (Roll Call)
Schumer, Sanders Working to Add Dental, Vision, and Hearing Coverage to Medicare: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said yesterday he is working with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) to add dental, vision and hearing health coverage to Medicare. Schumer said they would attach the additional benefits to the American Jobs Plan and American Families Plan. (Axios)
Wyden Lays Out Principles for Drug Pricing Reform: Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR) laid out a series of principles that he would like to see included in drug pricing legislation. (Senate Finance)
Bipartisan Crypto Bills Pass U.S. House of Representatives – Again: The two blockchain bills – the Blockchain Innovation Act and parts of the Digital Taxonomy Act – direct the Secretary of Commerce and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to study and report on the use of blockchain technology and digital tokens. (Coindesk)
Space/NASA & NOAA
House Science Committee Wants Answers on Artemis: Members of the House committee that oversees NASA pressed Administrator Bill Nelson last week for a commitment on when they will get to see a plan for how the Artemis program will be executed, but Nelson said he is waiting for the August 4 deadline for GAO to act on an award protest before committing to details. (Ars Technica)
Inhofe Revives Bill to Target Ligado: The proposal from Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) is intended to escalate the potential costs for Ligado as it moves to set up a system of networks that government agencies and commercial trade groups have said could damage GPS reliability inside the United States. It’s the latest move from Inhofe and others aimed at halting Ligado’s spectrum use. (C4ISR Net)
‘We’ve Got to Get an Answer’ – UFOs Catch Congress’ Interest: Lawmakers don’t want confirmation of wild theories about alien life. They’re looking to see those debunked and get more data on an earthbound national security threat. (Politico)
House Advances Five Bills Targeting Big Tech After Overnight Slugfest: The House Judiciary Committee advanced five antitrust bills targeting the biggest tech companies in the country during a markup that stretched into the early hours of last Thursday morning. (The Hill)
Senators Propose Bill to Help Tackle Cybersecurity Workforce Shortage: Sens. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and John Cornyn (R-TX) last Friday introduced the Federal Cybersecurity Workforce Expansion Act, which would establish a cybersecurity apprenticeship program at the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), along with create a program at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to provide veterans with cybersecurity training. (The Hill)
Bipartisan Agriculture Climate Bill Clears Senate: The Senate last Thursday passed bipartisan legislation aimed at granting farms access to carbon offset markets by a 92-8 vote. The Growing Climate Solutions Act, introduced by Sens. Mike Braun (R-IN) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), next heads to the House. The measure would establish a Department of Agriculture certification process through which producers can generate and sell carbon credits. (The Hill)
Environment & Interior
House Votes to Nix Trump Methane Rule: The measure, passed by the House in a 229-191 vote, has already been approved by the Senate and will now head to the White House for President Biden’s signature. (The Hill)
Manchin Floats Big Energy Proposals as Talks Ramp Up: Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), the hub around which most infrastructure talk has spun, has come out with a 423-page draft bill that he hopes will be the energy infrastructure spending portion of a larger deal. (E&E News)
Two High-Level HHS Nominees Confirmed: Two high-ranking nominees for the Department of Health and Human Services were confirmed by the Senate last Thursday. Dawn O’Connell will serve as assistant secretary for preparedness and response, and Miriam Delphin-Rittmon as assistant secretary for mental health and substance use. (Clark Hill Insight)
Department of Education
Supreme Court Upholds Payments to Athletes: Justices unanimously rule the NCAA cannot bar compensation for education-related benefits. But the narrow ruling may not upend the NCAA amateurism model as much as some had hoped (and feared). (Inside Higher Ed)
Banking & Housing/HUD
White House Announces Efforts to Help Renters, Homeowners: The White House last Thursday unveiled new actions the Biden administration will be taking to mitigate evictions and foreclosures. The new steps came just after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that a further one-month extension through July of the COVID-19 pandemic eviction moratorium would be the last. (Roll Call)
Supreme Court Smacks Congress on Structure of Federal Housing Finance Agency: In a majority opinion written by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., the court found the FHFA’s structure is unconstitutional because it restricts presidents’ power to remove officers who disobey commands, are negligent, have different views on policy or come from a competing political party who are against their agenda. President Joe Biden will move quickly to take advantage of the decision and replace the current head of the FHFA, Mark Calabria, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump, a White House official said. (Roll Call)
Biden Picks Housing Advocate to Lead FHA: President Joe Biden will nominate housing nonprofit executive Julia Gordon to be the commissioner of the Federal Housing Administration, the White House said last Thursday. (Politico)
U.S. Fed Official Calls Tether a ‘Challenge’ to Financial Stability: In a slide presentation last Friday, Eric Rosengren, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, listed Tether among the “financial stability challenges” the U.S. central bank is watching. (Coindesk)
Biden Reiterates Support for Bipartisan Infrastructure Plan, Clarifies He Did Not Issue Veto Threat: President Joe Biden on Saturday said he doesn’t plan to veto a bipartisan infrastructure bill if it comes without a reconciliation package, walking back a declaration last week that he would refuse to sign it unless the two bills came in tandem. (CNBC)
Space/NASA & NOAA
Army, Navy Satellite Operations to Consolidate Under Space Force: The U.S. Space Force later this year will begin to take over the operation of 11 Navy narrowband communications satellites. It also will absorb Army units that currently operate military communications payloads, a Space Force official said June 23. The transition, scheduled to begin in October, will create a more integrated U.S. military satcom enterprise which for decades has “largely been a loose federation.” (Space News)
Climate Tech is About to Fly Commercial: A greenhouse gas-tracking technology is about to go commercial. Greenhouse gas detectors will soon take flight on an Alaska Airlines-run Boeing 737-9, in an effort to help NOAA scientists get even more information about how we’re changing the climate. (The Verge)
Software-as-a-Service Model Takes the Space Sector by Storm: As the space sector expands, companies large and small are adopting new business models, including Space Data as a Service, Satellite as a Service and Ground Station as a Service, which promise the benefits of space without the demands of satellite manufacturing, government regulations, launch integration or space data delivery. (Space News)
Pentagon Chiefs Insist Flat Defense Budget is Enough: Top defense officials have completed multiple trips to Capitol Hill to defend President Joe Biden’s flat defense budget request, and now the task of tailoring that request falls to Congress. (Defense News)
DHS & Immigration
Harris Stresses Shift in Immigration Policy During Border Trip: In her first trip to the U.S.-Mexico border as vice president, Kamala Harris last Friday attempted to broadcast a shift to a more humane immigration policy after the hardline approach of former President Donald Trump. (Roll Call)
DOJ Sues Georgia Over New Voting Law: The Justice Department filed a lawsuit last Friday to challenge Georgia’s new voting law, contending that state lawmakers included provisions with the intent to make it more difficult for Black voters to cast ballots. (Roll Call)
Enacting Tough Federal Cybersecurity Standards an Uphill Battle, Experts Say: Passing new cybersecurity standards would involve many congressional committees, federal departments, and regulatory bodies, which is an ongoing challenge, but there is broad support for requiring companies in critical infrastructure sectors to meet minimum cybersecurity standards. (Roll Call)
Pentagon CMMC Review Aims to Address Small Biz Cost Concerns, ‘Restore Trust’ in Assessment Processes: The Pentagon’s high-level review of the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification remains ongoing, but officials are intent on addressing small business concerns about compliance costs among other changes to the much-debated program. (Federal News Network)
Federal Judge Grants Halt to USDA Debt Relief for Farmers of Color: A federal judge in Florida last Wednesday night struck a new blow against the Agriculture Department’s historic debt relief program for farmers of color by issuing the first preliminary injunction amid a series of court battles. The order prohibits USDA from distributing any payments in the program until there is a final decision. (Politico)
EPA & DOI
EPA Watchdog Says Trump Appointees Kept Fired Employees on Payroll: Two high-ranking Trump political appointees at the Environmental Protection Agency arranged for a pair of agency employees to reap tens of thousands of dollars in salaries even after they were fired, according to a report from EPA’s Office of Inspector General. (Politico)