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Window on Washington – June 6, 2022, Vol. 6, Issue 22

June 6, 2022

Outlook for This Week in the Nation’s Capital

Congress. The House and Senate are back in session this week. The House plans to vote on numerous Education and Labor, Small Business, and Transportation and Infrastructure bills this week. The House will also take up the Water Resources Development Act of 2022 and a gun violence prevention package (H.R. 7910, Protecting Our Kids Act). Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of senators is working on a framework and the specifics of a narrower legislative approach to address gun violence. Congressional committees will resume their hearings this week as well, which include examining nominations, FY23 budget requests, the National Defense Authorization Act, road safety, gun violence, methane emissions, the Farm Bill, ocean climate action, and Veterans Affairs initiatives, such as a zero-suicide demonstration project. Additionally, the House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack will hold its first prime-time hearing this Thursday at 8 pm ET. The panel is expected to hold about a half-dozen public hearings in June and release a report on its findings in September. These efforts mark the culmination of conducting over 1,000 interviews and reviewing 125,000 records.
FY23 Appropriations. House and Senate Appropriations Committee leaders still need to come to a bipartisan deal on the overall split between defense and non-defense spending. While the Senate Appropriations Committee has not yet released its markup schedule, the House Appropriations Committee plans to start its markups with or without an agreement on toplines. The Agriculture and Related Agencies (including the FDA) Subcommittee’s markup is set for the 15th. As of late last week, one other Subcommittee (Transportation-Housing or THUD) was rumored to have a markup date for early next week. In the meantime, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees will have a couple more FY23 budget request hearings, including for the Arts and Humanities and for the Department of Education.
Biden Administration. The U.S. is hosting the 9th Summit of the Americas this week in Los Angeles. The week-long conference is expected to address major regional issues such as economic growth, climate change, clean energy, migration, and the pandemic. President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden will attend the summit on June 8, and Vice President Kamala Harris and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff will also participate. Separately, Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg and Deputy Secretary Polly Trottenberg will visit Oklahoma tomorrow to discuss the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and its investments. These activities occur amidst mounting frustration by White House aides that little they seem to do alters the President’s dismal approval ratings and its implications for the mid-term elections. (Politico)

Last Week in the Nation’s Capital


Labor & Workforce

NFL Commissioner, Commanders Owner Asked to Testify at House Hearing on Hostile Workplace Culture: The House Oversight Committee on Wednesday invited NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Washington Commanders owner Daniel Snyder to testify at a hearing as part of the committee’s ongoing investigation into allegations that the team has fostered a hostile workplace culture. (Politico) 


Graham says ‘It Is Time to Mobilize Our Retired and Former Service Members’ to Secure Schools: Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) last Tuesday called for retired and former military members to step up to enhance security in schools following the mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, last week. Graham wrote in a thread posted to his Twitter account that the U.S. has “hundreds of thousands” of former military members “who could bring a lot to the table” in protecting schools and that trained ROTC instructors should be able to carry firearms to make schools more secure. The senator also said that he is working on creating a certification process for former military members that will allow them to go through security training and prepare them to help schools across the country. (The Hill) 

Banking & Housing  

U.S. Senator Warren Plans Bill to Crack Down on Blank Check Deals: U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) is planning a bill to crack down on the special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, industry after a “proliferation” of bad deals that have often resulted in huge losses for investors. Warren’s forthcoming “SPAC Accountability Act of 2022” would increase the legal liability for a range of parties involved in such deals, enhance investor disclosures and lock up early investors for a longer period, which bankroll the deals. (Reuters) 


Bipartisan House Bill Introduced to Require Crypto Disclosures by Members: Reps. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) and Dusty Johnson (R-SD) introduced legislation that would require members of Congress to disclose all cryptocurrency holdings and transactions for themselves, their spouses, and their dependent children. (Seeking Alpha)

Tax Reform

Proposed Menthol Ban Highlights Debate Over ‘Sin Tax’ Revenue: A proposed federal ban on menthol cigarettes has underscored the tension lawmakers face in using so-called “sin tax” revenue to fund critical social programs at the state and federal levels. For decades, states have used sin taxes — excise taxes placed on things like tobacco, alcohol, and gambling — for health, education, and other public programs. Revenue has fallen over the years along with smoking rates, and the Food and Drug Administration’s recent proposal to ban menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars could trigger an even sharper decline. (Roll Call)


The Push to Supersize Pentagon Spending Ratchets Up: The bid for a larger Pentagon budget is gaining steam, as top lawmakers and the defense industry push to enlarge President Joe Biden’s already historically high $813 billion military spending proposal. Defense leaders, meanwhile are signaling that they would take Congress up on having more money to fight inflation. (Politico)

Toxic Exposure Bill Would Rewrite America’s Compact with Veterans: In a year in which Congress has strained for legislative achievements, a big one is in sight. When senators return from a Memorial Day recess spent honoring those who gave their lives for the United States, they will take up a bipartisan bill that will dramatically broaden America’s commitment to take care of sick veterans. The bill would offer new health care and tax-free disability benefits as high as $3,332 a month to as many as 3.5 million veterans at a cost the Congressional Budget Office has pegged at more than $300 billion over 10 years. (Roll Call)


House Judiciary Committee Advances Gun Control Bill: Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee advanced a bill Thursday with a swath of gun control proposals, setting up a floor vote as early as next week. Voices cracked and emotions ran high during a nearly 10-hour markup that ended with a vote of 25-19, along party lines, to approve the bill. It is the first push on broad legislation after a recent rash of mass shootings across the country. (Roll Call)

Senate Negotiators Have ‘Framework’ for Gun Legislation: Democratic and Republican negotiators on Capitol Hill have formed the outlines of gun legislation that would serve as a response to last week’s mass shooting at a Texas elementary school, which killed 19 students and two teachers, a source said. Senate negotiators met virtually for a second day Wednesday as they tried to hammer out a measure in the wake of the massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde. (NBC News) The action comes after a significant weekend of mass shootings in seven US cities.  (Axios)

Key Congressional Lawmakers Draft Competing Data Privacy Bills: Three key congressional lawmakers released a draft of a comprehensive data privacy bill on Friday, but the proposal lacks support from Senate Commerce Committee Chairwoman Maria Cantwell (D-WA). Senate Commerce Committee ranking member Roger Wicker (R-MS) and the top House Commerce Committee Reps. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) unveiled details of their draft privacy bill, which would require companies to design products with privacy in mind and includes even stricter regulations for dealing with customers under the age of 17. (The Hill) 


Senators Push for More Frequent Medical Device Cybersecurity Guidance From FDA: Sens. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) and Todd Young (R-IN) are introducing legislation that would require the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to keep federal guidance on medical device security up to date with rapidly evolving cyber threats to the health industry. The legislation would impose requirements on the FDA to work with the DHS’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency to issue binding guidance for industry and FDA staff regarding medical device cybersecurity no less than every two years, and also requires FDA to regularly update its website to share cybersecurity vulnerabilities and access to support for health care professionals and industry. (Cyberscoop) 

Environment & Interior

GOP Unveils Climate Agenda with Familiar Proposals: Expanding the use of natural gas and exporting it to allies and other countries is a central pillar of a climate agenda House Republicans unveiled Thursday that runs counter to the overwhelming advice from scientists. Republicans said they would unveil six elements of their energy and climate plan in the next two months in greater detail. (Roll Call)

Texas Democrats, Unions Call on Interior to Protect Workers’ Rights in Offshore Wind Leasing: A coalition of Texas unions and members of Congress is calling on the Biden administration to ensure workers’ rights are protected in the buildout of offshore wind infrastructure in the Gulf of Mexico. In a letter sent out Thursday morning, Democratic Reps. Al Green, Lloyd Doggett, Sylvia Garcia, Marc Veasey, Veronica Escobar, Vicente Gonzalez, Sheila Jackson-Lee and Joaquin Castro, who all represent districts in Texas, called on the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) to ensure that Gulf-based wind power projects are built by union labor. (The Hill) 


Manchin’s Bipartisan Energy Talks Crumble, Paving Way for Democrat-Only Deal: Bipartisan Senate energy talks led by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) are essentially over, with Republican senators convinced that Manchin is close to a reconciliation deal with Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), according to people familiar with the matter. The death of the bipartisan approach will allow Manchin and Schumer to focus on a potential deal that includes green energy tax credits and the tax increases to pay for them. (Axios)



More Cases of Monkeypox Expected as CDC Warns of Community Spread: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned last Friday that monkeypox may be spreading person-to-person in the United States after the agency confirmed three cases in individuals with no recent links to international travel. The public health agency has confirmed 20 monkeypox cases in 11 states. Most of the patients have traveled internationally and were likely exposed overseas, the CDC said, but three did not, and either may have had contact with a known case or didn’t know how they were infected. (Politico)

Progressives Slam HHS Decision to Keep Higher 2022 Medicare Premium: Progressives are criticizing the Biden administration’s recent announcement that the 2022 Medicare premium will not be cut despite lower-than-expected costs for a new Alzheimer’s medicine. The cost of a premium jumped by $21.60 to a minimum of $170.10 and a maximum of $578.30 in 2022, the largest increase in the program’s history. Premiums are based in part on income and tax-filing status. The jump was blamed in part on a need to shore up funds in case Medicare covered Aduhelm, the first Alzheimer’s medication to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in nearly 20 years. The drug is created by U.S. biotech company Biogen and initially had an annual cost of $56,000, before the company halved this price. (The Hill) 

Department of Education 

Biden Cancels All Remaining Student Loan Debt from Corinthian Colleges: The Biden administration plans to forgive all federal student loan debt still owed by more than a half million borrowers who attended Corinthian Colleges, capping off one of the most notorious for-profit college fraud scandals whose fallout has now spanned three presidencies. The debt relief will provide $5.8 billion worth of loan forgiveness to some 560,000 borrowers who attended dozens of Corinthian campuses scattered across the country during the company’s two decades of operation. (Politico) 

Banking & Housing/HUD

Fed Vice Chair Lael Brainard says It’s ‘Very Hard to See the Case’ for the Fed Pausing Rate Hikes: Federal Reserve Vice Chair Lael Brainard said Thursday that it’s unlikely the central bank will be taking a break from its current rate-hiking cycle anytime soon. Though she stressed that Fed policymakers will remain data-dependent, Brainard said the most likely path will be that the increases will continue until inflation is tamed. (CNBC)

FHFA Publishes Final Rule Around Capital Initiatives: The Federal Housing Finance Agency on Wednesday published a final rule that requires Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to submit annual capital plans to the agency. It follows the introduction of new public disclosure requirements through a separate rule the week prior. (National Mortgage News)


Biden Administration Studying New Climate and Energy Policies for Crypto: The Biden administration is working on a set of policy recommendations targeting bitcoin and crypto’s sky-high energy consumption and carbon footprint. Later this summer, the White House is expected to release a report detailing its investigations into the positive and negative aspects of bitcoin and crypto. (Forbes)


U.S. Asks Court to Reverse Order Lifting Airplane Mask Mandate: The U.S. Justice Department on Tuesday asked a federal appeals court to overturn a U.S. District Court judge’s April order that declared the government mandate requiring masks on airplanes, buses, and in transit hubs unlawful. (Reuters)

U.S. Postal Service Signals It Will Order More Electric Trucks: U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy said Wednesday that the U.S. Postal Service, which sparked controversy earlier this year by ordering a predominantly gas-powered fleet, is reconsidering the number of new trucks that will be electric vehicles (EV). In the statement, DeJoy said the USPS will publish a supplement to the original environmental impact statement (EIS) to its original truck order. Following a recently-announced plan to streamline delivery routes, USPS said the update may affect the gas-to-electric ratio of the vehicle order. (The Hill) 


U.S., Taiwan to Launch Trade Talks after Island Excluded from Indo-Pacific Group: The United States will launch new trade talks with Taiwan, U.S. officials said on Wednesday, just days after the Biden administration excluded the Chinese-claimed island from its Asia-focused economic plan designed to counter China’s growing influence. (Reuters)


NASA Just Bought the Rest of the Space Station Crew Flights from SpaceX: NASA said this week that it plans to purchase five additional Crew Dragon missions from SpaceX to carry astronauts to the International Space Station. Although the space agency’s news release does not specifically say so, these may be the final flights NASA needs to keep the space station fully occupied into the year 2030. (Ars Technica)

GAO Report Continues U.S. SpaceCom HQ Saga: The Government Accountability Office released its full report today assessing whether the Air Force followed proper procedures in choosing the Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, AL as the preferred location for U.S. Space Command headquarters. GAO does not resolve the question of political involvement in the decision because details on what transpired in the White House are classified, but it adds more to the public record on what did happen. (Space Policy Online)

Startups Raise Millions for Lunar Rovers and Asteroid Mining: Two startups recently raised a combined $25 million in seed rounds to advance plans for lunar and asteroid missions, showing continued interest in space startups despite broader market uncertainty. Colorado-based Lunar Outpost is already working on its first two rovers to be launched in 2023 and 2024, both part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services program. (Space News)

NASA selects new vendors for astronaut spacesuits.  NASA selected Axiom Space and Collins Aerospace as the two companies that will produce astronaut spacesuits for use on the International Space Station and for activities related to the Agency’s Artemis Cislunar Program. (Space News)


DARPA’s ‘3rd Wave’ AI Aims to Compute Uncertainty Along with Accuracy: The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is formally soliciting contracts for its new AI Exploration program. The AIE will focus on what DARPA defines as its “third wave” of artificial intelligence research, which includes AI theory and application research that examines limitations with rule and statistical learning theories belying AI technologies. (Defense One)

Strategic Review to Guide U.S. Approach to Space Weapons, Classification: The U.S. Department of Defense expects to wrap up a review by the end of next month that will inform the Biden Administration’s space policy and guide decisions on the right mix of offensive and defensive capabilities. National security adviser Jake Sullivan directed DoD and the intelligence community to conduct the “space strategic review,” which should be completed by late June or July, according to Lt. Gen. William Liquori, who oversees strategy, requirements, and analysis for the Space Force. (Defense News)

DHS & Immigration

Biden Set to Secure Historic Refugee Deal with Spain: The Biden administration is expecting a commitment from Spain — set to be announced at next week’s Summit of the Americas — to resettle refugees from the Western Hemisphere for the first time ever. The pledge — along with other expected commitments from Canada — could provide a political boost to President Biden, whose administration has continued to grapple with unmanageable volumes of asylum seekers at the southern border. (Axios)

The Biden Administration Begins Shifting Asylum Determinations to Federal Officers: The Homeland Security Department this week began shifting responsibilities of adjudicating some asylum cases from a court system to federal officers, promising to staff and train thousands of new employees to expedite the process and reduce longstanding backlogs. (GovExec)


Biden Urges Congress to Renew Assault Weapons Ban, Pass Stricter Gun Laws: President Biden on Thursday called for a series of specific actions to respond to recent mass shootings, using a prime-time address to urge Congress to ban assault-style weapons and high-capacity magazines or otherwise raise the purchasing age from 18 to 21. Biden also pushed Congress to expand background checks, pass “red flag” laws and safe storage requirements, as well as repeal the liability shield for gun manufacturers and dealers following a spate of recent mass shootings across the country. (The Hill)


Cyber Command Chief Confirms U.S. Took Part in Offensive Cyber Operations: U.S. Cyber Command Director Gen. Paul Nakasone confirmed for the first time that the U.S. had conducted offensive cyber operations in support of Ukraine. “We’ve conducted a series of operations across the full spectrum: offensive, defensive, [and] information operations,” Nakasone said in an interview Wednesday with Sky News, a British television news channel. (The Hill)

CISA Solicits Feedback on Finer Points of Coming Software Transparency Requirement: Over five days in July, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency will hold a series of listening sessions to increase visibility across the federal enterprise—a core tenet of an executive order to improve the nation’s cybersecurity—through the use of a Software Bill of Materials, or SBOM. (Next Gov)


Biden-Harris Administration Drought Resilience Interagency Working Group Releases Summary Report, Marks One Year Since Interagency Coordination: The Biden-Harris Administration today released the Drought Resilience Interagency Working Group’s (IWG) Summary Report outlining the actions taken to date to improve drought-stricken communities’ longer-term resilience to drought through financial and technical assistance. (Clark Hill Insight)

USDA Announces Framework to Transform Food Supply Chain: The USDA last week released a framework to transform the food system to benefit consumers, producers, and rural communities by providing more options, increasing access, and creating new, more, and better markets for small and mid-size producers. The announcement supports the Biden-Harris Administration’s broader work to strengthen critical supply chains as directed by Executive Order 14017 America’s Supply Chains. Funding is provided by the American Rescue Plan Act and other relief legislation. (Clark Hill Insight) 


EPA Delivers Mixed Results on Biofuels Blending Requirements: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Friday finalized biofuels requirements with mixed results for the ethanol and oil industries. The EPA’s finalized requirements for 2022 would require a significant amount of biofuels like ethanol, which comes from corn, to be blended into gasoline. The agency also separately rejected requests from refiners for exemptions to blending requirements. (The Hill)

EPA Proposes Giving States More Power to Block Projects, Reversing Trump: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing to give states and tribes more power to block infrastructure projects like pipelines that run through their waters, reversing a Trump-era move. The EPA issued a proposed rule on Thursday that would give states more discretion under the Clean Water Act to veto projects that may have impacts on their waters. (The Hill)

Biden Administration Cuts Fees for Renewable Energy on Public Lands: The Biden administration is seeking to make it easier to deploy renewable energy on public lands, slashing the amount of money that companies have to pay to use these lands for wind and solar. The Interior Department said in a statement on Tuesday that it would implement a “rate reduction policy” for solar and wind energy that “substantially” reduces the rates and fees developers have to pay the government. (The Hill)

Department of Energy

OPEC+ Agrees to Pump More Oil Ahead of Possible Biden Middle East Trip: OPEC+ announced Thursday that members of the oil cartel agreed to a larger-than-expected hike in output, signaling a potential thaw in relations between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia ahead of a potential trip by President Joe Biden’s trip to the Middle East. The White House offered measured praise for the move, giving credit to Riyadh for acknowledging tight market conditions and pushing OPEC members to boost their production. (Politico)

Harris Unveils Plan to ‘Elevate’ Water Security in Foreign Policy: Vice President Harris on Wednesday announced a plan that aims to “elevate” water security as a national security issue. She said that the plan would involve “fully committing” the U.S. to helping provide access to safe water and sanitation services around the world by sharing “world-leading” water data to help manage and preserve water resources and using diplomatic resources to “elevate water security” as an international priority. (The Hill)

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