Window on Washington - May 17, 2021, Vol. 5, Issue 20
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 this week on two major pieces of legislation related to the Capitol insurrection: one bill (H.R. 3233) would establish a bipartisan, independent commission that has subpoena power to investigate the incident, while the other bill (H.R. 3237)would provide $1.9 billion in emergency appropriations to cover costs from the Jan. 6 incident and to enhance security on Capitol Hill. The House will also consider the Senate-passed COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act (S. 937) as well as several bills related to Veterans’ Affairs, the STEM field, and financial services. The Senate is still in the process of confirming President Biden’s nominees, which includes a Senate Commerce Committee vote on Thursday for Eric Lander to be Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) as well as a hearing on the nomination of Dr. Rick Spinrad for NOAA Administrator.
There are many other hearings throughout the week as well, including from House Oversight and Reform on unsustainable drug prices, House Science on NASA’s earth science and climate change activities as well as on scientific computing at the Department of Energy, Senate Finance on COVID-19 health care flexibilities, Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) on the health care workforce crisis, and House Armed Services on the Department of Defense’s science and technology programs.
FY22 Budget and Appropriations. The President’s full FY22 budget request will be released on Thursday, May 27. Meanwhile, the House Appropriations Committee will hold numerous member days this week, as well as hearings on U.S. Customs and Border Protection resource management and operational priorities, NASA’s FY22 budget request, and the need for universal broadband. The Senate Appropriations Committee has hearings on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) FY22 budget blueprint, on rethinking disaster recovery and resiliency for communities, and on military infrastructure and climate resilience. House Energy and Commerce will hold a hearing tomorrow on the FY22 budget for the Department of Energy.
Endless Frontier Act. The Senate last Thursday began the process to bring the Endless Frontier Act (S. 1260) to the Senate floor. It is expected that the Senate’s floor debate on the legislation will occur both this and next week, though Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) believes they will be able to hold a vote on the bill before Memorial Day weekend. However, once the Endless Frontier Act passes the Senate, it will still need to be reconciled with the House’s competing bipartisan legislation, the NSF for the Future Act (H.R. 2225). Additional details on the future of the Endless Frontier Act can be found from AIP here.
Infrastructure Package. The Senate Finance and Senate Banking Committees will each hold hearings this week to discuss infrastructure financing and investments. Additionally, after a productive meeting with President Biden last week, Senate Republicans plan to come back with a revised infrastructure package proposal this week. Separately, after President Biden’s meeting with Congressional leadership, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-OR) indicated that the goal is to put the infrastructure package on the House floor before July 4, though it remains to be seen if that timeline is feasible. Meanwhile, House T&I plans to markup their surface transportation bill and a wastewater infrastructure measure soon. They are still reviewing all the member-designated transportation project requests as well. The Senate’s surface transportation bill is also in the process of being finalized, and Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman Tom Carper (D-DE) has indicated that decisions on earmarks will be made later.
Biden Administration. President Biden will visit Ford’s new plant and other facilities in Dearborn, Michigan tomorrow. This will be Biden’s second visit to Michigan since taking office but his first visit to the Detroit area. On Friday, President Biden will host South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the White House.
Last Week in the Nation’s Capital
Budget & Appropriations
Earmarked Accounts in Senate Won’t Overlap Cleanly with House: House and Senate appropriators could be headed for a challenging conference process later this year when both chambers try to reconcile the different accounts they’ve made eligible for earmark requests. (Roll Call)
Democrats Reject GOP’s Debt Limit Demands: The Democratic majority says it has no intention of negotiating with Republicans bent on slashing spending as a condition for avoiding default after the July 31 deadline. Democrats say they won’t haggle with the minority party over the faith and credit of the United States, citing lessons from the presidency of Barack Obama. (Politico)
Senate Approves Andrea Palm to Serve as HHS Second-in-Command: President Joe Biden’s pick to be Deputy Secretary at the Health and Human Services Department, Andrea Palm, was confirmed last Tuesday by the full Senate in a 61-37 vote. (Bloomberg Law)
Collins, Moran Break CMS Deadlock: The Senate advanced Chiquita Brooks-LaSure’s nomination to lead the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Jerry Moran (R-KS) joined with Democrats to back Brooks-LaSure. The 51-48 tally signals that Brooks-LaSure is likely to be confirmed, potentially as early as this week, despite widespread GOP opposition to her nomination that emerged in recent weeks as a protest to Biden administration Medicaid policies. (Politico)
Labor & Workforce
Republicans Introduce Bill to Counter PRO Act on Joint Employer Standard: The Save Local Business Act would counter the joint employer provision of the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, or PRO Act, which is a top policy focus of the Biden administration, Democrats in Congress and union leaders. (The Hill)
Banking & Housing
U.S. Senate Votes to Repeal ‘True Lender’ Banking Rule Issued Under Trump: The U.S. Senate voted last Tuesday to repeal a regulation introduced during former President Donald Trump’s administration that Democrats say allows predatory lenders to skirt state consumer protections. The White House said in a statement it supported the resolution repealing the rule, which now heads to the Democratic-led House, where it is also expected to pass. (Reuters)
New York, New Jersey, California Face Long Odds in Scrapping SALT: Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) face an uphill battle on one of their top tax priorities, repealing the cap President Trump put on deducting state and local taxes. (The Hill)
Lawmakers Happily Embrace Return of Earmarks to Highway Bill: Disclosure forms have revealed that lawmakers in the House of Representatives requested $14.9 billion in earmarks in the surface transportation bill, which is still being drafted. (Roll Call)
Reps. DeFazio, Carbajal, Graves Introduce Legislation Bolstering Port Resiliency, Funding: The Resilient Ports Act (H.R. 3033) would create funding eligibility within the Port Infrastructure Development Program (PIDP) for port infrastructure projects that reduce ports’ carbon footprints, increases the set aside for inland river and small ports from 18 percent to 25 percent and adds additional selection considerations for port infrastructure projects that address resiliency among other provisions. (Transportation Today News)
Space/NASA & NOAA
Senate Committee Passes NASA Authorization Requiring Second HLS for Moon Exploration: A key Senate committee approved a new NASA Authorization Act last week as part of a larger bill to increase U.S. government investments in research, development, and manufacturing. The NASA portion builds on a bill passed by the Senate late last year but doubles down on the need to fund at least two Human Landing System (HLS) contractors, not just one. (Space Policy Online)
U.S. Senator Says China Landing on Mars a Reminder ‘We Don’t Own Space Anymore’: Just hours after a Chinese rover successfully touched down on the surface of Mars Friday evening, Sen. Angus King (I-ME), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, said the achievement puts to rest any doubt that China is a rising space power that will challenge the United States. (Space News)
Pentagon’s Electronic-Warfare Gear Is Dated, Experts Say: The U.S. military is spending too little on new electronic warfare gear, putting it behind China and Russia in the race to jam radios, spoof radars, and hide their own emissions, experts and lawmakers said during a hearing last week. (Defense One)
Turner to Lead House GOP Push for Military Sexual Assault Overhaul: Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH), a key member of the Armed Services Committee, has announced plans to lead a new Republican effort in the House to overhaul how the military handles sexual assault and other serious crimes, amid a rise in cases in the ranks. He also endorsed Senator Gillibrand’s (D-NY) bill to change how the services handle serious crimes. (Politico)
Homeland Security & Immigration
Bipartisan Immigration Talks Thwarted by Escalating Migration: A bipartisan group of senators is plodding ahead with talks on comprehensive immigration overhaul legislation, but Republicans say they’re reluctant to sign on to any agreement unless the White House takes stronger action to stem migration at the U.S.-Mexico border. (Roll Call)
U.S. Senate Confirms New Deputy Secretary of Agriculture: The U.S. Senate last Thursday voted to confirm Jewel Bronaugh to be deputy secretary of agriculture, the second-highest position at USDA.(Capital Press)
The Green Schism Threatening Biden’s Climate Plan: Congressional Democrats have not yet converted Biden’s American Jobs Plan into legislative language, so the current battle is largely being waged over a hypothetical clean electricity standard. But the critics that say it does not go far enough have taken aim at two earlier Democratic CES bills with expansive definitions of “clean” — one from Sen. Tina Smith (D-MN) and one from House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Frank Pallone (D-NJ). (Politico)
Budget & Appropriations
White House to Release Full Fiscal 2022 Budget Request May 27: The White House will release its fully fleshed out fiscal 2022 budget request May 27, providing a detailed look at how President Joe Biden wants Congress to address taxes and spending during the next decade. (Roll Call)
Biden Health Official Says COVID-19 Vaccine Booster Shots Will Be Free: David Kessler, the chief science officer for the White House’s COVID-19 response team, told senators at a hearing on Tuesday that the federal government has funding to purchase the next round of vaccines, so individuals won’t have to pay. (The Hill)
Labor & Workforce
Biden Urges Employers to Boost Wages but Warns Workers They’ll Lose Unemployment Pay if they Reject Jobs: President Joe Biden said his administration will distribute more coronavirus relief funds as it aims to help companies hire more workers. While he urged companies to boost wages and make workplaces safe to entice workers, Biden also said people who do not take an offer for a “suitable job” would lose unemployment benefits unless they have a specific coronavirus-related concern. (CNBC)
Department of Education
Teachers Union Leader Calls for ‘Fully Reopening’ Schools This Fall: American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten called for schools to reopen full time and in person this fall and set out a multimillion-dollar outreach campaign to coax families back to campuses, as President Joe Biden’s administration presses for a quick resumption of regular classes. (Politico)
USTR Seeks Better Trade Remedy than 232 Tariffs: The Biden administration wants a better trade remedy than the nearly 60-year-old Section 232 tariffs that the Trump administration used to counter imports of foreign steel and aluminum in the name of protecting national security, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai told lawmakers last Wednesday. (Agri-Pulse)
Space/NASA & NOAA
ESA Partners with Startup to Launch First Debris Removal Mission in 2025: The European Space Agency (ESA) announced plans to launch a space debris removal mission in 2025 with the help of a Swiss start-up called ClearSpace. The mission, dubbed ClearSpace-1, will use an experimental, four-armed robot to capture a Vega Secondary Payload Adapter (Vespa) left behind by ESA’s Vega launcher in 2013. (Space.com)
New Guidance on Acquisition Requirements Coming this Month: New guidance from the Joint Requirements Oversight Council, or JROC, will arrive by the end of the month, with an emphasis on how to speed up key areas for the Pentagon, according to Gen. John Hyten, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. (Defense News)
DHS & Immigration
Biden Reverses Trump Order Barring Immigrants Who Cannot Afford Healthcare: President Biden last Friday revoked a 2019 proclamation signed by then-President Trump that prevented immigrants from obtaining visas unless they proved they could obtain health insurance or pay for health care. (The Hill)
Pipeline Hack Exposes Federal Holes in U.S. Cyber Oversight: The roundabout path through the FBI and DHS of critical information about the cyberattack has raised new questions about the ability of the federal government — and another DHS office, the Transportation Security Administration, in particular — to effectively oversee the cyberdefenses of the roughly 2.7 million miles of U.S. pipeline networks. (E&E News)
Biden Orders Wide Cybersecurity Changes for Government, Contractors: Following government cyber breaches, the Biden administration issued a cybersecurity order requiring improved protections at government agencies and prompt breach reports from federal computer network and cloud service suppliers. (C4ISR Net)
CISA to Pilot Secure Cloud Instance in Response to SolarWinds Attack: CISA will use some of the $650 million it received through the American Rescue Plan to test out new concepts and to pilot “a secure, threat hardened cloud environment” that would be a model for standardizing federal and vendor cloud security. (Federal News Network)
EPA & DOI
Cost Analysis is Latest Trump-Era Rule to be Rescinded by EPA: The EPA announced last Thursday it is rescinding the previous administration’s “benefit-cost” rule that critics say inappropriately hampers the agency’s ability to issue regulations on air pollution. (Roll Call)
Department of Energy
After Many Delays, Massachusetts’ Vineyard Wind is Finally Approved: After years of delays, the federal government has approved what will be the third offshore wind project in the U.S.—and the largest by far. The new project will be over 20 times larger than anything built in the U.S. (Ars Technica)
EPA Orders St. Croix Refinery to Shut Down for 60 Days Due to ‘Imminent Threat’ to Islanders’ Health: The refinery and its recent incidents has been the subject of controversy in recent months after the Trump administration in December approved the plant’s reopening following a series of spills and accidents that resulted in $5 million in EPA fines and the plant’s closure in 2012. (The Hill)
Let’s Go Shopping: The Impact of Liquor & Cannabis on the Retail MarketExplore more
PFAS Restrictions: What Should You Be Doing?Explore more
Up in Smoke: Navigating Marijuana Laws in the Workplace
Employees’ lawful use of marijuana—both recreational and medical—presents numerous traps for the unwary employer. This webinar will address the various legal and practical issues that matter to employers and HR professionals when confronting employees’ lawful marijuana use.