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Window on Washington – May 2, 2022, Vol. 6, Issue 17

May 2, 2022

Outlook for This Week in the Nation’s Capital

Congress. The Senate is in session this week but the House is in recess. The House and Senate are continuing the conference process for the Bipartisan Innovation Act, and their goal is to finish the legislation by Memorial Day Weekend, a deadline that appears difficult to achieve. Congress is also working to address COVID relief, Title 42, and Ukraine aid. While the $33 billion Ukraine aid package has bipartisan support, Democrats are hoping to tie in the COVID-19 relief aid to the package as well. Hearings for the week include examining nominations, FY23 agency budget requests, the broadband workforce, Department of State authorization, and securing the southwest border. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will also hold a markup for the 2022 Water Resources Development Act on Wednesday.

Budget and Appropriations. The four corners of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees met last week to discuss a framework for the FY23 process, and they are looking to reach a deal on topline discretionary spending, the apportionment of dollars allocated between defense and non-defense programs, within the next few weeks. The Senate Appropriations Committees will have a busy week holding numerous FY23 hearings, including on the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), U.S. Forest Service (USFS), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Department of Transportation (DOT), Department of Energy (DOE), Department of Defense (DOD), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Russia-Ukraine. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) led a small delegation of House members to Kyiv, Ukraine and met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and other top Ukrainian officials. Their surprise trip came less than week after Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken went to Kyiv. As of now, there are no plans for President Joe Biden to visit.

Biden Administration. President Joe Biden will travel to Alabama tomorrow to visit a Lockheed Martin facility that is manufacturing weapons being provided to Ukraine. Later in the month, Biden will travel to South Korea and Japan from May 20-24.

Last Week in the Nation’s Capital


Budget & Appropriations

Chief Appropriators Meet to Begin Annual Spending Talks: Congressional negotiators last Thursday kicked off spending talks for government funding for the coming year, with sights set on finishing up work by the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30, ahead of the midterm elections. Senate Appropriations Chairman Pat Leahy (D-VT) said he anticipates having topline numbers for funding in the coming weeks, while also reiterating hopes that lawmakers can work across the aisle to put a sizable dent in tying up some of the 12 annual appropriation bills by the Sept. 30 deadline, when fiscal 2022 ends. (The Hill)

$33 Billion Ukraine Aid Request Hits Early Snag: President Joe Biden’s request for $33 billion in aid to Ukraine hit an early snag on Capitol Hill, where a dispute over immigration policy threatens to hamstring an otherwise urgent ask to assist Kyiv against Russia’s invasion. Republicans are also protesting a new effort by Democrats to link the $33 billion with a separate bipartisan compromise providing $10 billion in additional Covid relief funding. Biden made the pairing explicit last Thursday in his formal request for Ukrainian aid to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). (CNBC)


Pelosi Endorses Strategy to Combine Ukraine, COVID Aid: Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) last Friday endorsed the idea of combining two of the Democrats’ top legislative priorities — aid to Ukraine and new funding for COVID-19 relief — into one package next month, citing the urgency to move swiftly on both. That strategy is being considered by Senate Democratic leaders, who see the popular Ukraine assistance as a possible sweetener to obtain bipartisan support for the more controversial health care funding, which Republicans have threatened to block amid the partisan fight over President Biden’s pandemic policies at the Southern border. (The Hill)

Banking & Housing

Some States’ Anti-ESG Push Garners Support in Congress: Republican state lawmakers are berating U.S. financial institutions for increased reliance on environmental, social and governance metrics to screen investments and analyze credit risk factors, with some of the critics attracting support in Congress. (Roll Call)

Senators Warren, Menendez, Reed Blast Zelle Parent Company on Failure to Address Consumer Fraud and Scams: U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), and Jack Reed (D-RI) questioned Early Warning Systems, LLC, the parent company of the money transfer platform Zelle about disturbing reports of widespread fraud and scams on the platform, and the ongoing failure by Zelle and the big banks that own this service to address the scams and provide appropriate redress to defrauded consumers. Early Warning Systems, LLC. is owned by seven of the U.S.’s largest banks, including J.P. Morgan, Chase & Co., Bank of America, and Wells Fargo. (Clark Hill Insight)


US Lawmakers Reintroduce Bill to Give CFTC Crypto Spot Market Oversight: The Digital Commodity Exchange Act of 2022, introduced last week by representatives Glenn Thompson (R-PA), Ro Khanna (D-CA) Tom Emmer (R-MN) and Darren Soto (D-FL), would create a definition for “digital commodity” and allow the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to oversee companies issuing or letting people trade these types of tokens, while having the Securities and Exchange Commission continue to oversee tokens that fall under U.S. securities laws. “The term ‘digital commodity’ means any form of fungible intangible personal property that can be exclusively possessed and transferred person to person without necessary reliance on an intermediary,” a copy of the bill said. (CoinDesk)


Truckers Hope Bill Brings Long-Sought Overtime Pay to Their Field: The 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act, which requires employers to pay workers time-and-a-half for more than 40 hours worked, carved out an exemption for truck drivers. But a bipartisan bill in the House aims to eliminate that exemption. The bill, introduced by Rep. Andy Levin (D-MI) would repeal the motor carrier overtime exemption in the Fair Labor Standards Act, allowing truck drivers to be compensated for all the hours they work. (Roll Call)

Lawmakers Seek Tax Break for Car Dealers Facing Supply Troubles: A bipartisan contingent of lawmakers is pressing to give car dealerships relief from bigger tax bills they could face due to global microchip shortages that have pinched the supply of new vehicles. Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI) is leading the charge to deliver relief to dealerships and working to attach his bill with Rep. Jodey C. Arrington (R-TX) to a bigger package that can get it to President Joe Biden’s desk in the coming months. (Roll Call)

U.S. Senate Democrats Urge Buttigieg to Develop Autonomous Vehicle Rules: A group of 12 U.S. Senate Democrats on Wednesday urged Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to develop a comprehensive federal framework for autonomous vehicles. (Reuters)

U.S. House Committee Approves Bills Funding Drone, Air Taxi Uses: A key committee in the US House of Representatives has approved two bills seeking grants to prepare for expanded drone operation and future urban air mobility (UAM) services like air taxis and is now passing those along for full legislative examination and voting. The development came with the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s 54-4 backing of a bill aiming create a program to provide funding for increased drone use in infrastructure inspections. A separate bill waved through on a 55-2 vote seeks to establish a grant mechanism for the development of UAM facilities like vertiports for air taxi flights. Odds for passage of the texts by the full House appear good, given the strong – and increasingly rare – bipartisan support of the committee. (DroneDJ)

Manchin Calls EV Tax Credit Expansion ‘Ludicrous’: Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) threw cold water on yet another aspect of his party’s approach to climate policy. While the Biden administration has proposed expanding the popular electric vehicle tax credit, Manchin called the idea “ludicrous” during a Senate budget hearing on Thursday. (Protocol)

Homeland Security & Immigration

Immigration Reform Withers as Democrats Descend into Border Infighting: The Democratic Party is consumed by border politics right now — just not the kind it wanted to tackle when it claimed Congress and the White House. And the prospects of comprehensive immigration reform this year? “Zero,” said Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), a lead sponsor of President Joe Biden’s signature immigration bill. (Politico)

Senate Republicans Balk on Funds Related to Biden’s Border Move: Republicans largely aren’t interested in additional government resources to manage any expected increase of migrants on the U.S.-Mexico border if the Biden administration follows through on a plan to stop pandemic-era border expulsions next month. Senate Republicans last Tuesday threw cold water on the possibility of supplemental funding, which might be used to shore up border patrol activities, fund detention centers, or provide food, shelter, and medical care for migrants. (Roll Call)

Free Speech Concerns Mount Over DHS ‘Disinformation’ Board as Lawmakers, Critics Weigh in: Federal and state lawmakers, constitutional scholars and other experts are expressing concerns with the Department of Homeland Security’s new misinformation board, which they say is the Biden administration’s attempt to stifle free speech. Mayorkas announced during testimony Wednesday before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security that DHS had created a Disinformation Governance Board to combat online disinformation. (Fox News)


Judge Childs, Onetime Supreme Court Contender, Garners Support for Appellate Role: U.S. District Judge J. Michelle Childs faced little opposition to her nomination to join a key appeals court last Wednesday, with Republican Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) saying he would have backed President Joe Biden picking her for the U.S. Supreme Court instead. (Reuters)

Biden Wants to Give State and Local Police Access to Drone-Tracking Tech: President Biden’s administration called for Congress’s help in letting more law enforcement agencies access drone tracking systems on Monday. In recent months, government use of counter-drone systems has become more controversial after a Ukrainian government official asked drone-maker DJI to cut off Russia’s access to its AeroScope drone location system. (The Verge)


Meatpacking CEOs Deny Anti-Competitive Accusations During Grilling on Capitol Hill: The top executives of four meatpacking companies that dominate the U.S. beef sector last Wednesday rejected accusations from President Joe Biden and some lawmakers that the conglomerates are unfairly jacking up consumer prices while underpaying struggling farmers. (Politico)

Stabenow Gives Michigan Farmers First Say in Federal Bill to Update Agricultural Policies: Last Friday, the first field hearing for the 117th Congress was held at Michigan State University, as Michigan’s farmers and food distributors had the chance to bring their concerns directly to America’s kitchen table. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) was joined by Ranking Member John Boozman (R-AR). Stabenow and Boozman heard from more than a dozen Michigan residents with stakes in the food and farming industry, each hoping to plant a seed for changes they want to see in the new Farm Bill. (Up North Live)

Environment & Interior

Democrats Launch Mining Law Reform Effort: With demand soaring for metals needed to make electric vehicles and zero-carbon energy projects, prominent Democrats today mounted an effort to reshape U.S. mining laws. House Natural Resources Chair Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) and Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) today announced they introduced two bills that would update the nation’s primary mining law, the General Mining Act of 1872. (E&E News)


Democrats say They Will Act Soon to Lower Gas Prices: House Democrats intend to move in the coming weeks to pass legislation designed to rein in skyrocketing gas prices, the head of the House Democratic Caucus said Wednesday. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) did not commit his support for a federal gas tax holiday, which has divided Democrats on and off of Capitol Hill. (The Hill)

U.S. Senate Panel Expected to Vote on Bill Allowing Lawsuits Against OPEC: A U.S. Senate panel will consider as soon as next week a bill to open the OPEC oil production group and countries working with it to lawsuits for collusion on boosting petroleum prices, Senator Chuck Grassley’s (R-IA) office said on Thursday. (Reuters)

Bipartisan Senate Group Discusses Climate and Energy: A bipartisan group of senators met last Monday evening to discuss a potential climate and energy bill that can garner 60 votes in the Senate and revive the barest elements of President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda. (Axios)



FDA Sets Tentative June Dates for Meeting on Young Kids’ Vaccine: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last Friday released tentative June dates for its advisory committee to meet to discuss authorizing COVID-19 vaccines for young children, offering a rough timeline for when authorization could come.  The agency said it is setting aside June 8, 21 and 22 for meetings of its advisory committee for vaccines for children under 5 and will provide more details once applications from Pfizer and Moderna are complete.  That timetable suggests that if all goes according to plan, authorizations for the vaccine for children under 5 could come in June. (The Hill)

Evidence of Trump Officials’ Meddling Puts Trust Spotlight On CDC: New evidence of political interference in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s early pandemic response raised fresh questions in Congress last Friday on how to prevent future meddling and strengthen public trust in the health agency. Emails detailing how Trump administration officials intervened to take out “offensive” language that raised “religious liberty concerns” from CDC guidance to faith communities in May 2020 were released by the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis ahead of a Friday hearing on the scientific integrity of public health agencies. (Politico)

Labor & Workforce

Mayorkas’ Message to Migrants Remains: ‘Do Not Come’: Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Sunday reiterated his calls from about a year ago for migrants to “not come” to the southern border of the U.S. “What happens now is individuals are either expelled under the Title 42 authority or they are placed in immigration enforcement proceedings. And they are removed if they do not have a valid claim under our law to remain. And so the border is not open,” Mayorkas told host Dana Bash on CNN’s “State of the Union.” (Politico)

Department of Education

Biden Says He’s Considering Canceling ‘Some’ Student Debt: President Joe Biden confirmed on Thursday that he’s considering canceling “some” amount of federal student loan debt but emphatically ruled out acceding to progressive demands to forgive as much as $50,000 per borrower. “I am considering dealing with some debt reduction,” Biden said in remarks at the White House. “I am not considering $50,000 debt reduction.” (Politico)

Banking & Housing/HUD

FHFA Unveils GSE Duty to Serve Plans: The Federal Housing Finance Agency last Wednesday released Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s long-awaited duty to serve underserved markets plans. In the plans, both government-sponsored enterprises explain how they will provide financing for manufactured and rural housing, and support affordable housing preservation. (HousingWire)

U.S. Consumer Chief Chopra to Revisit Rules Around Credit Card Fees, Abuses: The U.S. consumer watchdog will revisit its rules around credit card fees in a bid to stamp out abuses, discourage excessive late fees and boost competition, the agency’s director told Congress on Wednesday. (Reuters)

Senate Confirms Lael Brainard as Federal Reserve Vice Chair: The Senate voted on Tuesday to confirm Lael Brainard as the Federal Reserve’s vice chair, approving a key Biden nominee empowered to help lead the central bank’s fight against high inflation. Brainard, currently a governor at the Fed, received some bipartisan support, with multiple Republicans supporting her nomination to a four-year term. The vote was 52-43. (CNN)


Biden to Nominate Five for U.S. Passenger Railroad Amtrak Board: U.S. President Joe Biden plans to nominate five people to serve on the Amtrak board as the U.S. passenger railroad is making an aggressive push to expand service and improve key infrastructure. (Reuters)

Buttigieg says 5G, FAA Interference Issue Won’t Be Resolved by Summer: U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told members of Congress this week that the technological fix to concerns about possible interference between new 5G service and key airplane equipment, which resulted in a standoff between the wireless industry and airline regulators earlier this year, “won’t be completely resolved by this summer,” and he said it remained a “top concern.” (CNET)

FMCSA Revs up Plan to Mandate Speed Limits on Truck Engines: Federal regulators plan to propose setting a truck speed limit using electronic engine devices in a proposed rule anticipated in 2023. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration on Wednesday issued a notice of intent to solicit comments that the agency will use to inform a supplementary notice of proposed rulemaking (SNPRM), which will include a proposal to amend the regulations and set a speed limit. (FreightWaves)

STB Searches for Answers About Freight Rail Delays: The U.S. Surface Transportation Board began two days of emergency public hearings April 26 to try to find ways to loosen the still jammed supply chain. “We all know why we are here,” STB Chairman Martin Oberman said at the start of the hearings, just moments before he introduced U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to testify. (Transport Topics)

National Transportation Safety Board Wants to Expand Drone Operations: Federal agencies plan to continue incorporating drone technology into their business operations, with government pilots currently focusing on threading the needle between automation and safety, with the surveillance aircraft. One agency looking to capitalize on improved drone technology is the National Transportation Safety Board, which has been employing drones to capture footage from accidents among maritime, aircraft and auto transportation systems since 2016. (NextGov)


USTR Opposes Senate-Backed Restart of Section 301 Exclusion Process: The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative last week told Democratic senators it opposes language in the Senate’s U.S. Innovation and Competition Act that would mandate restarting a robust Section 301 tariff-exclusion process, saying the provisions would undermine the administration’s efforts to address unfair Chinese trade practices. (Inside U.S. Trade)


NOAA’s Office of Space Commerce Gets New Director, Elevated Position:  Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo announced today that Richard DalBello will be the new Director of NOAA’s Office of Space Commerce. OSC has been without a permanent director since the change of administrations 15 months ago. She also said the office will be elevated to a higher level within NOAA, a step recommended by the Senate Appropriations Committee among others.  (Space Policy Online)

Space Force has Insatiable Demand for Geospatial Intelligence:  After decades of focusing on gathering geospatial intelligence (GEOINT) from space, the U.S. military now also seeks GEOINT to track objects and activity in space.  To combat these threats, Saltzman called for training and equipping U.S. forces to attribute irresponsible or aggressive behavior in space and for improving space-based intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR).  (Space News)


DARPA Budget Request Seeks to Bolster ‘Critical’ Defense Technologies:  DARPA’s detailed fiscal 2023 budget plan was released April 25, nearly a month after the DOD unveiled its top-level spending request. The budget proposal shows a $250 million increase over the $3.8 billion Congress appropriated for DARPA in fiscal 2022, largely driven by an $883 million ask for microelectronics, $414 million for biotech programs and $412 million for AI efforts.  (Defense News)

As Satellite Images Reshape Conflict, Worries Mount About Keeping Them Safe:  If Russia is defeated in its war against Ukraine, it will be thanks in no small part to publicly available satellite images. Pictures of Russian military movements and actions have helped mount defenses, expose Russian falsehoods and war crimes, and galvanize Ukrainian allies. But precisely because the recent explosion in space-generated intelligence is proving so valuable, industry and military officials are concerned about potential adversaries’ growing abilities to target satellites.  (Defense One)

DHS & Immigration

Mayorkas Cites Misinformation about Homeland Security’s Disinformation Board: Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Sunday defended the department’s new disinformation board amid pushback from conservatives who say the effort is Orwellian. “It works to ensure that the way in which we address threats, the connectivity between threats and acts of violence are addressed without infringing on free speech — protecting civil rights and civil liberties, the right of privacy,” Mayorkas told CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union.” (Politico)


Commerce Department Backs Key Antitrust Bill Targeting Tech Giants: Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said Wednesday the department supports a proposal that aims to block tech giants from giving preferential treatment to their own products and services. The Commerce Department’s backing adds to the Biden administration’s support behind the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, following a letter the Department of Justice (DOJ) released last month. (The Hill)

The EU, U.S., and 32 Other Countries just Announced a ‘Declaration for the Future of the Internet’: The United States, all European Union member states, and 32 non-EU countries have announced a “Declaration for the Future of the Internet” that lays out priorities for an “open, free, global, interoperable, reliable, and secure” internet. It highlights goals like affordability, net neutrality, and removing illegal content without curtailing free expression — although it offers few specifics for achieving them. (The Verge)


NIST Official: Revised Cybersecurity Supply-Chain Guidance Imminent:  The National Institute of Standards and Technology is about to publish guidance for securing enterprises against supply chain hacks following the SolarWinds event and other major third-party attacks targeting critical infrastructure.  The NIST update is coming as the Biden administration tries leveraging the government’s procurement power to nudge contractors like IT management firm SolarWinds and other software suppliers to improve the security of their environments.  (Next Gov)

Ukraine War “Speeds Up” US Cyber Agenda:  The war in Ukraine has pushed the United States to expedite its investment in cybersecurity amid constant — though so far unrealized — warnings of Russian cyberattacks on government agencies, election systems and critical infrastructure.  (The Hill)


Interior Rule Delays Underscore Biden’s Energy Challenge: The Biden administration is behind on the release of its highly anticipated oil and gas regulations for drilling on federal lands at a time when the politics of oil are increasingly tangled in partisan disagreements over climate and prices at the pump. Among the most closely watched delayed proposals are new methane rules for oil and natural gas operations on public lands, which are critical given their direct impact on drilling and emissions. They were due out last month. (E&E News)

Department of Energy

Biden Administration Allows Additional Natural Gas Exports: The Biden administration is allowing for additional natural gas exports after Russia shut off gas to two of the U.S.’s NATO allies. The Energy Department announced on Wednesday that it would issue two orders allowing for the export of a total of 500 million additional cubic feet per day of liquified natural gas from projects in Texas and Louisiana. (The Hill)

Biden Energy Chief Voices ‘Deep Concern’ about Tariff Impact on U.S. Solar Goals: Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm on Thursday said she shares “deep concern” about the impact of potential solar energy tariffs on U.S. renewable energy goals. Granholm faced questions during a House Energy & Commerce Committee hearing over a Biden administration probe into allegations of tariff circumvention by Southeast Asian companies that manufacture solar panel components. (The Hill)

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