Window on Washington – May 23, 2022, Vol. 6, Issue 20
Outlook for This Week in the Nation’s Capital
Congress. The House is in a committee work period, and the Senate is in session this week. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) is planning a procedural vote this week on the Senate’s version of the House-passed Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act. Hearings for the week include examining nominations, FY23 agency budget requests, supply chain resiliency, the future of weather research, the Decadal Survey for Planetary Science and Astrobiology 2023-2032, and defense health and medical readiness.
Bipartisan Innovation Bill. The House and Senate have agreed to a timeline for the USICA/COMPETES conference process. As of last week, there are over 1,000 legislative items for the conferees to work through. The current timeline is for committee staff to have all legislative items completed/closed out by this Wednesday, for committee staff leadership to finalize the items around Memorial Day Weekend and into early June, committee chairs and ranking members to review the items June 6-10, meetings with conference chairs and ranking members June 13-16, and the filing of the finished conference report by June 21. A more detailed breakdown of the May calendar is here, and the June calendar is here.
Supplemental Appropriations. The House and Senate passed a $40 billion Ukraine military, economic, and humanitarian relief bill last week, and President Joe Biden signed it into law on Saturday. Meanwhile, the Senate did not reach the 60 votes needed to continue floor consideration of a $48 billion restaurant and small business COVID relief package, and it remains to be seen whether the bipartisan senators involved will be able to revive it.
FY23 Appropriations. With the focus on an aid package for Ukraine, COVID-19 relief funding, and emergency appropriations for the infant formula shortage, there has been an impact on appropriations leaders speeding up the FY23 process. The House Appropriations Committee has tentatively scheduled June 13-22 for subcommittee markups and June 22-30 for full committee markups, and House Appropriations Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) is aiming to stick to their schedule and has not committed to having topline spending levels agreed to before the Committee starts its markups. Separately, Senate Appropriations leaders met twice last week and are also hoping to avoid continuing resolutions for this fiscal year.
The House and Senate Appropriations Committees are also wrapping up their hearings on the Biden Administration’s Fy23 budget requests. This week, the House Appropriations Committee’s hearings include a handful of Member Days and a hearing on the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The Senate Appropriations Committee’s FY23 hearings include the Department of Education (ED), Department of Interior (DOI), and the Navy and Marine Corps.
Police Reform. This Wednesday marks two years since George Floyd’s murder, renewing the attention on the Biden Administration’s police reform efforts. After congressional negotiations over the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act ended last year, President Biden shifted his focus to an executive order on police reform, which may be released this week.
Biden Administration. President Joe Biden has been in South Korea and Japan over the last few days. Tomorrow he will attend a Quad Summit with the Japan’s Prime Minister, India’s Prime Minister, and Australia’s next Prime Minister. Biden is also expected to hold bilateral meetings with the Indian and Australian leaders on the sidelines of the summit.
Last Week in the Nation’s Capital
Budget & Appropriations
Grants for Restaurants, Small Businesses Blocked in Senate: Deficit-concerned senators blocked the Senate from considering a $48 billion aid package for restaurants and other small businesses last Thursday, likely dealing a fatal blow to a months-long effort to provide a final round of relief for industries that suffered major revenue losses during the pandemic. (Roll Call)
House Passes Supplemental Appropriations for Infant Formula Shortage: In a 231-192 vote, the House last week passed a supplemental appropriations bill to provide $28 million in emergency funding to give the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the resources it needs to address the urgent infant formula shortage. However, its fate in the Senate remains to be seen, as Republican leaders are reluctant to say if they’ll support the legislation. (Clark Hill Insight)
States Pick Up Tatters of Democrats’ Paid Leave, Child Care Agenda: As Democrats in Congress struggle to deliver on their campaign promises to working parents, their counterparts on the state level are picking up the mantle. From Connecticut to New Mexico, progressive elected officials in recent months have moved to defray the high cost of child care, create paid leave programs for new parents or those caring for loved ones, and salvage other parts of the Democratic agenda at risk of dying from inaction in Congress as November’s midterm elections get closer. (Politico)
Banking & Housing
Manchin Says He’ll Back Barr as Fed’s Chief Banking Supervisor: Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) said he’ll support Michael Barr’s nomination to be vice chair of supervision at the U.S. Federal Reserve, adding key backing for the Treasury Department veteran as President Joe Biden continues working to fill central bank vacancies. (Yahoo News)
Flood Insurance Bill Seeks to Curb Rising Tide of Bankruptcies: Americans with homes that are repeatedly flooded by extreme weather events could soon have the federal government buy their houses under a new bill introduced last Thursday by Rep. Sean Casten (D-IL). The bill would allow the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), the federal flood insurer of last resort, to buy houses and zones deemed indefensible in lieu of continually paying to repair them. (The Hill)
GOP Senators Float Bill to Curtail Money Managers’ Voting Influence: A group of Republican senators introduced a bill last Wednesday that would require large passive fund managers to vote proxies in accordance with individual investors’ instructions instead of at the managers’ discretion. (Pensions & Investments)
Space/NASA & NOAA
House Appropriators Praise NASA but Worry About Overruns and Delays: House appropriators who oversee NASA’s budget offered effusive praise last week for NASA’s space science, technology and exploration programs and aeronautics research, but pressed hard on the need to control cost overruns and schedule delays. As was true at the companion Senate hearing two weeks ago, Bechtel’s performance building Mobile Launcher 2 for the Artemis program was a particular target of concern. (Space Policy Online)
As Space Gets More Crowded, House Committee Still Questioning SSA Path Forward: Four years after President Trump assigned civil space situational awareness responsibilities to the Department of Commerce, Congress has yet to formally authorize the Department to take on that task. Based on a hearing last week, House Democrats and Republicans still have many questions. A Senate bill is slowly inching forward as part of the innovation and competition act, but what can get done in the limited legislative time remaining in this election year is anyone’s guess. Meanwhile, Earth orbit gets more and more congested every day. SpaceX alone launched 106 more Starlink satellites last weekend. (Space Policy Online)
Senate Confirms Defense Official Tasked with Overseeing Ukraine Aid Logistics: The Senate last Wednesday confirmed a Defense Department official who will be tasked with overseeing the logistics of the sprawling, multifaceted effort to deliver military equipment to Ukraine, as it defends itself against a Russian invasion. Senators voted 94-1 to confirm Christopher Lowman as the assistant secretary of defense for sustainment. Lowman most recently served as acting undersecretary of the Army until February, and President Joe Biden nominated him as the assistant secretary for sustainment in November. (Defense News)
Most Projects on Pentagon’s $5.7B Lab ‘Wish List’ Likely to Stay Unfunded: A little-known military construction funding policy will likely prevent Congress from granting most of the Pentagon’s $5.7 billion unfunded priorities list for lab and testing infrastructure projects, many of which are too early in the planning and design process for lawmakers to consider. (Defense News)
What’s Next for UFO Studies After Landmark Congressional Hearing?: The congressional hearing last Tuesday that focused on unidentified flying objects (UFOs) has drawn mixed reviews. Eagerly awaited by many, it was the first open congressional hearing on UFOs — or UAP (“unidentified aerial phenomena”), as they’ve recently been rebranded — in more than a half-century. (Space)
Homeland Security & Immigration
Democrats Renew Push for Green Cards for ‘Documented Dreamers’: Democrats renewed their push last Wednesday to provide a path to citizenship for hundreds of thousands of so-called documented Dreamers who grew up legally in the U.S. but risk deportation when they turn 21 years old. At a press conference, Sen. Alex Padilla (D-CA) touted his bill to permanently protect roughly 250,000 immigrants who grew up in the U.S. as dependents on their parents’ temporary visas, and graduated from American universities, but aged out of that dependent status. (Roll Call)
Republicans Vow to Kill Domestic Terrorism Bill in Senate: Senate Republicans are lining up against a House-passed bill that would authorize special offices within the government to investigate and monitor domestic terrorism, which is being pushed in the wake of a racist shooting in Buffalo that left 10 people dead. The GOP compares the proposal, which sets up offices in the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice and the FBI to target domestic terrorism, to the recently paused disinformation board set up by the Biden administration. (The Hill)
Supreme Court Sides with Ted Cruz, Striking Down Cap on Use of Campaign Funds to Repay Personal Campaign Loans: The Supreme Court last Monday ruled in favor of Republican Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) in a case involving the use of campaign funds to repay personal campaign loans, dealing the latest blow to campaign finance regulations. The court said that a federal cap on candidates using political contributions after an election to recoup personal loans made to their campaign was unconstitutional. (CNN)
Bipartisan Bill Targets Google’s Ad Business: A bipartisan group of senators last Thursday introduced legislation that would force Google to break up its digital advertising business. The Competition and Transparency in Digital Advertising Act would prohibit large companies from owning more than one side of the online ad ecosystem if they process more than $20 billion in ad transactions. (The Hill)
Schumer Seeks Tech Antitrust Bill Vote by Early Summer: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) intends to put bipartisan tech antitrust legislation up for a vote by early summer. Per a source familiar with the meeting, Schumer met with Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Richard Durbin (D-IL) last Wednesday to discuss next steps for Klobuchar’s bipartisan bill, the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, which passed out of the Senate Judiciary committee earlier this year. (Axios)
Sens. Ossoff, Kennedy Introduce Bipartisan Prison Transparency Legislation: U.S. Senators Jon Ossoff (D-GA) and John Kennedy (R-LA) last week introduced new bipartisan prison transparency legislation. The senators’ bipartisan Family Notification of Death, Injury, or Illness in Custody Act of 2022 will ensure family members are notified in a timely and compassionate manner about any health challenges of loved ones while in custody. (Clark Hill Insight)
Booker, Menendez, Blumenthal Reintroduce Federal Firearm Licensing Act: U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and Chair of the Subcommittee on Criminal Justice and Counterterrorism, Bob Menendez (D-NJ), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) last week reintroduced the Federal Firearm Licensing Act, legislation that would require individuals to obtain a firearm license from the Department of Justice (DOJ) before purchasing or receiving a firearm. (Clark Hill Insight)
Agencies Showcase Federal Cyber Progress, Outline Future Threats: During a hearing last week hosted by the House Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection & Innovation, witnesses from federal agencies at the forefront of developing a stronger federal cybersecurity posture talked about what their agencies have done and will need to support a secure government network. (NextGov)
Environment & Interior
Granholm ‘Bullish’ On Congress Passing Clean Energy Tax Credits: Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said last Wednesday she is “bullish” that Congress will ultimately pass some form of clean energy tax credits — particularly as Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) conducts bipartisan meetings with senators on an energy bill. The bipartisan infrastructure law that passed last year “is sort of the spine of the president’s clean energy and energy future agenda, but the tax credits are the lungs of it,” Granholm told POLITICO’s Sustainability Summit. “They absolutely need to pass and I am feeling actually pretty bullish about it at this very moment.” (Politico)
Congressional Progressives Warn Biden, EU Natural Gas Reliance May Hurt Climate Goals: Twenty-two congressional Democrats last Thursday urged caution over the European Union’s plan to replace fossil fuel imports from Russia with liquefied natural gas (LNG) infrastructure. In a letter to President Biden and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, the members warned that the transition must incorporate the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. The letter came shortly after the EU announced a plan to replace the energy that it would normally import from Russia, including with 50 billion cubic meters of LNG from suppliers including the U.S. (The Hill)
Sinema Pushes to Open Up Mining: Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) wants the Senate’s bipartisan energy and climate talks to prioritize domestic battery production — and make it easier to mine critical minerals at home. Sinema’s engagement on mining reform reveals both the possibilities — and pitfalls — of a potential bipartisan deal. Democrats are eager for a win this critical midterm year. (Axios)
U.S. House Passes Bill to Fight Oil and Gas Price Gouging: The U.S. House passed a bill last Thursday that allows the U.S. president to issue an energy emergency declaration, making it unlawful for companies to excessively increase gasoline and home fuel prices. The bill must pass the Senate, which is unlikely, and be signed by President Joe Biden to become law. (Reuters)
Budget & Appropriations
Biden Signs $40 Billion Aid Package for Ukraine: President Joe Biden last Saturday signed legislation to support Ukraine with $40 billion in U.S. assistance as the Russian invasion approaches its fourth month. (CNBC)
U.S. Set to Extend Covid-19 Public Health Emergency Past July: On April 16, HHS extended the public-health emergency an additional 90 days through mid-July. The declaration will be extended beyond that period, according to a person familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified because the details aren’t public. That means various measures to relax restrictions in how care is accessed across the health system will continue. (Bloomberg)
Health Official on Monkeypox Says ‘I Feel Like This is a Virus We Understand’: Biden administration health official Ashish Jha said yesterday he expects that monkeypox will not have widespread impact in the United States. “I feel like this is a virus we understand,” he said on ABC’s “This Week.” Speaking to host Martha Raddatz, the White House coronavirus response coordinator said monkeypox is far different than coronavirus, since it is not something new and treatments already exist for it. (Politico)
FDA Says Infant Formula Supply Will Increase Quickly: Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Robert Califf last Thursday promised a swift end to the infant formula shortage, telling a House appropriations panel that his agency is committed to preventing future shortfalls and promising that the Biden administration’s recent actions will begin to stem the crisis within a few days. Califf said that while the White House’s invocation of the 1950 Defense Production Act, the Defense Department’s use of military commercial planes to transport formula supplies and the FDA’s new importation guidelines will begin to have an impact “within days,” “it will be a few weeks before we’re back to normal.” (Roll Call)
Biden Will Meet with Secretary Yellen to Re-evaluate Tariffs on Chinese Goods. During his trip to Asia, the President said he would meet with Treasury Secretary Yellen to determine whether he should life tariffs on some Chinese goods as a means to helping to ease inflation. (CNN)
Crypto’s Meltdown Refocuses Regulator Attention on the Industry: The crypto crash that vaporized roughly $500 billion in market value over the last two weeks is refocusing Washington policymakers’ attention — fast-tracking the desire to set federal rules for the industry. Financial watchdogs are zeroing in on stablecoins, the subset of cryptocurrencies meant to offer traders a safe harbor from the wild swings of the wider crypto market, after one imploded last week. (The Washington Post)
SEC’s Gensler Uses Crypto Oversight Needs as Case for Higher Budget: Gary Gensler, the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission, made a pitch for a higher budget, telling lawmakers in testimony before the House Appropriations Committee that he wants to do more as a cop on the cryptocurrency beat. He explained his 1,300-person enforcement division has a little more than 50 people concentrating on this space after recently adding another 20. That still leaves the agency outgunned on crypto cases, arguing that “the public is not protected.” He said that bitcoin is one of a very small number of likely commodity tokens that belong under the Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s lens, but the vast majority belong under the SEC’s jurisdiction. (CoinDesk)
Space/NASA & NOAA
NASA Seeks Input on Human Exploration Objectives: NASA is seeking informal public input on a set of 50 objectives for its exploration efforts that agency leadership says will go into a broader effort to guide its activities for the next two decades. NASA released May 17 a set of high-level objectives for its lunar and Mars exploration campaign. The agency also announced it was soliciting input on those objectives through its website until May 31. (Space News)
Biden Affirms US Would Respond Militarily to Enable Taiwan to Defend Itself. Earlier today in Tokyo, the President affirmed that the U.S. would intervene militarily if China attacked Taiwan, a public warning that differs from the usual US ambiguity in discussing such matters. (CNN)
Two Finalists Emerge for Next Space Force Chief: Pentagon leadership has narrowed the potential nominees to become the next Space Force Chief of Space Operations to two names, with the decision now in the hands of the White House, multiple sources tell Breaking Defense. The pick of the two candidates — Lt. Gen. John Shaw and Lt. Gen. Stephen Whiting — would become the second Space Force head, following Chief of Space Operations Gen. Jay Raymond’s planned retirement in the fall. While it is still possible the White House could look to add a third name to the finalists, the expectation among the sources is that Shaw or Whiting will emerge as the next top Space Force officer. (Breaking Defense)
DHS & Immigration
DHS Disinformation Board ‘Paused’ After Criticism, Chief Resigns: Only three weeks after the Department of Homeland Security launched a Disinformation Governance Board to counter misinformation, its future is in doubt and its top official has announced her resignation. Following a torrent of criticism from Republican lawmakers, disinformation and extremism expert Nina Jankowicz resigned last Wednesday, and—as first reported by the Washington Post—the board itself has been “paused” pending a review and assessment through the bipartisan Homeland Security Advisory Council. (NextGov)
Judge Blocks Biden Administration from Lifting Title 42 Border Policy: A federal judge last Friday blocked the Biden administration’s move to lift Title 42. Louisiana U.S. District Judge Robert R. Summerhays, an appointee of former President Donald Trump, ruled that the restrictions must stay in place until a lawsuit by 24 states, led by Arizona, Louisiana and Missouri, is resolved in the courts. The Department of Justice appealed Summerhays’ decision, though it’s unlikely the restrictions will be lifted by today as planned. The administration will comply with the court’s order while the appeal is processed, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement, adding that the White House disagrees with the decision. (Politico)
Biden Preps High-Stakes Police Reform Executive Order: President Biden plans to issue his highly anticipated executive order on police reform in the coming weeks. With crime surging across the country, the political stakes for any executive action dealing with law enforcement are high. Republicans are convinced focusing on crime will help them in November and have pilloried Democrats for their progressive flank’s “defund-the-police” rhetoric. (Axios)
FTC to Forge Ahead on Antitrust with Democratic Majority: The Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) newly confirmed Democratic majority is poised to push forward with an aggressive antitrust agenda after months of delays in the Senate that left Chairwoman Lina Khan with a split board. Now, with FTC Commissioner Alvaro Bedoya confirmed, the commission can pursue the Democratic majority’s priorities. At last Thursday’s FTC meeting, the first time the agency had a full five members in seven months, the board voted unanimously on two measures. But rifts are already forming in other areas, as Khan seeks to boost the agency’s budget by 30 percent to staff up as it takes on tech giants and handles a record number of mergers. (The Hill)
The DOJ Says It Won’t Prosecute Good-Faith Security Research: A major reversal by the U.S. Department of Justice on how it views good-faith security research is expected to be warmly welcomed by the cybersecurity community. Last Thursday, the DOJ announced a new policy that “for the first time directs that good-faith security research should not be charged” under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, according to a news release. (Protocol)
FTC Warns it Will Go After Ed Tech Companies Misusing Children’s Data: The Federal Trade Commission voted 5-0 last Thursday to issue a policy statement warning education tech companies against using data collected from children via education services for additional commercial purposes, including marketing and advertising. (CyberScoop)
DOJ Issues Guidance for Enforcing Computer Fraud and Abuse Act: The Department of Justice has officially revised its policy regarding a controversial law in a bid to encourage more activity from security researchers—sometimes referred to as white-hat hackers—who can find cybersecurity bugs and alert authorities for remediation before adversaries get to them. (NextGov)
Legislation Promoting Cyber Collaboration Between DHS and States Awaits Biden Signature: Having cleared the Senate in January, the State and Local Government Cybersecurity Act passed the House last Tuesday and now awaits President Joe Biden’s signature. The bill updates the House Homeland Security Act to direct the Department of Homeland Security to improve information sharing and coordination with state, local and tribal governments—all of which face growing risks of cyberattack. The legislation requires federal cybersecurity officials to share cybersecurity threat, vulnerability and breach data with states and localities, and provide some recovery resources when attacks occur. (NextGov)
Biden Signs Bill to Protect Access to Baby Formula Amid Shortage: President Biden last Saturday passed a bill intended to expand access to baby formula for certain families amid a shortage in the United States after Congress passed the legislation earlier this week. The measure is aimed at ensuring that families in need can continue to buy baby formula with WIC benefits during a public health emergency or supply chain issues such as a product recall. (The Hill)
Department of Energy
Biden Renominates Glick to FERC: Chairman Richard Glick was named by President Biden to be Chairman of the Federal Regulatory Commission on January 21, 2021 and is serving a Commission term that ends June 30, 2022. Glick was nominated to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission by President Donald J. Trump in August 2017 and confirmed by the U.S. Senate on November 2, 2017. (Clark Hill Insight)
FERC’s Glick says He’s Bullish’ on Energy Storage, Aims to Prioritize Regulations for Hybrid Projects: Amid other regulatory priorities, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chair Richard Glick would have the agency look into energy storage participation in wholesale markets via hybrid projects with wind and solar, he said last Tuesday during the CLEANPOWER 2022 conference in San Antonio, Texas. (UtilityDive)
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