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Window on Washington – November 14, 2022, Vol. 6, Issue 43

November 14, 2022

Outlook for This Week in the Nation’s Capital

Congress.  The House and Senate will return to DC this week for the lame duck session of the 117th Congress with continued funding of the government as the top priority. Current appropriations keep the government open through December 16.  A short-term extension of the current continuing resolution is likely.  Today, the House will hold votes on numerous bills under suspension, including several related to disaster resilience and detection. There may also be a vote on the Speak Out Act, which prohibits the enforceability of a nondisclosure agreement with respect to sexual harassment allegations. The Senate will first hold a cloture vote on nomination of a district court nominee. Before adjourning for recess, the Senate began consideration of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and could resume consideration in the next few weeks. The HASC and SASC are aiming to finalize a conferenced bill, with the House potentially taking up the conferenced bill the week of December 4th. Alternatively, if Congress can finalize an omnibus appropriations bill, the FY 23 NDAA could be attached to it along with many other unrelated measures. The White House last week, after the election, outlined priorities for the lame duck session including government funding, natural disaster aid, Ukraine aid, COVID-19 funding, a marriage equality bill, Electoral Count Act reform, the NDAA, Senator Joe Manchin’s (D-WV) permitting reform bill, and approval of additional judicial nominations. Hearings for the week include a look at state cannabis laws, poverty, financial regulation, the Farm Bill, initial science results from the James Webb telescope, Puerto Rico’s power grid, and numerous nominations.

118th Congress.  After surprisingly strong results for Democrats across the country, the Senate will stay in Democrat control and House is too-close-to-call, though the GOP is still favored to win control by a slim margin. As of this morning, the GOP has won 212 seats to Democrats 203 with 10 remaining seats considered to be tossups. The GOP leads in seven of these races but only need to win three to secure the majority. Any GOP majority will be slim, after projecting a gain of between 20-60 seats over the past year, making governing next year a challenge. Senate Republicans will hold their leadership elections on Wednesday, despite calls from seven GOP senators to postpone the elections until after the Georgia runoff on Dec. 6th. Senate Democrats will hold their elections on December 5th. House Republicans previously announced their leadership elections would also take place this week while House Democrats’ leadership election is currently scheduled for Nov. 30th. The House Freedom Caucus (HFC), a sub-group of conservative republicans, released a roadmap for incoming House members that includes reforms to House rules. The HFC is trying to extract concessions from House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) in his quest to be elected Speaker of the House, which is in jeopardy due to the slim margin. The HFC chairman, Andy Biggs (R-AZ) is rumored to be considering a long-shot challenge to McCarthy to strengthen his caucus’ negotiating position ahead of a vote on House rules, on which the Republican caucus later this week.

Debt Limit. In addition to the White House’s lame duck priorities above, the White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said last week the debt limit “should never be a matter of political brinkmanship” but did not say if Biden would push for a debt limit increase during the lame duck. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) signaled on Sunday that Democrats would seek to extend the federal debt ceiling during the lame-duck session of Congress, thus avoiding a clash with House Republicans before the new Congress begins.  Senate Majority Leader Schumer echoed this view earlier this morning.

FY23 Appropriations. Government funding runs out in just over a month on Dec. 16th. With control of the Senate staying in control of Democrats, a deal is more likely than if Republicans had gained power. Given the tight margins expected in the House next congress, negotiators are expected to spend the next month ironing out a funding deal.  The issues here remain the same as when Congress adjourned for the final weeks of the mid-term election campaign: the split in funding between defense and non-defense discretionary spending; whether to include policy riders that either side considers to be “poison pills”; whether to count funds for certain national priorities (e.g., disaster assistance and contract medical care for veterans) against the total discretionary spending caps in the bill or to continue to declare them emergencies; and the disposition of dozens of authorization bills that seek to ride as a separate title on the must pass spending bill.

Biden Administration.  President Biden is in Bali for the G-20 Leaders’ Summit. He met with Chinese President Xi Jinping earlier this morning where they were expected to discuss Taiwan, human rights, the war in Ukraine, and climate change. While they have spoken multiple times since Biden was sworn in, this is their first face-to-face meeting as presidents. Biden will be in Cambodia until Wednesday. Biden’s granddaughter will get married at the White House on Saturday. President Biden turns 80 on Sunday.

Last Week in the Nation’s Capital


Midterm Election

Control of the House Remains on a Knife’s Edge. Here’s How it Could Break: “Election Week” is coming to a close with control of the House still up for grabs. As of Sunday evening, 21 congressional races remain unresolved. Of those, 10 are truly undecided, with neither party a significant favorite to win once all the votes are tallied. (Politico)

How Most Late-Cycle Polls Actually Performed: Midterm polls conducted in the final five weeks of the race were, on average, off by less than three points — generally within the margin of error, according to an Axios analysis of nearly 250 statewide surveys in the RealClearPolitics database. (Axios)

House Incumbents Who Have Lost This Year (So Far): The 2022 elections have claimed at least two dozen House incumbents as of Sunday morning, though more of them fell in primaries than in the general election. Among those who lost were Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), once a member of the House Republican leadership; Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY), chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee efforts this year; and longtime Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH), who was first elected in 1994. (Politico)

Split-Ticket Voters Play Outsized Role in Critical Midterm Contests: Voters split their tickets — supporting a Democrat in one race and a Republican in another — in some of the most important states in this year’s midterms. Even in a hyper-partisan era, the quality of individual candidates clearly still matters — maybe even enough to tip the balance of power in the Senate. (Axios)

Kevin McCarthy’s Bid to be House Speaker is in Jeopardy: In 2015, bomb-throwers in the House Freedom Caucus derailed Kevin McCarthy’s (R-CA) quest to become speaker. Seven years later, members of the ultraconservative, Trump-aligned group are once again causing major headaches for McCarthy as the California Republican makes another run for the top job. (NBC News)

Here’s Who Won 2022’s Most Competitive Senate Races: With control of the Senate hanging in the balance, both parties fought hard to gain ground, or at least maintain their seats. Former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden loomed over several of the Senate races. (Roll Call)

Here’s Who Won Open House Seats in the 2022 Midterms: Shuffles caused by reapportionment and incumbents’ decisions to retire, rather than run in redrawn districts or a tough midterm environment, meant no incumbents were on the ballot in approximately 15 percent of House races. (Roll Call)


McGovern Nudges Medical Schools to Invest in Nutrition Education: Medical schools should beef up curriculums to include robust nutrition education to give physicians the tools to combat diet-related conditions that cost the federal government billions of dollars each year to treat, according to House Rules Chairman Jim McGovern (D-MA). The Massachusetts Democrat predicted during an online news conference last Wednesday that the House will overwhelmingly adopt a sense of the Congress resolution that calls on medical schools, graduate medical programs and health professional training programs to expand nutrition education. (Roll Call)

Possible End of Emergency Spurs Debate on Medicaid: The potential end of the COVID-19 public health emergency has reinvigorated debate over the merits and costs of expanding Medicaid. A provision of a 2020 COVID-19 relief bill required that states keep people continuously enrolled in Medicaid through the end of the month in which the COVID-19 public health emergency ends in exchange for more federal funding. (Roll Call)

Labor & Workforce

Railroad Unions Push Back Threatened Strike Date: The threat of a freight railroad strike has been pushed back to early December, as four major unions have agreed to coordinate the date on which they could potentially go on strike. The BMWED and Signalmen are engaged in negotiations with railroad management seeking deals that union leaders believe their members would ratify. The unions hope the extension will prevent Congress from imposing a contract or order them to keep working into the new year, when Republicans might be in control of one or both houses of Congress. The unions want to maintain their ability to strike in order to increase their leverage with the railroads. Congress is due to return from recess next week. (CNN)


How A GOP House Could Affect the Student Loan Forgiveness Plan: Republicans are locked in a battle with Democrats for the House majority, raising questions about how lawmakers opposed to the Biden administration’s student loan forgiveness plan might attack it if they gain control of the lower chamber. The student loan forgiveness program is already under assault in the courts, where at least six lawsuits are floating against the relief. And at least one lawsuit has seen some success, with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit putting a temporary pause on the forgiveness plan. (The Hill)

Banking & Housing

As SEC Works to Finalize Climate Rule, Both Sides Make Their Case: Supporters and opponents of climate-related financial risk disclosure made a last push to influence the Securities and Exchange Commission as the agency works on finalizing its controversial rule, a process that could take months. (Roll Call)


Senate Banking Panel Leaders Call for New Crypto Rules after FTX Collapse: The Democratic and Republican leaders of the Senate Banking Committee called on Congress to bolster oversight and regulation of cryptocurrencies amid the ongoing collapse of a major cryptocurrency exchange. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), chairman of the Banking panel, and ranking Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) each said the crisis facing FTX, one of the world’s most prominent platforms for cryptocurrency trading, highlighted the need for sufficient federal rules and supervision. (The Hill)


Defense-Oriented Democrats Mostly Survive Electoral Scare: Defense-oriented House Democrats, including a cadre of self-described “badass” women with national security backgrounds, were largely unscathed after Tuesday’s election. (Roll Call)

Senate to Vote on Pentagon Contract Adjustments Amid Inflation:  The Senate is expected to vote on legislation that would authorize the Pentagon to modify fixed-price defense contracts when lawmakers return to Washington next week.  The legislation marks a significant potential victory for defense industry groups that had pushed Congress to authorize economic price adjustments for Pentagon contracts, arguing that doing so is necessary to help companies cope with the impact of inflation and persistent supply chain issues.  (Defense News)

Defense Panels Face Big Roster Upheaval:  Retirements will substantially reshuffle the defense panels’ rosters in the next Congress, and the Nov. 8 elections will trigger still more upheaval — including big ones if Republicans take the majority in one or more of the chambers.  The changes fall into three categories: definite, likely and possible – follow the link for a deeper dive.  (Roll Call)

Homeland Security & Immigration

Democrats Want Answers After CBP Failed to Interview Corralled Haitian Migrants: A trio of Democratic senators is asking Customs and Border Protection (CBP) leaders to explain their failure to interview any Haitians as they conducted a review of an incident in Del Rio, Texas, in which agents on horseback were seen corralling migrants in September of last year. (The Hill)


A Senate in Democratic Hands Clears the Path for Biden to Keep Remaking the Courts: The Democratic Party’s stunning hold on Senate control will enable President Joe Biden and his allies in the chamber to do something that has been a low-key success: churning out federal judges without the threat of Republican obstruction. (NBC News)


Markey Presses Twitter Over Fake Accounts: Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) pressed Twitter for information about its process to verify users who paid for a subscription last Friday after a fake account impersonating the senator received a blue verification check mark. (The Hill)

How the Cyber Agenda Would Shift if the GOP Takes Over Congress:  As one of the few bipartisan issues in Congress, cybersecurity is expected to continue to garner support from both political parties no matter the final outcome of this week’s midterm elections. But experts predict that if the GOP takes control of Congress, empowered Republican lawmakers could push back against government regulation in the industry.  They believe it is likely that Republicans will conduct oversight over what the government does to make sure it’s not overstepping its authority as it enforces various cyber policies.  (The Hill)


Lawmakers Grumble About Being Left in The Dark on USDA Climate-Smart Projects: The Biden administration bypassed lawmakers when it tripled the size of its climate-smart commodities initiative and may face congressional investigations and stricter limits on USDA spending as a consequence, said two farm policy consultants last Wednesday. (Successful Farming)

Environment & Interior

What the Midterm Results Mean for ESG Investing: Republican victories in federal and local races this week are expected to inflame partisan clashes over the financial world’s growing attention to climate change. Just not enough to meaningfully curb momentum on the issue. That’s the case, experts say, because Republicans have relatively few tools at their disposal to force the financial sector to ignore an issue that poses major economic threats — a reality both financiers and their regulators are obligated to consider. (E&E News)


Manchin FERC Shake-Up May Stymie Biden’s Clean Energy Plans: The prospect of Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chair Richard Glick losing his job by year’s end could derail policies critical for President Joe Biden’s clean energy and climate agenda. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chair Joe Manchin (D-WV) is “not comfortable” holding a hearing for Glick, Manchin spokesperson Sam Runyon said Thursday, effectively killing the chairman’s chances of staying on the regulatory panel. (E&E News)

S.C. Republican Makes Pitch to Lead House Energy Panel: Control of the House is still up in the air, but GOP lawmakers are already positioning themselves for plum leadership assignments. Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) is among them. In a sign of his ambitions for landing a more senior role with the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Duncan is circulating “a policy blueprint for nuclear innovation and competitiveness.” Unlike full committee chairs and ranking members, Duncan wouldn’t need to win a vote from the House GOP Steering Committee to assume a subcommittee chair position. (E&E News)



Government Fortifies Abortion Access for Migrant Children: New Department of Health and Human Services guidelines released Thursday instruct the government to ensure unaccompanied migrant children in its care have access to abortion, even if it means taking them to another state. The department, which takes custody of unaccompanied minors, unveiled a six-page field guidance document that tells staff to “make all reasonable efforts” to facilitate access to abortion if requested by a migrant. (Roll Call)

White House Cancer Moonshot Coordinator Touts Advancements, Looks for Future: White House Cancer Moonshot Coordinator Dr. Danielle Carnival touted a series of recent medical breakthroughs at a recent event, while laying out the ambitious goals of the program in the coming decades. (The Hill)

McDonough Says VA Making Progress On Digitizing Veteran Service Records: The Veterans Affairs Department is making progress on an effort to digitize military service records for veterans, as part of its implementation of a major VA health care bill signed into law this summer. VA Secretary Denis McDonough, speaking last Wednesday at a town hall event at the Washington, D.C. VA medical center, said the agency is in the process of storing digitized service records in the cloud, and developing automated decision tools to fast-track veterans’ access to care. (Federal News Network)

CDC Map Puts 7 States in Worst Category for Flu Activity: The 2022 flu season is off to an early and vicious start, especially in the South, according to tracking by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC has seven states, plus Washington, D.C., in the highest category for flu activity, shown in purple on the map below. Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, South Carolina and Virginia are all categorized as “very high.” (The Hill)

Labor & Workforce

OPM Finalizes Rules Rescinding Provisions of Trump’s Firing Executive Order: The Office of Personnel Management published final rules Thursday that will rescind policies established during the Trump administration aimed at making it easier to fire federal workers. (GovExec)

Department of Education

Biden Administration Stops Accepting Student Loan Forgiveness Applications: The Biden administration announced on Friday it would stop accepting student loan forgiveness applications after a federal judge ruled against the program on Thursday. (The Hill)


FTX’s Collapse Could Finally Be ‘Catalyst’ for Regulation: The crumbling of crypto exchange FTX and its subsequent bankruptcy filing may be the wake-up call U.S. lawmakers need to create regulations, said Hester M. Peirce, a commissioner at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Peirce said the difficulties that come with regulating digital assets could be solved in a more productive and efficient manner if the SEC and the Commodities of Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) were to coordinate in some fashion. Peirce did not state which agency should be responsible for regulating the crypto industry, and added that “having one regulator devoted to crypto could be problematic.” (CoinDesk)

Tax Reform/IRS

Biden Nominates Danny Werfel to Lead IRS: President Biden on Thursday said he will nominate Danny Werfel to serve as the next commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service. Werfel, a managing director and partner at Boston Consulting Group, would replace Trump-appointed Charles Rettig, whose term ends Saturday. (Axios)

IRS Asks Supreme Court Not to Block Congress from Getting Trump’s Tax Records: The IRS and the Treasury Department last Thursday urged the Supreme Court against blocking a lower court ruling requiring the agencies to turn over years of former President Donald Trump’s federal tax returns to Congress. The IRS and Treasury in a legal brief said that Trump’s emergency request for a delay “cannot satisfy the demanding standard for that extraordinary relief.” (CNBC)


U.S. Watchdog Will Review FAA Oversight of Key Boeing 737 MAX Features: A U.S. government watchdog said last Thursday it will review the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) oversight of two safety features on the Boeing 737 MAX. The Transportation Department’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) said Thursday it will audit the FAA’s oversight of the inclusion of MCAS, a key airplane software feature in the 737 MAX design, that was cited as a contributing factor in two fatal MAX crashes that killed 346 people. (Reuters)

TSA to Conduct Additional Training After Passenger is Allowed on a Flight with Two Boxcutters, Agency Says: The Transportation Security Administration is admitting multiple failures and is instituting alerts to security officers at airports nationwide after a man got through a checkpoint with two box cutters. The move comes as passengers are expected to flood airports ahead of Thanksgiving. (CNN)


NASA Says its SLS Rocket is Good to Go for a Launch Attempt This Wednesday:  NASA said last Friday that its Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft appear to have survived their encounter with Hurricane Nicole this week without incurring any significant damage.   The space agency is now working toward a launch at 1:04 am ET on Wednesday, from Kennedy Space Center. This Artemis I mission will send an uncrewed Orion spacecraft around the Moon in preparation for human missions later this decade.  (Ars Technica)

NASA’s ‘Smiling Sun’ Image Is a Reminder of the Threat of Solar Wind:   In a NASA photo that made the rounds on social media last week, the sun appeared to smile for the camera. The image, taken by the space agency’s Solar Dynamics Observatory satellite, was shared on one of NASA’s Twitter accounts.  Of course, it’s not really an image of the sun saying cheese – seen in ultraviolet light, these dark patches on the sun are known as coronal holes and are regions where fast solar wind gushes out into space, creating danger on earth to satellites, communications and power systems.  (Smithsonian Magazine)

Joint NASA-ULA Test of New Headshield Technology Goes Very Well:  NASA and the United Launch Alliance teamed together to test a new type of heatshield that can be used both here on Earth to recover rocket stages or engines, or on Mars to land heavy payloads and potentially humans. Launched last Friday in conjunction with a new Joint Polar Satellite System-2 weather satellite for NOAA, the test went even better than planned, with the Low Earth Orbit Flight Test of an Inflatable Decelerator, or LOFTID, successfully recovered from the Pacific Ocean near Hawaii.  (Space Policy Online)

Sonic Booms Heard Across Florida as Secret Space Force Spaceplane Returns to KSC: A secretive Space Force spaceplane streaked across Florida early Saturday, generating unmistakable sonic booms en route to a landing at Kennedy Space Center that wrapped up another record-breaking mission. (Florida Today)


Extremely Ominous Warning About China from US Strategic Command Chief: Navy Admiral Charles A. Richard, has warned that the U.S. should anticipate, and prepare for, a protracted conflict with China in the near future – which could be triggered by further hostile actions toward Taiwan by Chinese forces. U.S. Strategic Command – one of the Defense Department’s (DoD) 11 unified combatant commands in the U.S. Department of Defense – is responsible for America’s nuclear triad. (The Drive)

It’s Official: Space Force Sets Sights on Smaller Satellites:  The U.S. Space Force will buy cheaper, smaller satellites in the future instead of the bespoke, multi-billion dollar behemoths it has relied on for decades, according to the service’s acquisition chief.  The long-anticipated move to smaller satellites is now official policy, and the service’s acquisition officials are being urged to move quickly and buy satellites via fixed-price contracts, which puts the onus on companies to deliver innovative products on time and budget.  (Defense One)

DHS & Immigration

U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Resigns: President Joe Biden has accepted the resignation of US Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Christopher Magnus, the White House said Saturday. Biden thanked Magnus for “nearly forty years of service,” according to a statement from White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and added that he “wishes him well.” (CNN)

U.S. Extends Temporary Legal Status of 337,000 Immigrants Through 2024 Amid Court Battle: The Biden administration last Thursday said it would extend the deportation protections and work permits of an estimated 337,000 immigrants from El Salvador, Nicaragua, Nepal and Honduras through the summer of 2024, preempting a court decision that could have led to their legal status expiring next year. (CBS News) 


Justice Department, GSA Working on Common Standards for FOIA Tech: The Freedom of Information Act community is developing new technology standards to help improve FOIA processes and standardize common services like case management tools across government. The Justice Department’s Office of Information Policy and the Office of Government Information Services at the National Archives are working with the General Services Administration’s Office of Shared Services and Performance Improvement to advance shared FOIA business standards, according to Lindsay Steel, chief of FOIA compliance staff at OIP. (Federal News Network)


Better Data, Training, Hiring Processes are Key to Cyber Workforce Strategy, Groups Say:  There are a lot of ideas for how the White House National Cyber Director’s forthcoming workforce strategy could help address a nationwide cyber talent shortage.  The office issued a request for information on cyber workforce, training, and education last month. For federal agencies, the challenge is especially acute as they struggle to compete with private sector salaries and job flexibilities.  (Federal News Network)

White House Rallies Industry Support for Internet of Things Labeling Effort:  Last month the White House convened industry leaders, policy experts and government leaders to discuss plans for security and privacy standards on connected devices. The meeting — billed as a workshop for a nascent White House Internet of Things labeling initiative — included top White House cyber official Anne Neuberger, National Cyber Director Chris Inglis, consumer tech associations, non-profits, and industry executives.  (Cyberscoop)

NIST Proposes Project to Improve Cybersecurity at Water Utilities:  The National Institute of Standards and Technology wants feedback on a proposed project that would pilot solutions to common cybersecurity risks faced by water and wastewater plants.  Run out of the National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence, the project would profile commercially available asset management, data integrity, remote access and network segmentation solutions to develop a reference architecture for the sector.  (Fedscoop)


Vilsack Highlights USDA’s Climate Initiatives and Investments at COP27: At the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27) this week, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack highlighted the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s initiatives and investments in climate-smart agriculture and forestry, noting that global food security depends upon the ability of farmers and producers worldwide to increase their productivity while strengthening their climate resilience and minimizing their climate impacts. (Clark Hill Insight)


Biden Insists U.S. will Meet Climate Targets at Global Summit: President Biden insisted Friday the U.S. will deliver on its climate change commitments, addressing an audience at an international climate summit in Egypt that is skeptical of whether the U.S. will actually live up to its promises. (The Hill)

Biden Proposing New Rule Requiring Federal Contractors to Set Carbon Reduction Plans as Leaders Gather for Climate Summit: The Biden administration proposed a rule last week requiring large federal contractors to develop carbon reduction targets and disclose their greenhouse gas emissions, leveraging the federal government’s purchasing power to combat climate change in the private sector and bolster vulnerable supply chains. (CNN)

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