Window on Washington – November 15, 2021, Vol. 5, Issue 46
Outlook for This Week in the Nation’s Capital
Congress. The House and Senate are both back in session this week. The House is continuing to finalize the details of the reconciliation bill in hopes of a vote on it this week, while the Senate is expected to consider the FY2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) at some point this week. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) also indicated the Senate may add the Senate-passed United States Innovation and Competition Act (S.1260) to the NDAA as well.
Hearings for this week include examining nominations, supply chain solutions for clean energy, preventing suicide in military and veteran communities, Fusion Energy Research and Technology, COVID-19 education relief funds, and supply chain challenges. There will also be a House Science markup on a few bills related to wildland fires, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) weather radio modernization, and precipitation data.
Reconciliation and Infrastructure Packages. President Joe Biden will hold a signing ceremony for the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) this afternoon. An interactive Clark Hill tool that details the IIJA can be found here. Meanwhile, the House is continuing its work on the Build Back Better (BBB) reconciliation bill and is awaiting all the scoring from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to be released. CBO started to release some of the scores last week but said others will take longer to complete. The House is also working with the Senate parliamentarian to ensure their version of the legislation follows the Senate’s reconciliation rules and the instructions in the budget resolution. Given these various steps that are still in progress, the House plans to vote on the BBB sometime this week instead of their initial self-imposed goal of tomorrow. However, it will likely be weeks before the Senate takes any action on it given the current timing of the House’s work.
FY22 Appropriations and Debt Limit. The current continuing resolution (CR) and the debt limit legislation will both expire on December 3. Congress will need to pass another CR to ensure there is no lapse in federal funding, but it remains unclear for how long as well as how Democrats plan to address the debt limit. Pressure is starting to build from the Executive Branch on Congress to address FY22 appropriations, with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) releasing a fact sheet that details the importance of appropriations, especially for the pandemic response and other public health initiatives, national security, education, and core citizen services.
Biden Administration. President Biden will meet virtually with Chinese President Xi Jinping tonight to discuss their views on U.S.-China relations. Tomorrow, he will head to Woodstock, New Hampshire to promote the bipartisan infrastructure package. On Wednesday, he will be in Detroit, Michigan for the opening of General Motors’ Factory ZERO plant and to discuss how it ties into key provisions from the infrastructure deal. On Thursday, Biden plans to hold an in-person meeting in Washington D.C. with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, where they plan to discuss the supply chain as well as the pandemic. This will be the first time in five years the three countries have held a summit together.
Last Week in the Nation’s Capital
Dems’ Plan to Limit Drug Price Inflation Faces Test in Senate: Democrats managed to strike a compromise on drug prices to advance their sweeping social spending bill. But as the House prepares to send the package to the Senate, the way the plan would extend price controls beyond Medicare to private health coverage is stoking another battle over the package. At issue is Democrats’ push to penalize drug makers if they hike prices of medicine faster than inflation, a provision Republicans and the drug industry see as government overreach — and, they say, a violation of the Senate’s parliamentary rules for considering the bill because it’s a non-budgetary item. (Politico)
Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill Targets Crypto Industry with Stricter Oversight: Congress passed a bipartisan $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill that includes a controversial new cryptocurrency tax requirement, despite months of aggressive lobbying by industry groups as they looked to fend over stricter regulatory oversight. One of the key revenue-raisers in the bill is an effort to curb tax evasion in cryptocurrency by imposing a series of new tax reporting provisions on the industry that apply to digital assets like cryptocurrency and nonfungible tokens, or NFTs. (FoxBusiness)
Manchin Opposes Additional EV Tax Credit Tied to Unions: Democrats hit a major speed bump last Thursday in their plan to supercharge new electric vehicle tax credits for cars and trucks built by domestic, unionized workers when Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), a key swing vote, said he opposes that kind of preferential pro-labor treatment. The Automotive News reported that the West Virginia senator, a moderate Democrat, criticized such pro-union provisions in the budget reconciliation package as “wrong” and “not American” while participating in an event announcing Toyota’s $240 million investment in a components plant in his home state. (Roll Call)
Defense Policy Amendments Pour in Ahead of Floor Action: With the Senate expected to consider its version of the annual defense policy bill this week, senators last week filed hundreds of amendments. The National Defense Authorization Act is one of the few bills Congress passes without fail each year and, as a result, it’s one of the only reliable vehicles for lawmakers to see their priorities into law. Many of the amendments reflect increased anxiety over China’s military capabilities and regional ambitions and include provisions aimed at increasing the United States’ ability to counter China, but others have little to nothing to do with the DOD. (Roll Call)
Senate Democrats Want Cyber Threats to K-12 Schools Addressed: A group of Senate Democrats last Friday urged the federal government to do more to protect K-12 institutions and students against crippling cyberattacks, which have increasingly wreaked havoc across the nation during the past year. While President Biden last month signed into law legislation requiring CISA to create cybersecurity resources and tools for K-12 schools to help defend themselves against cyberattacks and the infrastructure package set to be signed into law by Biden next week includes $1 billion in state and local cybersecurity funding that could be used to shore up school cybersecurity, the Senators are calling for more immediate action. (The Hill)
Small Banks Facing Greater Cyber Risks Urge Congress to Act: Community banks, minority lending institutions, and credit unions face greater risks of cyberattacks and damage from data breaches, a group of experts told lawmakers recently. The smaller institutions, during a House Financial Services Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Financial Institutions hearing last week, are asking Congress to plug holes in laws that exempt retailers and other entities that handle financial information for smaller banks from data security regulations. (Roll Call)
Senate Vote Near for USDA Farm Subsidy and Conservation Chief: Three months ago, the Senate Agriculture Committee recommended Senate approval of Robert Bonnie to run the USDA’s farm subsidy and land stewardship programs. The nomination is set for a floor vote this week, after a series of delays forced by senators who put “holds” on it. (Successful Farming)
Environment & Interior
Pelosi in Glasgow Says Congress Has Biden’s Back on Climate: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) sought to assure the world that Congress has President Biden’s back as she touched down in Glasgow, Scotland, for United Nations climate talks with a group of nearly two dozen House Democrats. Pelosi and her top deputies portrayed the $1.75 trillion spending legislation moving through Congress as primarily a historic effort to meet Biden’s pledge to halve U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. “Our congressional delegation comes here fresh from advancing legislation to build back better, which represents the most ambitious and consequential climate and clean energy legislation of all time,” Pelosi said in a news conference in Glasgow. (E&E News)
Budget & Appropriations
White House Puts Pressure on Congress to Pass Bipartisan Government Funding Bills: The Office of Budget and Management (OMB) said in a fact sheet sent out last Friday that Congress must “reach a bipartisan, bicameral agreement” on full-year appropriations bills for fiscal 2022 in the weeks ahead. (The Hill)
Biden Nominates Califf As FDA Chief: President Joe Biden last Friday nominated former Commissioner Robert Califf to lead the Food and Drug Administration in a move that would bring the Obama-era official back for a second tour atop the agency. The selection would end the administration’s lengthy search for a permanent FDA commissioner and comes as the agency weighs a series of decisions that will determine the direction of Biden’s Covid-19 vaccination campaign. (Politico)
Federal Court Extends Stay of Biden Administration’s Vaccine-Or-Test Mandate: A Louisiana-based federal appeals court last Friday extended a stay against the Biden administration’s vaccine-or-test requirement for private businesses, finding that the states and businesses challenging the rule “show a great likelihood of success on the merits.” “A stay is firmly in the public interest. From economic uncertainty to workplace strife, the mere specter of the Mandate has contributed to untold economic upheaval in recent months,” wrote Fifth Circuit Judge Kurt Engelhardt. (Politico)
Banking & Housing/HUD
Biden’s Next Inflation Threat – Rent is Too High: Housing costs just posted one of their largest monthly gains in decades, and many economists expect them to loom large in inflation figures over the next year heading into the 2022 midterm elections. It’s not just economists — the Federal Reserve Bank of New York said in research released last Monday that Americans on average expect rents to rise 10.1 percent over the next year, the highest reading in the survey’s history. (Politico)
SEC’s Peirce Sees Room to Regulate Stablecoins Through Bank ‘Lens’: The Biden administration’s recommendation that Congress pass legislation that would require stablecoin issuers to be regulated like banks may make sense for many of those assets, according to Hester Peirce, a Republican commissioner at the Securities and Exchange Commission, and to some stablecoin issuers. (Roll Call)
Biden Hopes to Turn Infrastructure Bill into Jobs Quickly: The Biden administration is racing to implement parts of the infrastructure bill as quickly as it can, hoping it can turn the legislation into jobs as it tries to make the case for the White House’s leadership on the economy. (The Hill)
Biden chooses Mitch Landrieu to coordinate infrastructure plan implementation: President Joe Biden has chosen former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu to coordinate the implementation of the bipartisan infrastructure plan that the president will sign into law on Monday. Biden plans to announce Landrieu’s appointment Monday afternoon, before he signs the massive $550 billion legislation aimed at rebuilding the nation’s roads, bridges and transit, the White House said Sunday. (NBC News)
U.S. Investigating Tesla’s Self-Driving Software After Collision: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is investigating Tesla’s self-driving software after someone filed a complaint that a car caused a crash while employing it. In a complaint filed last Monday, a driver said he was beta testing a “Full Self-Driving” 2021 Tesla Model Y small SUV for Tesla when it caused a crash on a highway. (The Hill)
Biden Rolls Out Multibillion-Dollar Plan to Upgrade Aging U.S. Ports after Passage of Infrastructure Bill: The Biden administration outlined several initiatives last Tuesday aimed at addressing immediate supply chain challenges and other disruptions affecting global commerce. (CNBC)
U.S. Unveils Roadmap for Net-Zero Aviation Emissions by 2050: The Transportation Department is unveiling a multi-agency roadmap to slash greenhouse gas emissions from the U.S. aviation sector with a target of reaching net-zero by 2050. (Axios)
Space/NASA & NOAA
NASA Delays Moon Landing to ‘No Earlier Than 2025’: NASA is pushing back plans to return astronauts to the moon by at least a year to 2025, Administrator Bill Nelson announced last Tuesday, saying the Trump administration’s ambitious goal “was not grounded in technical feasibility.” He specifically cited delays in development of the Orion crew capsule and the Human Landing System as well as lawsuits, funding shortfalls and COVID impacts. (Politico)
Space Force Leader Suggests Education Secretary Should be on the National Space Council: Early education about the value created by space technology should be a national priority, the top enlisted leader of the U.S. Space Force said last Thursday. Chief Master Sgt. Roger Towberman said that is why he thinks it might be a good idea to have the secretary of education on the National Space Council to help highlight careers focused on space in STEM education efforts. (Space News)
VP Harris to Convene First Space Council Meeting on December 1: Vice President Kamala Harris will convene the first meeting of the White House National Space Council on December 1. Speaking at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, she said they will meet to outline a comprehensive framework for the U.S. space program and made clear that a major focus will be efforts to address climate change. (Space Policy Online)
Pentagon Tech Chief Seeks to Bolster R&D Work with Allies: The Pentagon doesn’t want to innovate alone. Heidi Shyu, the undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, said last Monday that she has discussed the Pentagon’s research and development priorities with her counterparts in Australia, Japan, Latvia, Germany, and the U.K. in an effort to establish monthly teleconferences with U.S. allies. (Defense News)
What Worked, What Didn’t at Army’s Second Connect-Everything Experiment: If last year’s edition of the U.S. Army’s massive connect-everything experiment at the Yuma Proving Grounds was a proof of concept, this year’s was a far bigger effort to see just how much those data-sharing concepts might accelerate major military campaigns. In just its second year, Project Convergence has become the U.S. military’s most important experimentation effort for testing out new technologies for joint all-domain command and control, or JADC2. This year’s version featured 110 technologies including drone-shooting helicopters and robot reconnaissance teams. (Defense One)
An Uber Fee Unfairly Impacts Riders with Disabilities, a DOJ Lawsuit Says: The Justice Department is suing the ride-hailing company Uber for charging “wait time” fees it says unfairly harm people with disabilities. According to federal prosecutors, Uber charges an extra fee starting two minutes after a car arrives until the trip starts and that discriminates against people with disabilities who may need more time to get in a vehicle. (NPR)
Hackers Access FBI Email System, Spam 100,000 Accounts: Hackers accessed the FBI’s email system and sent spam to 100,000 accounts last Saturday, according to the Spamhaus Project, an email spam watchdog group. The organization posted an example on Twitter of one of the emails that were sent to thousands of accounts. (The Hill)
DOJ Opens Environmental Justice Probe of Alabama Health Departments, the First under 1964 Law: The U.S. Department of Justice has launched an investigation into whether the Alabama Department of Public Health and the Lowndes County Health Department have put Black residents at a higher risk of disease by failing to properly rid their communities of raw sewage. (CNN)
CMMC 2.0 Could Take As Long As Two Years to Come Online: The Pentagon is encouraging defense contractors to follow cybersecurity practices laid out by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, but new requirements will not show up in contracts for at least nine months, with the potential for the rulemaking process to stretch out as late as fall 2023. Meanwhile, a Defense Department official said about 40,000 companies will still require a third-party assessment under the revamped Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification program. (Federal News Network)
EPA & DOI
Senior EPA Official Hints at Possible Supplement to Methane Rule: One of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) senior air quality officials said last Thursday that the agency is exploring adding supplements to its methane rule based on feedback received during its public comment period. Asked why the rule as announced does not include a phaseout of routine methane flaring, EPA Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator Joe Goffman emphasized what he said is the agency’s ambition for the final rule at the U.N. COP26 international climate summit. (The Hill)
Department of Energy
Biden Administration Clarifies It’s Not Weighing Line 5 Shutdown: The White House last Tuesday clarified that the Biden administration is not considering a shutdown of the Line 5 pipeline in Michigan despite a push from the state to do so. Asked last week about the pipeline, White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters that the administration was studying the impact of shutting down the pipeline, but during her comments, she appeared to walk back her assertion. (The Hill)
Biden May Tap Strategic Reserve Amid Rising Fuel Prices: Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said yesterday that President Joe Biden is considering tapping into the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve amid rising crude oil prices. In an interview with CNN’s “State of the Union,” Granholm said Biden is “looking at all of the tools that he has” to address high prices at the pump, including tapping into U.S. oil reserves. (Politico)
John Kerry Predicts U.S. ‘Won’t Have Coal’ by 2030, but New Report Raises Doubts: Climate envoy John Kerry told the U.N. Climate Change Conference last Tuesday that the United States would likely phase out coal power within the next nine years, but quitting coal may be tougher than he assumes. (Yahoo News)
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