Window on Washington – November 29, 2021, Vol. 5, Issue 48
Outlook for This Week in the Nation’s Capital
Congress. The House and Senate are back in session this week. At the top of their to-do list is coming to an agreement on the next continuing resolution (CR) for FY22 appropriations, as the current CR will expire this Friday. Other matters they are working on include deciding on next steps for the debt limit and conferencing the United States Innovation and Competition Act (USICA). The Senate is also close to voting on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and is making progress on their changes to the House-passed reconciliation bill, with Senate Democrats having indicated they are still on track to finish their work on the Build Back Better Act by Christmas. Meanwhile, the House plans to vote on a number of bills related to cybersecurity, opioids, social determinants of health, and natural resources, among others. Hearings for the week include examining nominations, CARES Act oversight and the pandemic response, the Decadal Survey for Astronomy and Astrophysics in the 2020s, the cybersecurity landscape, and the overdose crisis.
Defense Authorization. The Senate had delayed a vote on the NDAA before heading into the Thanksgiving recess, but final passage is expected this week.
FY22 Appropriations. With the current continuing resolution (CR) set to expire on Dec. 3, Democrats and Republicans need to pass another CR before then to ensure there is no lapse in federal funding. The end date for the next CR has not yet been determined. The House is expected to introduce a CR tomorrow that will last through mid to late January. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has not yet indicated whether or not Senate Republicans will agree to the short-term CR.
Biden Administration. President Joe Biden will visit Rosemount, Montana tomorrow to discuss the bipartisan infrastructure package. Vice President Kamala Harris will convene the administration’s first White House National Space Council meeting this Wednesday.
Last Week in the Nation’s Capital
Budget & Appropriations
Biden Taps Shalanda Young to Lead White House Budget Office: President Biden last Wednesday announced his plans to nominate Shalanda Young as director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) after the longtime Capitol Hill aide spent months serving as acting director. If confirmed, Young would be the first Black woman to run the agency. She has served as acting director since Neera Tanden’s nomination for OMB director was withdrawn in March. (The Hill)
Lawmakers Are Encouraging A Reexamination Of The Health Care Industry To Address Social And Economic Factors To Make It More Accessible To The General Public: Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-CA) and Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) both pointed to the expansion of telehealth amid the COVID-19 pandemic as an example of positive change during The Hill’s “Future of Health Care Summit: Tackling Costs & Pathways to Care” event last week. Telehealth is convenient, saves costs and increases accessibility to those in rural communities, they said. With the right services and instruments, patients can record their blood pressure, monitor other vital signs and coordinate care with doctors. (The Hill)
Banking & Housing
Five Senate Democrats Reportedly Opposed to Biden Banking Nominee: Five Senate Democrats have said they will oppose President Biden’s nominee to head the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, Saule Omarova. Three Democratic members of the Senate Banking Committee — Jon Tester (D-MT), Mark Warner (D-VA) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) — reportedly told the panel chairman, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), in a call last Wednesday they would not support Omarova’s nomination. (The Hill)
Senate Banking Wants Answers from Stablecoin Issuers on How Their Business Works: The Senate committee overseeing banks and coinage is asking stablecoin issuers for information about how they conduct business, after the Biden administration asked Congress to regulate the rapidly growing corner of the cryptocurrency space. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), chair of the Senate Banking Committee, said he wants stablecoin issuers and crypto exchanges to explain how they are protecting consumers and investors in what has become a $143 billion market. (Business Insider)
T&I Republican Leaders Call on Biden to Halt Regulatory Actions to Kill Infrastructure Projects: Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Republican leaders are calling on the Biden Administration to stop throwing up regulatory roadblocks that will kill critical infrastructure projects. The regulatory actions come as the President and his Congressional allies continue to blame the private sector for the ongoing supply chain crisis, and while Americans face increased prices across the economy due to rampant inflation. (Clark Hill Insight)
Russian Buildup Sparks New Push by Congress to Send Weapons to Ukraine: Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) are pushing to boost funding for shipments of lethal weapons to Kyiv by another $50 million as the West nervously watches Russian troops and equipment mass along Ukraine’s eastern border. They hope to offer their amendment to the annual defense policy legislation, which has been delayed in coming to the Senate floor. (Politico)
Homeland Security & Immigration
Democrats Get Hopeful Sign from Parliamentarian on Immigration: Democrats got a hopeful sign from the Senate rules referee Tuesday in their effort to include provisions for undocumented immigrants in the $1.75 trillion “human” infrastructure bill they hope to pass through the partisan reconciliation process. (Axios)
More Than $500M for Cybersecurity Included in Sweeping House-Passed Package: The House approved more than $500 million in cybersecurity funding on Friday as part of its version of President Biden’s roughly $2 trillion Build Back Better package. While mostly focused on social and climate programs, the bill would also funnel most of those funds to DHS’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) to help address issues including cybersecurity workforce training as well as state and local government cybersecurity. (The Hill)
Incident Reporting, Ransomware Payment Legislation Faces Trouble in Senate: Legislation requiring critical infrastructure owners to report major cyber incidents to the federal government, and mandating that ransomware victims disclose when they make payments, has hit a significant snag in the Senate. Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL), has introduced his own amendment to the annual defense authorization bill that would limit the ransomware payment reporting requirement to just critical infrastructure owners and operators, which is narrower than the compromise backed by another group of Senators. (Cyber Scoop)
U.S. Senator Warren Lashes Out at Energy Companies over Natural Gas Prices: U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) on Tuesday called on energy companies to explain “their decisions to export record amounts of natural gas while imposing massive price increases” on consumers, accusing them of “corporate greed” while Americans struggle to pay their bills. (Reuters)
Rep. Hinson Introduces Defend the Blend Act to Keep EPA from Reducing 2020 RVO: Congresswoman Ashley Hinson (R-IA), alongside Congressman Rodney Davis (R-IL), Congresswoman Angie Craig (D-MN), and Congressman Ron Kind (D-WI), introduced the bipartisan Defend the Blend Act, legislation to prohibit the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from reducing the minimum applicable volume of biofuels into transportation fuel once the Renewable Volume Obligations (RVO) levels are finalized for any given year. This would prevent the EPA from retroactively reducing 2020 RVO levels. (Biofuels Digest)
Omicron Variant Will ‘Inevitably’ Reach the U.S., Fauci Says: The Omicron variant of the coronavirus, which has found its way into a number of European countries in recent days, will “inevitably” get to the United States, Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Sunday. “The question is: Will we be prepared for it?” he said on ABC’s “This Week” with George Stephanopoulos. “The preparation that we have ongoing, for what we’re doing now with the Delta variant, just needs to be revved up.” (Politico)
Biden Admin Announces Travel Ban for South Africa and 7 Other Countries, Citing New Variant: The Biden administration announced plans last Friday to ban travel to the United States from South Africa and seven other countries, just hours after a new coronavirus variant was deemed a highly transmissible virus of concern. The travel restrictions will begin Monday, affecting South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi, according to a senior administration official. The administration’s decision was in response to advice from Anthony Fauci, the president’s chief medical adviser, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the official said. Roughly a dozen countries took similar action on Friday. (Politico)
Labor & Workforce
Agency Score Card: Who Met Biden’s Vaccine Mandate Deadline and Who Didn’t: The Office of Management and Budget on Wednesday released agency-specific data on compliance with President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate for the federal government’s 3.5 million employees, showing the Transportation Department on top and the Agriculture Department lagging. The White House announcement touts that 92 percent of federal employees received at least one Covid-19 vaccination dose by the Nov. 22 deadline to get the shot, adding that the deadline “wasn’t an end point.” (Politico)
Banking & Housing/HUD
Biden Renames Powell to Lead Fed, Risking the Left’s Wrath: President Joe Biden said last Monday he will reappoint Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell as head of the U.S. central bank, opting for continuity in the government’s most powerful economic post as the specter of rising inflation looms in an election year. (Politico)
U.S. Agencies Unveil ‘Crypto Sprint’ Roadmap: The Federal Reserve, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency jointly released an inter-agency policy agenda for regulating cryptocurrencies, as discussions unfold about how to provide oversight for the booming market. The so-called “crypto sprint,” as officials call it, sketches out a to-do list for 2022 that will offer crypto players more clarity on the rules of the road. (Yahoo! Finance)
Commerce ‘War Room’ Seeing Improvements on Supply Chain Woes: The supply chain disruptions that have snarled the semiconductor industry and other sectors across the globe are more extensive and complicated than predicted, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said last Monday, but she asserted that gradual progress is being made despite persistent backlogs. (Politico)
Departments of Transportation and Energy Issue EV RFI: Last week, the Departments of Transportation and Energy issued a joint request for information from electric vehicle stakeholders on the availability of EV chargers made in America. (Clark Hill Insight)
Space/NASA & NOAA
NASA’s Dart Aims at Double Asteroid and a Cataclysmic Ending: The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) is part of NASA’s planetary defense program to determine ways to respond to the threat of an incoming asteroid or comet — Near Earth Objects (NEOs). The mission is heading to a double asteroid with the purposeful intent of crashing into it. Nothing on the spacecraft will survive, but the data it provides may help someday if another asteroid is on a collision course with Earth and must be diverted. (Space Policy Online)
NOAA Works to Forecast Compound Floods in Complex Coastal Regions: Coastal communities face more frequent floods in which rain, rivers, and ocean storm surge combine forces. A reliable system that accurately predicts inundation from these events is urgently needed. A model coupling project is now operating under the auspices of NOAA’s Water Initiative, which, among other goals, aims to develop, demonstrate, and implement improved capabilities for hydrologic prediction across environments. (EOS)
Defense Industry Asks White House to Allow COVID Tests to Substitute for Vax Mandate: Fearing a loss of highly skilled workers, groups representing large and small defense firms are pushing the Biden administration to allow employees to take periodic COVID tests instead of getting vaccinated. Currently, employees of companies that do work for the federal government must be fully vaccinated by Jan. 18. At least one company, Navy shipbuilder Huntington Ingalls Industries, said it would not enforce the mandate at shipyards in Mississippi and Virginia unless the requirement was included in a government contract. (Defense One)
DHS & Immigration
US to Require Vaccines for all Border Crossers in January: President Joe Biden will require essential, nonresident travelers crossing U.S. land borders, such as truck drivers, government and emergency response officials, to be fully vaccinated beginning on Jan. 22. (AP)
Biden Restarting Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” Policy: President Biden will start turning asylum seekers back to Mexico as soon as next week under a reinstated Trump-era “Remain in Mexico” program — but will offer them the option to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. (Axios)
Biden’s Justice Department Puts Unruly Airline Passengers on Notice: The Justice Department said Wednesday afternoon that it will prioritize prosecuting passengers who have assaulted airline crews, as travel spikes for what is set to be the busiest holiday season since the pandemic took hold. (Politico)
FBI Wants to be in the Loop as Congress Mulls Cyber Reporting Law: Congress is considering a bill that would require critical infrastructure operators and federal agencies to report any cyber breaches and attacks to the top federal cyber agency, but the FBI wants to be in the reporting loop as well. (Roll Call)
FDA Nomination Slips after Biden Admin Fails to Send Papers to Congress: A plan to speed Robert Califf’s nomination for FDA commissioner through the Senate next month is on hold after the Biden administration failed to submit the necessary paperwork to Congress in time. (Politico)
EPA & DOI
Interior Recommends Imposing Higher Costs for Public Lands Drilling: A long-awaited report from the Interior Department recommends taking steps to increase fees for drilling on public lands, arguing that taxpayers are currently being shortchanged. (The Hill)
Department of Energy
Republican FTC Commissioners ask White House for Evidence on Gasoline Price Probe Request: Two Republicans on the Federal Trade Commission asked the White House last Tuesday to disclose any “mounting evidence” of wrongdoing behind high retail gasoline prices after President Joe Biden urged the agency to dig deeper into possible “illegal conduct” in the market. (Reuters)
Biden Acts to Lower Fuel Prices — with Help from GOP: Republicans were quick to slam President Joe Biden’s decision on Tuesday to open the taps on the nation’s oil reserves, accusing him of misusing a national security stockpile for the politically expedient goal of lowering gasoline prices just before Thanksgiving. (Politico)
New White House Office to Develop Climate Change Policies: The White House is set to create a new division of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) that will develop federal climate change policy. The Biden administration will appoint Sally Benson, a professor of energy engineering at Stanford University, to head the newly created division. (The Hill)
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