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Window on Washington – November 7, 2022, Vol. 6, Issue 42

November 7, 2022

Outlook for This Week in the Nation’s Capital

Congress.  Congress is in recess this week. Both the House and Senate will return to Washington next Monday, November 14th. The Senate will likely continue floor consideration of the FY23 National Defense Authorization Act. In a schedule released last week, House Republicans will hold their leadership elections beginning next Tuesday. House Democrats have not yet released a schedule for their leadership races, though their timeline is expected to depend on the outcome of the mid-term election and will not likely occur until after Thanksgiving. Younger Democrats like Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), Adam Schiff (D-CA), and Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) are reportedly eager to rise higher in leadership. In the Senate, Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE) was officially selected as the next president of the University of Florida and is expected to resign from the Senate at the end of the year.

Debt Limit. The extension of the debt limit continues to be a priority for the Biden administration and some Congressional Democrats. The White House is reportedly exploring options for raising the debt ceiling during the lame duck Congress through 2024 to avoid any potential showdown with a Republican Congress.

FY23 Appropriations.  Government funding runs out in 39 days on December 16th. Negotiations will begin in earnest after tomorrow’s elections. House Appropriations Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) said she intends to meet the funding deadline but has not received any request from the White House for supplemental appropriations for Ukraine or related to hurricane relief.

Midterm Elections.  The midterm elections are tomorrow. According to the United States Election Project, nearly 40 million people voted early. More than 99 million people voted early in 2020. Key House and Senate races continue to be toss-ups, with late momentum expanding the map of potential upsets in favor of Republicans. Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Georgia remain the top races to watch for which party will control the Senate. Politico rates six Senate seats as toss-ups: Pennsylvania, Nevada, Georgia, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, and Arizona. The Cook Political Report on Friday shifted odds toward Republicans, saying a 52-seat majority is possible.  The final Real Clear Politics poll aggregation shows how tight each of these races remain.  Democratic chances remain challenged due to economic issues and the President’s approval rating, which stands at 42% in the latest Five Thirty Eight aggregation of the most recent polls.

Biden Administration.  President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden are campaigning for congressional and gubernatorial candidates in the DC area today. Dr. Biden will join Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-VA) for an election event in Ashburn, VA before she joins President Biden for a DNC event in Maryland. Later today, Biden will participate in a rally with Maryland gubernatorial candidate Wes Moore (D-MD) in Bowie, MD. President Biden is traveling to Egypt later this week for the United Nations COP27 climate conference. Nearly 20 senior administration advisors will also travel to the conference. A key goal for Biden is to secure additional climate commitments from China. Before leaving for Egypt on Thursday, he is expected to respond to the midterm election results in some way. Following the conference, Biden will then travel to Cambodia for the U.S.-ASEAN Summit and the East Asia Summit on Nov 12th and 13th. He will then travel to Indonesia from Nov. 13th-16th for the G20 Leaders’ Summit.

Last Week in the Nation’s Capital


Budget & Appropriations

Budget Panel Race is On, Regardless of Ways and Means Outcome: A competition to decide who will lead Republicans on the House Budget Committee in the next Congress is underway — even if the current occupant doesn’t get the promotion he’s seeking. Rep. Jason Smith (R-MO), the current top Republican on Budget, is running for his party’s top slot on the Ways and Means Committee to replace the retiring Kevin Brady (R-TX). (Roll Call)

Reconciliation Back on the Table for Raising Debt Limit: Top Democrats are privately discussing the possibility of using the budget reconciliation process in the upcoming lame-duck session to raise the statutory debt limit if Republicans retake one or both chambers in the midterms. (Roll Call)


Warnock Pushes Insulin Cost Caps as Campaign Nears Finish Line: Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) is making his advocacy for capping the cost of insulin a key part of his closing message ahead of Tuesday’s election. (Roll Call)

Lawmakers Push to End Maternal Health Crisis: Lawmakers are pushing for increased protections for pregnant people of color in the hopes of passing legislation before the end of the session. The Black Maternal Health Caucus has been leading legislation talks. The caucus was established in 2019 to fight the drastic racial disparities that exist for pregnant Black people. Despite proposing a 12-package act of protections for pregnant people, most of the caucus’s legislation hasn’t passed. (The Hill)

Manchin Calls for Deal on Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid In New Congress: Centrist Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) last Thursday called for a broad bipartisan deal to protect the solvency of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, popular programs that face serious funding issues over the next few decades. “You’re going to get your financial house in order. We cannot live with this crippling debt,” Manchin, whose pivotal vote both delayed and helped pass big pieces of President Biden’s agenda, told Fortune’s Alan Murray at a CEO conference. (The Hill)

GOP Floats Medicare Changes While Ducking Details: Some House Republicans aren’t waiting for the election to think about overhauling Medicare. But it’s hard to tell if there are specifics behind the talking point. Past GOP attempts to cut Medicare landed with a thud, and Democrats in recent weeks have been hammering on the message that Republicans are intent on gutting the program. (Axios)

Labor & Workforce

Rail Labor Union Approves Tentative Contract: A railroad workers union on Saturday approved a proposed contract with freight railroads after having rejected an earlier version weeks prior. The “yes” vote by the International Association of Machinists’ District 19 lowers the temperature on the potential for an economically devastating freight rail strike that — for some of the 12 unions involved — could start as soon as later this month. (Politico)

Banking & Housing

Expected Financial Services Chair Found Consensus with Democrats: In interviews, three Democrats said Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC) has sought to find bipartisan legislative consensus. The question for them will be whether that spirit of cooperation continues with McHenry in the committee chairman’s seat if the Republicans take the House, as they are widely predicted to do. (Roll Call)

Senators Urge FDIC to Give Fair Consideration to Industrial Banks: A bipartisan group of senators is supporting “industrial loan company” charters, a move that puts them at odds with House legislation over a controversial pathway for financial technology companies to access the traditional banking system. (Roll Call)

Reps. Kim, Luetkemeyer Wary of New SEC Small Business Regulations: U.S. Reps. Young Kim (R-CA) and Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO) recently forwarded correspondence to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), noting the agency should consider how regulations may impact small businesses and entrepreneurs. (FinReg News)

Tax Reform

House Republicans Cry Politics Over IRS Outreach: House Republicans are threatening to investigate the Treasury Department, if they win back the majority, over the mid-October timing of 9 million letters the Internal Revenue Service sent out reminding Americans of their eligibility for certain tax credits. That includes the third round of stimulus checks, child tax credits and the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). (Axios)


Fed Lawmakers Demand Answers on Amtrak Exec’s Six-Figure Bonuses: Two House lawmakers are demanding answers from Amtrak’s board of directors after a report revealed the 10 highest-paid executives at the company were awarded six-figure bonuses — even as the rail network hemorrhaged money. Republicans on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, in a letter to board chairman Anthony Coscia sent Wednesday, said the extravagant rewards — “paid largely from taxpayer funds” — were an affront to everyday Amtrak employees. (New York Post)

Democratic Senators say U.S. FAA Should Bar Airlines from Reducing Leg Room: Six Democratic U.S senators urged the Federal Aviation Administration on Tuesday to bar airlines from further shrinking the size and leg room of airplane seats. The senators including Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Edward Markey (D-MA), and Ron Wyden (D-OR), said airlines have been shrinking seat sizes since at least the 1990s — with seat pitch, which determines leg room, decreasing from 32 inches (81 cm) to 28 inches (71 cm), and seat width decreasing from 19 inches (48 cm) to as little as 16 inches (41 cm). (Reuters)


Senate Dems say Time is Running Out to Break the Pentagon’s Nominee Logjam: Senate Democrats want to finish up confirmations of senior Pentagon nominees who have been stuck in limbo for months — but there may not be enough time to get the job done. More than a dozen of President Joe Biden’s civilian nominees await action when the Senate returns after the Nov. 8 midterm elections that could swing control of the chamber. (Politico)

Offshore Energy Battle Looms Over ‘Must Pass’ Defense Bill: One of the most underappreciated high-stakes legislative fights in recent memory — featuring some of the strangest political bedfellows — is coming soon to a lame-duck session near you. The issue? House-passed legislation attached to that chamber’s version of the National Defense Authorization Act that would require the use of U.S. crews or similarly paid workers on foreign vessels servicing offshore energy projects. (Roll Call)

Here’s How a GOP Win in November Might Affect 2023 Defense Policy: Bigger defense budgets, heavier scrutiny of military aid to Ukraine and a tougher line on China are all on the horizon should Republicans take control of the House or Senate after midterm elections, experts say. Republican lawmakers are also expected to press on several social issues, particularly the Pentagon’s 2021 COVID-19 vaccine mandate, abortion access, numerous defense policy changes dealing with diversity, gender, inclusion and investigating extremism in the ranks. (The Hill)


U.S. Senator Seeks Antitrust Review of Apartment Price-Setting Software: Sherrod Brown (D-OH), the chair of a U.S. Senate committee, asked the Federal Trade Commission to review whether a Texas-based property tech company’s rent-setting software violates antitrust laws. The move comes after ProPublica published an investigation on October 15 into RealPage’s pricing software, which suggests new rents daily to landlords for all available units in a building. Critics say the software may be helping big landlords operate as a cartel to push rents above competitive levels in some markets. (ARS Technica)

House Judiciary GOP Charts Course for FBI, DOJ Probes in Lengthy Report: Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee released a lengthy staff report on Friday on alleged politicization and anti-conservative bias in the FBI and Department of Justice (DOJ), a document that will serve as a road map for more probes of the agencies if the GOP wins control of the House in next week’s midterm elections. (The Hill)


GOP Rep. Pushes Biden for Cyberattack Action Plan: A top GOP congressional cyber leader is pushing the Biden administration to establish an economic continuity plan in the event of a massive cyberattack. Rep. Andrew Garbarino (R-NY) and Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) sent a letter Wednesday to President Biden demanding he follow through on a requirement in the 2021 national defense policy bill to establish a “Continuity of the Economy” plan in the event of a cyberattack that causes “severe degradation to economic activity.” (Axios)

Warner Warns of Cyberthreats to Health Care Industry: The health care sector faces increasing pressure from cyberattacks targeting hospitals and other medical facilities while it deals with old equipment and systems that weren’t designed with cybersecurity in mind, warns a policy paper from the office of Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA). (Roll Call)

Environment & Interior

Four Ways a GOP-led Congress Will Take on Energy, Environment: Energy issues are expected to be top of mind for Republicans if they take back the House or the Senate next year given the party’s focus on high gas prices in the lead-up to the elections. The GOP is vowing to move pro-energy legislation, even though turning Republican bills into law will be difficult with President Biden in the White House. (The Hill)

Tensions Rise Over Drought-stricken Colorado River Water Use: As the Interior Department continues to delay implementing a program to reduce water consumption from the drought-stricken Colorado River Basin, tensions are thickening between the seven states with stakes in the watershed. Now, lawmakers in Congress are fanning the flames as Capitol Hill looks ahead to must-pass, biennial water legislation. (Roll Call)


Republicans Plan an Energy Agenda Designed to Keep Democrats on Their Heels: Republicans are preparing to advance an ambitious energy agenda if they win control of the House in this week’s elections — including faster approvals of fossil fuel projects and probes of how the Biden administration is spending its hundreds of billions in climate dollars. (Politico)

Manchin Slams Biden for ‘Disgusting’ Comments about Shuttering Coal Plants: Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) slammed President Biden for making “offensive and disgusting” comments about shutting down coal plants at an event in California on Friday. Biden said that generating electricity from wind and solar energy is cheaper than generating it from coal and oil. He said people are not building new coal plants because they cannot rely on it. (The Hill)


Budget & Appropriations

Biden World Eyeing Lame-duck Action on Debt Ceiling and a Lift Past 2024: President Joe Biden hasn’t yet lost control of Congress. But already, his administration is preparing for its first major showdown with a newly emboldened Republican party. Senior Biden officials and allies are exploring a series of strategies for raising the debt ceiling, in a bid to avert a standoff with Republicans next year that threatens to further rattle financial markets and endanger the nation’s fragile economic recovery. (Politico)


Biden Officials Get Key Data on New Covid Booster’s Effectiveness: The Biden administration received new data on the effectiveness of its updated Covid vaccines, offering officials the clearest look yet at how well the booster shots protect against the virus. The findings submitted by vaccine maker Pfizer-BioNTech detail the booster’s efficacy against the nation’s dominant Covid strains. (Politico)

Surging RSV Hits Children’s Hospitals Across the U.S.: Children’s hospitals across the country are dealing with a surge in cases of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), stressing health care services and millions of parents with ailing children. (The Hill)

CDC Issues Updated Guidance on Prescribing Opioids: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Thursday issued new guidance for providers on prescribing opioids for chronic pain, updating previous recommendations that had been in place since 2016. The CDC proposed new opioid prescription guidelines earlier this year amid criticisms that the old ones had resulted in worsened outcomes for patients with chronic pain. (The Hill)

FDA Advisory Panel Meets to Consider EUA for new Covid Therapeutic.  An FDA Pulmonary-Allergy Drugs advisory panel meets Thursday to consider an emergency use authorization for sabizabulin, a cancer drug repurposed to treat severely ill Covid patients who are both hospitalized and on respirators.  Phase 3 clinical trials showed dramatically improved health outcomes, including significantly lower rates of death.  (The New England Journal of Medicine)

Labor & Workforce

Labor Secretary says Congress Needs to Block Rail Strikes Without New Deals: Labor Secretary Marty Walsh says he hopes negotiators between railroads and some rail unions can reach new labor deals and avert a possible strike. But he said without a deal he expects Congress will step in and impose contracts on the unhappy rank-and-file union members. (CNN)

Department of Education

Justice Barrett, Again, Rejects Bid to Block Biden’s Student Debt Relief: Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett has, for the second time, rejected an emergency request to block President Joe Biden’s student debt relief, even as legal uncertainty from other cases hangs over the program days before the midterm elections. (Politico)

With Affirmative Action in Supreme Court Peril, Changes Could Ripple Beyond Schools: The conservative-led Supreme Court’s signaling last week that it may rule against affirmative action in college admissions is raising alarm from businesses and leaders who say the move would ripple well beyond just schools. (The Hill)

More Than 26 Million Apply for Student Loan Forgiveness: Nearly 26 million Americans have applied for relief under the Biden administration’s student loan forgiveness plan, the White House announced Thursday. (Inside Higher Ed)


‘Hundreds’ of Crypto Cases Coming, IRS Criminal Chief Says: The IRS’s Criminal Investigation division is building “hundreds” of crypto cases, and many of them will soon be public, division chief Jim Lee said. The cases involve areas like “off-ramping” transactions, in which digital assets are exchanged for fiat currency, as well as people being paid in crypto and not reporting, Lee said during a press call. (Bloomberg Tax)

Tax Reform/IRS

Millions of Americans Could Receive Money from the IRS; the Deadline to File is Nov. 17: The tax agency announced, in mid-October, that it would begin sending out letters to more than 9 million people who may qualify for thousands of dollars worth of stimulus payments and tax credits. (The Hill)


Buttigieg Says Self-driving Cars Could be Safer: In the self-driving car debate, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg comes down squarely on the side of safety. “Human drivers aren’t just problematic. They are murderous,” he said. Technology “is not always the answer to everything,” he added. “But frankly, it would be hard to do worse than human drivers when it comes to what we could get to theoretically with the right kind of safe autonomous driving.” (Axios)

FAA, U.S. Telecom Agency Hold 5G C-Band Aviation Talks: Senior leaders at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Commerce Department’s telecommunications unit met to discuss aviation safety concerns raised by new 5G C-Band deployments. (Reuters)


Sultzman Takes Over as U.S. Space Force Commander: Gen. B. Chance Saltzman took command of U.S. Space Force at an official ceremony last week at Andrews Air Force base, as Gen. Jay Raymond retires after 38 years of service. Since 2020, Saltzman (“Salty”) has been Raymond’s Deputy Chief of Space Operations for Operations, Cyber and Nuclear. During his Senate confirmation hearing he cited China as “the most immediate threat.” (Space Policy Online)

Psyche Review Finds Institutional Problems at JPL: The independent review, chaired by retired aerospace executive Tom Young, found that while delays in development and testing were the cause of the mission to mission its August 2022 launch window, they were not the only problems Psyche had encountered. The board said that other unresolved software issues, incomplete verification and validation of vehicle systems, and “insufficient plans and preparation for mission operations” could have also caused a delay. The board linked those problems to more fundamental issues with the management not just of the Psyche mission itself but also others at JPL. (Space News)

NASA Asteroid Threat Practice Drill Shows We’re Not Ready: The fourth Planetary Defense Tabletop Exercise, held last February, demonstrated that the U.S. doesn’t have the capability to intercept small, fast-moving asteroids, and our ability to see them is limited. Even if we could intercept space rocks, we may not be able to deflect one away from Earth, and using a nuclear weapon to destroy one is risky and filled with international legal issues. The trial also showed that misinformation—lies and false rumors spreading among the public—could drastically hamper the official effort. (Scientific American)

A Space Rescue Service? Calls Grow to Create a Quick Response Force for Astronauts in Distress: As dozens more people travel to orbit for days and even weeks — and hundreds are predicted to inhabit private stations or moon bases in the coming years — a rescue service will be needed for spacefarers in distress, say government advisers and industry insiders. But no such plans are currently in the works. (Politico)

FCC Establishes New Bureau Dedicated to Satellite Industry Oversight: The Federal Communications Commission has set up a new bureau dedicated to improving the agency’s oversight of the satellite industry. It is one of two new offices to come out of an internal reorganization at the FCC, which has also created a standalone office of international affairs. (FedScoop)


Pentagon says It Will Fund Tanks for Ukraine: The Pentagon on Friday announced it will be funding tanks sent to Ukraine for the first time, part of a $400 million military assistance package that will also provide armored vehicles, drones and a budget to refurbish air defense missiles. (The Hill)

Pentagon, Congress Have Trust Issues, Budget Reform Panel’s Lord Says:  Early work by a congressionally mandated budget reform commission has highlighted an “incredible lack of trust and communication” between the U.S. Department of Defense and Congress, according to former Pentagon acquisition chief Ellen Lord.  Lord is a member of the 14-person Commission on Planning, Program, Budgeting and Execution Reform, created by Congress in the fiscal 2022 National Defense Authorization Act. The panel is made up of former lawmakers, DoD officials and industry executives who are tasked with recommending improvements to the department’s budget process.  (Defense News)

DoD’s Microelectronics Commons Takes Shape:  Thanks to funding provided by the CHIPS and Science Act, DoD is about to bring the Microelectronics Commons to life. This key network of microelectronics infrastructure investments, facilities, companies, and manufacturers is designed to empower commercial leaders to guide the DoD’s efforts in microelectronics development. With the creation of regional technology hubs, each focusing on key technology areas, the Microelectronics Commons will close the gap between research ideas and realization of those ideas.  (Department of Defense)

DHS & Immigration

DHS Begins Limited Implementation of DACA under Final Rule: On Monday, October 31, 2022, the Department of Homeland Security’s final rule to preserve and fortify Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) went into effect. The final rule’s implementation means that DACA is now based on a formal regulation, thereby preserving and fortifying the program while the program remains the subject of litigation in court. (Clark Hill Insight)


FCC Commissioner says Government Should Ban TikTok: The Council on Foreign Investment in the U.S. (CFIUS) should take action to ban TikTok, Brendan Carr, one of five commissioners at the Federal Communications Commission, told Axios in an interview. It’s the strongest language Carr has used to date to urge action on TikTok. With more than 200 million downloads in the U.S. alone, the popular app is becoming a form of critical information infrastructure — making the app’s ownership by a Chinese parent company a target of growing national security concern. (Axios)

Biden Ponders Marijuana Moves as States Forge Ahead: Five states will vote this week on whether to join the 21 states and territories that have legalized recreational marijuana for adults. But the federal government is still stuck on whether to remove the plant from Schedule I of the federal drug code — a category reserved for highly addictive substances with no medical benefit. The Biden administration’s Oct. 6 announcement that it would revisit that classification comes after previous, yearslong reviews of marijuana’s categorization fell flat, and experts are split on whether things might be different this time. (Roll Call)


Federal Officials Eye Path Forward for EV Cybersecurity: Federal officials are examining what role they should play in strengthening the cybersecurity of electric vehicles (EVs) as they push for increased EV adoption in the U.S. The Office of the National Cyber Director (ONCD) hosted a forum in October with government leaders and private companies, including both automakers and EV charging manufacturers, to discuss the cybersecurity issues facing EVs and the tech they operate on. (Axios)

Ransomware Costs Top $1 Billion as White House Inks New Threat-sharing Initiative: U.S. financial institutions observed nearly $1.2 billion in costs associated with ransomware attacks in 2021, a nearly 200 percent increase over the previous year, according to data reported by banks to the U.S. Treasury Department and released in a report last week. The report comes amid an effort by the Biden administration to crack down on ransomware operators globally and illustrates the scale of the challenge facing law enforcement agencies and policymakers. (FedScoop)

CISA Leaning Toward Lower Threshold for Mandatory Cyber Incident Reporting: Organizations should err on the side of reporting any cybersecurity incidents they experience to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, even if they seem small or inconsequential, according to an agency official discussing a rule CISA must publish to implement the Cyber Incident Reporting for Critical Infrastructure Act.  Speaking during an event CISA Chief Strategy Officer Valerie Cofield said those considerations for implementing the law are similar to ones used in activating CISA’s “Shields Up” initiative. (Next Gov)


Biden Officials Admit There’s Still A Problem Getting Baby Formula To Shelves: Biden administration officials are still grappling with baby formula supply challenges across the country, eight months after a key formula plant shuttered and sparked widespread shortages. Stores remain unevenly stocked as the amount of formula on the market overall has rebounded. The officials in charge of the response blame hoarding, supply chain bottlenecks and manufacturers making fewer varieties. (Politico)


White House Releases Net-Zero Road Map: The White House announced a new initiative Thursday to help reach net-zero emissions and promised to direct research and billions in federal dollars toward 37 “game-changing” energy technologies. The Net-Zero Game Changers Initiative, as it’s known, is led by a working group of 17 agencies, chaired by President Joe Biden’s climate advisers. The administration also released a new road map identifying five initial key areas for energy research and development to reach net zero by 2050: power grids, aviation, fusion energy, efficient buildings and net-zero fuels and industrial products. (E&E News)

U.S. EPA to Set Tougher Heavy-duty Emissions Rules in 2023: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said on Thursday it plans to issue tougher greenhouse gas emissions rules for heavy-duty trucks and other larger vehicles through at least the 2030 model year by the end of 2023. (Reuters)

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