Window on Washington – November 8, 2021, Vol. 5, Issue 45
Outlook for This Week in the Nation’s Capital
Congress. The Senate is in recess this week, and the House has a committee work period. There are only a few hearings this week, one of which is a discussion on reauthorizing the National Windstorm Impact Reduction Program. The House has also indicated they plan to vote to pass the reconciliation bill once the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) score is available, which is expected to be ready early next week. While progress has been made to conclude the reconciliation process, both Chambers have a long list of items they still have to get through by the end of the year, including the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the FY22 appropriations process, the United States Innovation and Competition Act (USICA), and the debt limit.
Reconciliation and Infrastructure Packages. The House passed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) in a bipartisan 228-206 vote, sending it to President Joe Biden’s desk for his signature. 13 Republicans voted for the Senate-passed bipartisan bill, while 6 progressive Democrats voted no. Biden has promised Americans will see the infrastructure bill’s effects “probably starting within the next two to three months.” The House also voted 221-213 to pass a rule that sets the debate parameters for the Build Back Better (BBB) Act, but they were not ready to hold a final floor vote on the bill. Moderate Democrats have vowed to vote for the BBB if the CBO score is consistent with the estimates they have seen from the White House. Given that the CBO score is expected to be released by next Monday, the House has said they aim to pass the reconciliation bill no later than next week.
FY22 Appropriations. While the House and Senate Appropriations Chairs and Ranking Members met last week in hopes of moving towards an agreement on an FY22 omnibus by December 3, their meeting did not resolve their differences on parity between defense and non-defense spending and policy riders. There is a strong chance there will be another continuing resolution (CR) given the lack of progress between the parties, but it remains unclear exactly how long it would be for.
Biden Administration. Vice President Kamala Harris will deliver remarks to the Paris Peace Forum on Thursday that focus on global governance issues. Harris will also hold a bilateral meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron while there.
Last Week in the Nation’s Capital
Budget & Appropriations
House Passes $1 Trillion Infrastructure Bill, Advances Social Spending Plan: House Democrats late last Friday night clinched a long-sought victory on President Biden’s domestic agenda, passing a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill — while advancing an even larger social spending package — after months of stubborn infighting that’s bedeviled the party and helped deflate Biden’s public standing. (The Hill)
Shelby Says Another CR Will Be Needed in December: Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) last Tuesday said another continuing resolution will likely be needed in December to fund the government, following an initial meeting last Tuesday between top lawmakers on the House and Senate appropriations committees over fiscal 2022 funding bills. (The Hill)
Banking & Housing
Senate Senses Powell Pick: The White House is asking Democratic senators to meet with Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell before Thanksgiving — leading some to believe President Biden will re-nominate him this month. (Axios)
Waters, Brown, Maloney Urge Treasury to Take Swift Action to Implement Law Cracking Down on Anonymous Shell Companies: Last Thursday, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), Chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Chair of the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, and Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY), Chairwoman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, wrote a letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen urging the Treasury Department to move swiftly on implementing the Corporate Transparency Act (CTA) to crack down on abuses of anonymous shell companies by traffickers, terrorists, illicit arms dealers, and other financial criminals. (Clark Hill Insight)
Toomey Vows Fix to ‘Badly Flawed’ Cryptocurrency Broker Plan in Infrastructure Bill: Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA), ranking member of the Senate Banking Committee, says he’s prepared to fix the broad definition of a cryptocurrency broker that’s contained within the Biden administration’s infrastructure bill. According to Toomey, the legislation defines a cryptocurrency “broker” very broadly, allowing the Internal Revenue Service to target crypto miners, developers and others, who could be considered brokers even if they don’t have any customers or have access to information needed to comply with tax reporting requirements. The industry worries it will discourage innovation in the fast-growing sector. (Yahoo! Finance)
House Passes Davids’ Bipartisan Bill to Advance New Aviation Technology: The House passed Representative Sharice Davids’ bipartisan bill to advance innovative new aviation technology. Davids, who serves as Vice Chair of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, introduced the Advanced Air Mobility Coordination and Leadership Act earlier this year with Ranking Member of the Aviation Subcommittee Garret Graves (R-LA). (Clark Hill Insight)
House, Senate Disagree Over Namesake for DOT Headquarters: The House and Senate are engaged in a standoff over which former secretary of Transportation to name the DOT headquarters after. The Senate moved first, passing a bill by unanimous consent April 14 to name it after the first Black Transportation secretary, William T. Coleman Jr. But the House rebutted that suggestion Thursday, voting 409-14 on a bill to rename the building after former Secretary of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta, the first Asian American to hold the post. (Roll Call)
U.S. Senate Panel Plans Airline Oversight Hearing After Worker Cuts: The chair of the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee plans an oversight hearing on the airline industry after she asked the major carriers in July to explain worker shortages despite receiving billions in pandemic bailout. (Reuters)
Members of Congress Call for Action Regarding Mexico Energy Changes: In a letter to U.S. Ambassador Katherine Tai, Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm, and Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, 40 House Republicans asked the Biden Administration to act on the Mexican government’s attempts to limit competition favoring Mexico’s State Owned Enterprises, PEMEX and CFE. (Office of Rep. Buddy Carter)
House Members Ask for Crackdown of GOES: In a letter to Ambassador Tai and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, a bipartisan group of U.S. Representatives requested immediate negotiations to reduce imports of laminations and cores made of Grained Oriented Electrical Steel (GOES) from Mexico and Canada. The request tracks a report released by the Department of Commerce in July 2021, which found a reduction on the domestic manufacturing of laminations and cores and a significant level of imports, mainly from Canada and Mexico. (Clark Hill Insight)
Homeland Security & Immigration
Progressives Press for Citizenship Path as Window Closes: While Democrats warmed up to newly slimmed-down provisions in their sprawling social spending bill that would carve out temporary immigration protections for millions of undocumented immigrants, several progressives continued pushing for a pathway to citizenship. (Roll Call)
New Klobuchar, Cotton Bill Could Block Big Tech Mergers: Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Tom Cotton (R-AK) introduced a bill Friday that would make it more difficult for Big Tech to acquire rival companies and would force them to prove proposed mergers aren’t anticompetitive. The Platform Competition and Opportunity Act is a Senate companion bill to a similar House bill of the same name. It’s motivated by a belief that acquisitions like Facebook’s parent company Meta buying WhatsApp and Instagram has been bad for consumer choice and competition. (Axios)
Senators Move to Include 72 Hour Timeline for Cyber Incident Reporting in Defense Bill: A bipartisan group of senators are moving to insert a provision into the upcoming annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would give certain critical infrastructure groups 72 hours to report major cyber incidents to the government. The amendment, announced Thursday night, would also give critical infrastructure groups, nonprofit organizations, state and local governments, and certain businesses 24 hours to report payments made to hackers due to a ransomware attack. (The Hill)
Environment & Interior
Coons leads Democratic, Republican group to climate summit: Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) led a group of Democratic and Republican lawmakers to the U.N climate summit COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland. Coons is the chairman of a bipartisan Senate climate group, with Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) also expected at the summit. Lawmakers in the group said the trip showed interest from Republican lawmakers on climate issues. (The Hill)
Surgeon General Defends Embattled Vaccine Mandate: Surgeon General Vivek Murthy on Sunday defended the Biden administration’s workplace rules on vaccine mandates after a federal court blocked a new Occupational Safety and Health Administration policy. Citing historical precedents dating back to George Washington during the American Revolution, Murthy said President Joe Biden had faith in both the legality of the mandate and the effectiveness of such requirements. (Politico)
Labor & Workforce
‘Back into Gear’: Solid Jobs Report Boosts Biden’s Case for Recovery: President Joe Biden has spent months watching his poll numbers sink as the economy appeared to be losing altitude throughout the fall. That narrative may have changed Friday. Government data showed that the U.S. added 531,000 jobs in October — and hundreds of thousands more than initially reported in the two previous months — lending fresh ammunition to Biden’s argument that the economy is strengthening even as rising inflation, supply chain backlogs and labor shortages have forced the administration back on its heels. (Politico)
Banking & Housing/HUD
U.S., U.K. Lead Pledge to End Overseas Oil and Gas Financing, but with Big Caveats: The United States, the U.K. and some 20 other countries and financial institutions pledged on Thursday to stop public financing for most overseas oil and gas projects by next year, though the agreement included wide latitude for participants to set their own exemptions and many of the world’s leading backers of those projects declined to sign on. (Politico)
The Fed Begins Stepping on the Brakes: The Federal Reserve has been pushing the economic stimulus pedal to the metal nonstop since March 2020. For the first time since the pandemic erupted on the global stage, it’s easing off the gas. Buying billions of dollars worth of government bonds and other assets each month, the Fed has supported the economy through Covid. But now the central bank is reducing the pace of those monthly purchases, slashing bond buying by $10 billion for Treasury securities and $5 billion for agency mortgage-backed securities. (CNN)
U.S. Regulators Say Issuers of ‘Stablecoins’ Should Be Policed like Banks: A U.S. Treasury Department-led regulatory body called for Congress to regulate issuers of “stablecoins” like banks and urged financial agencies to assess whether the role of these fast-growing digital assets in the country’s payments system posed a systemic risk. The hotly awaited report by the President’s Working Group on Financial Markets will likely boost policymakers’ efforts to put guardrails around stablecoins, a type of digital asset pegged to traditional currencies which the body said could pose threats to the broader financial system. (Reuters)
SEC Gensler Warns Attorneys to Not Advise Companies on How to Circumvent Securities Laws: Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Gary Gensler warned securities lawyers that the regulator will take a tough stance on issuers and market participants who try to skirt financial-market rules or impede SEC investigations. Gensler hinted that issuers of cryptocurrencies, and entities that facilitate their trade, would be under particular scrutiny going forward as the SEC will focus on the “economic reality” of a particular financial instrument and the purpose it serves, rather than differences in technology that underlie those instruments. (MarketWatch)
AT&T, Verizon to Delay 5G Rollout Over FAA’s Airplane Safety Concerns: Two U.S. telecom companies agreed to delay their planned Dec. 5 rollout of a new 5G frequency band so they can work with the Federal Aviation Administration to address concerns about potential interference with key cockpit safety systems, according to one of the cellular carriers and people familiar with the matter. (Fox Business)
Boeing has ‘More Work to do’, Says U.S. Air Safety Chief: Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) chief Steve Dickson told a U.S. congressional panel that Boeing Co. has “more work to do” as the plane-maker continues to face scrutiny following two fatal 737 MAX crashes in the space of five months in 2018-2019 that killed 346 people. (Reuters)
New Federal Regulations Add More Than 400,000 Miles of “Gas Gathering” Pipelines Under Federal Oversight: The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) is issuing a final rule that expands Federal pipeline safety oversight to all onshore gas gathering pipelines. The rule, initiated over 10 years ago, expands the definition of a “regulated” gas gathering pipeline that is more than 50 years old. It will—for the first time—apply federal pipeline safety regulations to tens of thousands of miles of unregulated gas gathering pipelines. The final rule will—also for the first time—require pipeline operators to report safety information for all gas gathering lines, representing more than 425,000 additional miles covered by Federal reporting requirements. (Clark Hill Insight)
Space/NASA & NOAA
Lal to Lead New NASA Office of Technology Policy and Strategy: Bhavya Lal, a Biden political appointee who has held several positions at the agency since the inauguration, is taking on a new role as head of the agency’s just-created Office of Technology, Policy, and Strategy. The reorganization merges two units including the Office of Chief Technologist and Lal will also serve as Acting Chief Technologist. A number of personnel reassignments were announced simultaneously. (Space Policy Online)
As Defense Disruptions Loom, Biden Eases Up on Vaccine Refusers: As the first deadline under federal vaccination orders hit Tuesday, for active-duty Air Force personnel, the Biden administration said firing those who refuse jabs should not be the first enforcement option. The administration is requiring that not just military personnel but also federal civilians and the employees of U.S. government contractors receive the COVID-19 vaccine. That has begged the question of whether firing those who do not comply will be effectively mandatory. If so, thousands of federal civilians, contractors and uniformed personnel might be forced out of work. (Roll Call)
Buy American: Biden Sees Industry Pushback as Allies Warn of Trade Consequences: Biden has since taken executive action to boost Buy American requirements, but ― in spite of loopholes to protect allied countries ― not everyone is happy about it. The defense industry is pushing back, wary the protectionist policy will trigger a backlash that shuts out American-made weapons and gear from overseas markets. (Defense News)
Joint Chiefs’ Information Officer: US is Behind On Information Warfare. AI Can Help: The United States needs a better strategy and more advanced tools for information operations, say Lt. Gen. Dennis Crall, the Joint Staff’s chief information officer. The government has become slower and less confident in its approach, a reticence it can’t afford as artificial intelligence drastically increases the pace of messaging and information campaigns, said Crall, who is also the Joint Staff’s director for command, control, communications, computers, and cyber. (Defense One)
DHS & Immigration
Biden Administration Rescinds Trump-era Policy Limiting Migrants at Legal Ports of Entry: The Department of Homeland Security has rescinded a Trump-era policy limiting entry of undocumented immigrants at legal ports of entry and released new guidance on the process, according to a recently-released memo. Migrants seeking asylum can present at ports of entry to make their claim, but under the Trump administration, DHS put in place policies limiting the processing of undocumented immigrants, including asylum seekers, at ports. The practice, known as “metering,” essentially created a waitlist to allow people to enter only if the department had the capacity to process and detain them at one of its facilities. (CNN)
Justice Department Sues Texas over New Voting Restrictions: The Justice Department is suing Texas over new voting restrictions that the federal government says will disenfranchise eligible voters and violate federal voting rights law. The lawsuit filed Thursday in federal court in San Antonio challenges the law known as SB1 passed earlier this year to overhaul election procedures in the state. (CNN)
37 Incidents of Unruly Passenger Behavior on Airplanes are Headed to the FBI for Criminal Review: Of the roughly 5,000 reports of unruly passenger behavior this year, the Federal Aviation Administration has so far submitted 37 incidents to the FBI for criminal review, CBS News has learned. The referrals are in addition to civil penalties — more than $1 million proposed this year — for bad behavior in the skies and any criminal charges brought by local authorities. And more FBI referrals could be coming as the FAA investigates existing reports. (CBS News)
Biden Supreme Court Commission Delays Final Report to December 15: President Joe Biden’s commission on the Supreme Court is delaying submission of its final report by one month to December 15, a source familiar with the commission told CNN. The commission, which was formed via executive order in April, initially was scheduled to complete its final report by mid-November — 180 days after its first public meeting. But the source says the panel has decided to add another deliberative meeting to its schedule, seeking “a little more time to work through this important substance.” (CNN)
Gun Control Legislation isn’t Going to Happen. Here’s What Biden’s Doing Instead: When Pastor Michael McBride visited the White House in January 2013 for one of Vice President Joe Biden’s gun violence task force meetings, he said he was one of just two Black people in the room.
McBride, the national director of Faith in Action’s LIVE FREE gun violence prevention campaign, recalls the heavy anguish that day as faith leaders proposed ideas for preventing yet another mass shooting in America after the Sandy Hook massacre left 20 children and six adults dead the month prior. When it was McBride’s turn to have the floor, he spoke about the gun deaths of Black and brown Americans — killings largely ignored in the national conversation about gun violence. (Politico)
EEOC Launches Initiatives on AI and Algorithmic Fairness: The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) launches a new initiative to ensure artificial intelligence-enabled technology used in hiring, firing, and promotion decisions abide by Federal civil rights laws. Employers in large numbers have begun to utilize AI-enabled technologies and tools to find potential employees and make hiring and retention decisions. However, those technologies carry inherent risks, including automating biases and systemic issues for organizations. (MeriTalk)
Pentagon Strips Down CMMC Program to Streamline Industry Cyber Assessments: The Pentagon is revising its Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification program by massively reducing the amount of companies that would require third-party assessments, providing new waiver processes for select requirements and also suspending the CMMC pilots for select contracts until it enacts the revised rules. A months-long review that delayed its planned implementation this year and raised questions about the program’s future, and criticism was focused on the potential for the program’s costs to force small businesses out of the defense industrial base. (Federal News Network)
Biden Admin Revives Talks on Endangered Species and Pesticides: A federal interagency task force on pesticides and endangered species has resumed its work after a long delay, pledging smoother consultations among EPA, the Interior Department, and the Department of Agriculture. At issue are the consultations among various agencies — also including the Council on Environmental Quality and NOAA — on the use of pesticides that might pose a threat to vulnerable wildlife and plants. (E&E News)
Department of Energy
Biden may tap strategic reserve amid rising fuel prices, Granholm says: Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said Sunday 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)
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