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Window On Washington - November 9, 2020, Vol. 4, Issue 45

November 9, 2020

Outlook for This Week in the Nation’s Capital

Congress. The Senate is in session this week and will continue confirming circuit and district court nominees through the lame-duck session. The House is not in session this week, but when they return next week, House Republicans will hold their leadership elections on November 17, while House Democratic leadership elections are on November 18-19. All top leaders in both caucuses are seeking re-election. Separately, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) have both reiterated that they want to wrap up the FY21 appropriations process before the end of the year rather than passing another continuing resolution.

Next COVID Package Negotiations. McConnell said the chamber needs to pass a coronavirus economic stimulus package by the end of the year, and Pelosi separately indicated that she wants Republicans and Democrats to re-enter negotiations. However, Republicans are aiming to pass a smaller package, while Speaker Pelosi is focusing on a larger relief package. With President-elect Joe Biden winning the election, it remains unclear how the Trump Administration may shift their interests and negotiations for the next package.

2020 Elections. President-elect Joe Biden received more votes than any other candidate in history and currently has 279 electoral college votes, having flipped Arizona, Michigan, Nebraska's 2nd Congressional District, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Even with the automatic recount set for the presidential race in Georgia, it is becoming increasingly likely that he may win that state as well. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris also made history, as she will be the first woman, first Black- American, and first Indian-American to serve as Vice President of the United States. In preparation for the transition, the Biden transition team has been vetting potential Cabinet candidates and will present President-elect Biden with potential choices in the coming days. Politico has compiled lists of the early contenders for each Cabinet position, but new candidates may emerge.

President Trump has not yet conceded and continues to vow to fight the election results in court, though judges have dismissed many of the lawsuits filed so far. As Axios lays out, the Trump campaign is seeking recounts in several states, but it is unlikely to change the outcome. Meanwhile, the Senate is still waiting for four races to be called: Alaska, North Carolina, and two in Georgia. With the Republican incumbents in Alaska and North Carolina on track for re-election, control for the Senate hinges on the outcome of the two Georgia runoffs on January 5, 2021. There are also several House races that have yet to be called, but Democrats held onto their majority, albeit a smaller one than the last two years.

Last Week in the Nation’s Capital


Budget & Appropriations

Dueling Coronavirus Relief Bill Visions Cloud Lame-Duck Outlook: Republicans argued last Friday that Democrats’ loss of House seats and upbeat jobs numbers indicate Congress should approve a smaller package during the lame-duck session set to begin next week, while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said her party’s continued House majority and White House win, as well as the spike in infections throughout the country, argue for a robust package rather than the slimmer versions Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has put forth. (Roll Call)

Coronavirus Relief Bill, Omnibus Spending on Tap, McConnell Says: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said last Wednesday he wants to pass a COVID-19 aid measure and all 12 outstanding fiscal 2021 appropriations bills before the end of the year. (Roll Call)


The Looming Shake-Up of Senate Republican Chairmen: Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), who temporarily gave up his Intelligence Committee chairmanship while under investigation for his stock trades amid the pandemic, is in line for the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions committee if he wants to take it and Republicans hold onto their majority. Current chairman Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) is retiring and Burr is interested in the job, though he has not made a final decision. (Politico)

Labor & Workforce

Pelosi Announces Big Expansion of COVID Testing for Lawmakers: Speaker Pelosi said the U.S. Air Force will provide up to 2,000 PCR tests per week for the entire Congress at no cost during the next six weeks. Lawmakers and staff can already get tested at the Capitol, but this latest move by Pelosi represents an expansion of those screening efforts. (Politico)

Banking & Housing

Toomey Calls for Fed Special Loan Programs to End, Setting Up Clash with Democrats: Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) believes that the central bank’s emergency programs, which he has called “wildly successful,” should wind down at the end of the year due to concerns that if the programs are extended, they will be seen as a substitute for fiscal policy, the tax and spending decisions that are the responsibility of Congress and the president. (Politico)

Wall Street Dodges Bullet as Industry Allies Return to Congress: The composition of key banking committees in the House of Representatives and Senate should remain largely intact, ensuring some continuity for the industry in the next Congress. (Reuters)


Cantwell Supports Artemis But Wants “Accurate” Timeframe: Speaking at a symposium on space in her home state last week, Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) expressed enthusiasm for the Artemis program, but with the caveat that an “accurate” timeframe needs to be set. The Ranking Member of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee remains concerned that getting back to the Moon by 2024 would have an “enormous” cost. (Space Policy Online)

Former NASA Astronaut Mark Kelly Wins Senate Race in Arizona: During the campaign against incumbent Republican Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ), Kelly did not discuss space policy, but did emphasize his experience as an astronaut as well as a U.S. Navy pilot. (Space News)


Officials Clarify Military Role in Coronavirus Vaccination Amid Wariness: Two Democrats on the Senate Armed Services Committee have called for a hearing on the military’s role in Operation Warp Speed, even after Operation Warp Speed leader Gen. Gustave Perna recently clarified that the military would actually have a fairly limited role in the vaccine distribution effort, and is instead mostly helping with things like planning, logistics, augmentation and program support. (Roll Call)


Scott, Costa Make Bids for Agriculture Chairmanship: Two senior Democrats on the House Agriculture Committee, David Scott (D-GA) and Jim Costa (D-CA), declared their interest last Thursday in leading the panel after Chairman Collin Peterson (D-MN) lost his reelection bid. (Roll Call)

Environment & Interior

Biden Climate Agenda Would Slam into Senate GOP Roadblocks: The blue wave anticipated by Democrats failed to materialize, leaving a smaller Democratic majority in the House and what’s likely to remain a GOP-controlled Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has often refused to bring climate-related bills to the floor. (The Hill)


Budget & Appropriations

White House, Pelosi Bicker Again Over Size of Any Stimulus: White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said the Trump administration opposes a $2 trillion fiscal stimulus in the wake of stronger-than-expected economic numbers, while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) again rejected a scaled back pandemic relief package. (Bloomberg Tax)


White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows Tests Positive for COVID-19: Mark Meadows, President Donald Trump’s chief of staff, has been diagnosed with coronavirus, a White House official confirmed. (Politico)

HHS Rushing to Finalize Regulatory Sunset Rule: A new proposed rule issued last Wednesday would require the health department to regularly review all regulations older than 10 years, with some exceptions. (Politico)

Biden's COVID-19 Crisis Team Takes Shape As Virus Rages: Biden said Saturday evening that he will announce his COVID-19 task force today, which will include “a group of leading scientists and experts as transition advisers to help take the Biden-Harris COVID plan and convert it into an action blueprint that will start on Jan. 20, 2021.” (The Hill)

Labor & Workforce

Job Growth Stronger than Expected in October, Unemployment Rate Slides to 6.9%: The Labor Department reported Friday that nonfarm payrolls increased by 638,000 and the unemployment rate was at 6.9%. (CNBC)

Department of Education

What Community Colleges Won and Lost on Nov. 3: Voters in several states and counties decided on ballot measures that could provide more resources to community colleges, which are even more financially strapped than usual due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Inside Higher Ed)

Trump Creates 1776 Commission to Promote 'Patriotic Education': On the eve of Election Day, Trump directed the commission’s creation, via executive order, to “better enable a rising generation to understand the history and principles of the founding of the United States in 1776 and to strive to form a more perfect Union.” (Politico)

Banking & Housing/HUD

Fed Holds Interest Rates Steady Near Zero, Says Economy is Still Well Below Pre-Pandemic Levels: The Federal Reserve held short-term borrowing rates near zero in a decision last Thursday that characterized the economy as growing but not near where it was before the coronavirus pandemic hit. (CNBC)


Biden Infrastructure Plan Must be “Top Priority” Says United Steelworkers Union President: The USW is looking forward to working with the Biden-Harris administration on their plan to invest $1.3 trillion over 10 years to rebuild and modernize our crumbling infrastructure using American-made products, presuming a deal can be cut with the Senate for a major highways and transit plan. (Fox Business)

What’s Next for Airlines Now That Joe Biden is President-Elect of the US: Biden’s election comes amid the coronavirus pandemic that has laid the travel industry bare, including recent large furloughs across the airline industry. Additional aid to get their staff through the crisis is not the only challenge facing airlines, as the new administration will also need to establish procedures to reopen international travel. (The Points Guy)


New Report Outlines International Approach to Lunar Exploration: An updated version of a study developed by the International Space Exploration Coordination Group (ISECG), a group of 24 space agencies, backs an approach to lunar exploration that largely follows NASA’s Artemis plans to return humans to the moon in 2024. (Space News)


What a Biden Administration Means for Defense: Biden’s election as the next commander-in-chief will usher in a middle-of-the-road approach to defense policy that draws on priorities from both the Barack Obama and Trump administrations, observers said. Budget austerity was slated to plague either potential winner over the next four years, but Senate Republicans will oppose any proposed deep cuts, which the president-elect is also unlikely to support. (Air Force Magazine)

DHS & Immigration

Federal Judge Tosses Trump Rule Curbing Public Assistance for Immigrants: The administration's policy, known as the "public charge" regulation, has undergone lengthy litigation since it was finalized last year. (Politico)


Justice Department Seizes $1 Billion in Bitcoin Tied to Illicit Drugs and Goods on the Dark Web: The seizure is reportedly the largest of cryptocurrency in the agency’s history. (The Hill)


U.S. Cyber Command Advances on Platform to Consolidate its Myriad Tools and Data: Unified Platform is maturing alongside its eventual user, Cyber Command and its forces, and its role and capabilities are coming into clearer view. The platform is slated to serve as the connective tissue for the Joint Cyber Warfighting Architecture, or JCWA, a critical step in the evolution of Cyber Command as a stand-alone entity with its own personnel, tools and infrastructure. (C4ISR Net)

GSA Considering More CMMC-Like Cyber Requirements in its Governmentwide Contracts: GSA will continue to bake new controls for how contractors handle sensitive government information into its largest acquisition vehicles, and those rules will be in line with the Pentagon’s Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification, which requires defense contractors to get third-party assessments proving their networks meet a certain maturity level. (Fed Scoop)


The U.S. is Officially out of the Paris Climate Agreement, and Here's What Could Happen Next: The U.S. could swiftly rejoin with President-elect Joe Biden pledging to reverse President Donald Trump's decision to abandon the accord which was ratified by 189 countries. (CNN)

Department of Energy

Executive Orders, Biden's Best Bet on Climate and Energy Policy? President-elect Joe Biden’s path to action on climate, energy and the environment will likely run through the executive branch via executive order if the Senate remains in Republican control. (E&E News)

Trump Abruptly Replaces Chairman of Key Energy Commission: President Trump has removed Neil Chatterjee as chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and replaced him with James Danly, the other sitting GOP member of the panel. (Axios)

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