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Window on Washington – October 10, 2022, Vol. 6, Issue 38

October 10, 2022

Outlook for This Week in the Nation’s Capital

Congress. Congress is in recess until November. The January 6th Committee will hold a public hearing on Thursday afternoon. Many expect the Committee to release an interim report after the hearing that will be its last pre-election action. Congress is set to have a busy “lame duck” session after the election. Congress will have to complete government funding for the fiscal year and the FY23 National Defense Authorization Act. Other potential legislative items include same-sex marriage bill, hurricane relief, permitting reform, Electoral Count Act reform, and raising the debt limit. Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE) announced on Friday he was named the sole finalist to be president of the University of Florida and expects to resign by the end of the year. Governor Pete Ricketts (R-NE), who is term-limited, has not announced any plans for filling the expected vacancy. Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK) previously announced he will also retire at the end of the year.

FY23 Appropriations. The House and Senate Appropriations Committees are working on FY23 full-year proposals. Work on government funding will resume in earnest after the election. It is possible any eventual appropriations deal will also include hurricane relief funds. 

November Elections. The midterm elections are less than one month away. Control for the House continues to lean toward Republicans, while the Senate is likely to be close to its current 50-50 tie. Most political observers consider control of the Senate to be a toss-up, with polls in Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Nevada especially close. Polls in Nevada have the GOP challenger narrowly ahead of incumbent Sen. Cortez-Masto, while polls in the open Senate seat in Pennsylvania put the Democratic candidate ahead.  Candidate quality, campaign fundraising, and which issues resonate with voters are impacting the state of close US Senate races as evidenced in this Axios piece contrasting the state of play in Nevada and neighboring Arizona. According to Politico, the 2024 map is expected to be a challenge for Democrats hoping to expand their caucus.

Biden Administration. President Biden is spending a long weekend in Delaware. Biden will be on the west coast this week. He will travel Wednesday to Colorado, where he will designate a new national park, and California before traveling to Oregon on Saturday to promote the infrastructure law and the Inflation Reduction Act.

Last Week in the Nation’s Capital


Budget & Appropriations

Concerns Grow about Lame-Duck Appetite to Stop Steep Budget Cuts: Washington budget watchers couldn’t be blamed for banking on lawmakers riding to the rescue in the lame-duck session and blocking over $100 billion in spending cuts from kicking in just after the holiday season, since Congress has never allowed such austerity to happen before. But if Republicans retake the House in the midterms as many expect, this time could be different as the GOP looks to make its mark on fiscal policy. (Roll Call)

Republicans are Gearing Up for ‘Aggressive’ ARPA Oversight if They Take Back the House: For over a year, House Republicans have complained to the Biden Administration about how states and localities are spending Covid-19 relief funding for things like pickleball courts and tourist attractions. But the lawmakers say that the administration has largely rebuffed their inquiries into whether the money is being used appropriately. (Route Fifty)

Rick Scott is Asking Chuck Schumer to Reconvene the Senate to Pass a Supplemental Aid Package for Those Affected by Hurricane Ian: Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) is imploring Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to reconvene the Senate and pass a supplemental aid package for those impacted by Hurricane Ian — a move that is unlikely with the chamber adjourned until after the midterms. (Politico) 


Senate Republican Bill Would Repeal Democratic Drug Pricing Law: Senate Republicans introduced a bill that would roll back the drug pricing reforms included in the sweeping Inflation Reduction Act, including the measures allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices and capping annual drug expenses for many seniors. (The Hill)

Democrats Look to Keep Abortion Front and Center Ahead of November: Democrats are seeking to keep abortion in the headlines ahead of the midterm elections in an effort to make it top of mind for voters as they seek to retain control of the House and Senate. Their strategy comes as Republicans have tried to steer the focus to crime, the economy, and immigration, all topics Democrats would like to avoid ahead of November. (The Hill) 

Banking & Housing  

Bank Regulators Eye Climate Risk Scenarios, Drawing GOP Criticism: Federal regulators are warming to scenario analysis as an emerging tool to evaluate financial institutions’ vulnerability to climate risk, drawing criticism from at least one Senate Republican. (Roll Call)


Republican Lawmakers Who Oppose a Fed-Issued CBDC Ask for Justice Department’s Assessment: A group of Republican lawmakers on the House Financial Services Committee have asked U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland to share the Justice Department’s assessment on whether the Federal Reserve has the necessary authority to issue a central bank digital currency (CBDC). (CoinDesk)

Tax Reform

Key Democrat Outlines 5 Priorities for $80 Billion in IRS Funding: Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) has outlined five priorities for the nearly $80 billion in IRS funding enacted in August through the Inflation Reduction Act. Wyden shared expectations for the 10-year investment — including customer service, technology, audits for the wealthy, offshore tax evasion, and criminal investigations. (CNBC)


Members Irate as Some Military Tenants Rights Ignored: Lawmakers are incensed about a new Pentagon report’s finding that more than one-third of private landlords on U.S. military bases are not guaranteeing tenants rights that are enshrined in law. (Roll Call)

Senators file 900+ Amendments to NDAA. Before leaving town last week to campaign, Senators finished filing more than 900 amendments to the NDAA with a combined cost to the Pentagon of more than $100 billion. Senate leaders will have to sort through them before deciding how to proceed. Staffs of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees will be working to “pre-conference” a final NDAA package this month even though the Senate has yet to complete action on its version of the measure. (Responsible Statecraft)

Homeland Security & Immigration 

Critic of Biden Border Policy in Line to Oversee DHS Budget: Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX) has emerged as one of his party’s biggest critics of President Joe Biden’s handling of the southern border, which he said amounts to “just letting everybody in.” With Cuellar in line to be the top Democrat in the next Congress on the House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, which oversees the Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection budgets, some Democrats and advocacy groups are growing concerned. (Roll Call)

Latest ‘Dreamers’ Court Ruling Prompts Calls for Senate to Act: Advocates have turned up the pressure on the Senate to pass legislation this year to establish a citizenship path for undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children, after a federal appeals court dealt yet another blow to the program that for now protects those so-called Dreamers. (Roll Call) 


‘Big Tech Never Loses a Legislative Fight – and They Just Did’ as Package of New Bills Passes: September marked one of the brighter notes for those supporting the push for new antitrust laws, when the House passed a package of bills giving enforcers more resources to go after anti-competitive mergers and giving state attorneys general more power over in which courts they can bring antitrust lawsuits. (CNBC)

Environment & Interior  

Fight over Strategy Intensifies as Wildfire Funding Grows: As the Biden administration doles out historic levels of wildfire mitigation funding, fights are breaking out on Capitol Hill about how to spend the money. Lawmakers from both parties are backing measures that would speed up forest management projects that cut down on wildfire fuels, like brush and small trees, which they say leads to “megafires.” But environmentalists argue that the proposals would bypass environmental analysis and community input under the guise of wildfire mitigation and potentially open the door to excessive logging. (Roll Call)

Senate Liberals Press Biden for Climate Emergency Declaration: A group of eight Democratic senators are renewing a push for President Biden to declare a national climate emergency, saying the idea would “build off” recent legislative victories. (The Hill)


Schumer Rebukes Saudi Arabia for ‘Cynical’ Move to Cut Oil Supplies: Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) says Saudi Arabia will wind up paying the price for what he called its “deeply cynical action” of supporting a 2 million-barrel cut in oil supplies, which will put more pressure on the American economy. (The Hill)


Budget & Appropriations 

U.S. Starts Fiscal Year with Record $31 Trillion in Debt: The nation’s gross national debt has surpassed $31 trillion, according to a U.S. Treasury release that logs America’s daily finances. Edging closer to the statutory ceiling of roughly $31.4 trillion — an artificial cap Congress placed on the U.S. government’s ability to borrow — the debt numbers hit an already tenuous economy facing high inflation, rising interest rates, and a strong U.S. dollar. (AP) 


Biden Admin Allocates $6 Million More For Family Planning Clinics: The Biden administration is giving clinics that provide free and subsidized family planning services an additional $6 million, the White House announced, as part of the broader response to the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade and more than a dozen states moving to outlaw abortion. The new grants for the Research-to-Practice, Teen Pregnancy Prevention, and Title X programs were announced ahead of President Joe Biden’s meeting last week with his Task Force on Reproductive Healthcare Access. (Politico)

Biden’s Operation Warp Speed Revival Stumbles Out of The Gate: As Covid’s Omicron wave ebbed earlier this year, top Biden administration health officials began developing a plan to fortify the nation’s defenses against the next potentially dangerous coronavirus strain. The initiative was envisioned as a revival of Operation Warp Speed, the Trump-era program that paired federal dollars with private sector know-how to deliver the first vaccines in record time. By replicating the formula with a range of new candidates, officials planned to churn out increasingly advanced vaccines and treatments just as fast — and ahead of other nations. (Politico)

Labor & Workforce 

U.S. Department of Labor Announces Final Rule to Improve H-2a Visa Program: The U.S. Department of Labor announced a final rule to amend H-2A temporary labor certification regulations to protect agricultural workers better, and to update the H-2A application and temporary labor certification process. (Clark Hill Insight) 

Department of Education 

Biden’s Student Loan Forgiveness Could be Delayed as Lawsuits Continue to Mount. Here’s Where the Cases Stand: Conservatives aren’t happy with President Joe Biden’s student-loan forgiveness — and some of them have taken the policy to court. The administration faces at least four major lawsuits, and a federal judge will hear oral arguments for one led by Republican states next week. They could grant the states’ request to pause on Biden’s debt-relief plan — either way, despite a promised application coming out this month, the judge said no debt would be forgiven before October 17. At the end of August, Biden announced up to $20,000 in debt relief for federal borrowers making under $125,000 a year. It was a long-anticipated announcement, given the relief was something he promised on the campaign trail and was a policy Democratic lawmakers had been pushing him to enact ever since. While some Democrats wanted the president to go even bigger on the loan forgiveness, they still lauded the policy as a significant first step toward addressing the $1.7 trillion student debt crisis. But many Republicans felt otherwise. In the months leading up to Biden’s announcement, they slammed the broad debt relief as unfair, costly, and illegal — and they threatened to pursue legal action should the policy be implemented. Leading Republican on the House education committee Virginia Foxx (R-NC), along with other GOP lawmakers, support their efforts. (Business Insider) 

Banking & Housing/HUD

Yellen Dismisses Reports She’s Leaving Administration: Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen dismissed recent reports in the media on Tuesday that she would be leaving the Biden administration. Yellen shut down the rumor at the 2022 Freedman’s Bank Forum in Washington, D.C. when Washington Post columnist and MSNBC host Jonathan Capehart asked her about the future as Treasury head. (The Hill)


Cryptocurrencies ‘Could Pose Risks’ to Stability of U.S. Economy, Treasury Warns: The U.S. Treasury’s Financial Stability Oversight Council released a new report documenting the financial stability of the digital asset marketplace, as well as the risks that come with applying regulations to the growing industry. (NextGov)

Tax Reform/IRS

U.S. Seeks Input on Climate Law’s $270 Billion in Tax Breaks: The U.S. Treasury Department said on Wednesday it is seeking public input on how to implement $270 billion in new federal tax breaks for electric vehicles, clean manufacturing, and energy efficiency. (Reuters)


Pipeline Safety Agency with Big Task Lacks Key Resources: The national agency tasked with the safety of more than 3 million miles of pipelines, long considered understaffed, lacks an official leader as it faces growing pressure to adhere to its primary responsibilities, write new regulations and follow directions from Congress. (Roll Call)

U.S. Restarts Airport Screening for Ebola as Outbreak in Uganda Swells: The Biden administration announced it plans to funnel all passengers flying into the U.S. from Uganda through five international airports for “enhanced screening,” in response to a growing Ebola outbreak in Uganda. (CBS News)

TSA to Release ‘Innovation Doctrine’ for Embracing New Technologies and Ideas: The Transportation Security Administration will soon publish an “innovation doctrine” to help guide technology projects, as the agency continues to push toward “open architecture” airport security systems that can more easily integrate new hardware and software. (Federal News Network)

Flight Attendants Guaranteed 10 Hours’ Rest under New FAA Rule: The Federal Aviation Administration announced it has finalized a rule to ensure that flight attendants get more rest between work days — no less than 10 hours. (Politico) 


U.S. Tightens Controls on Advanced Chip Exports to China: The Biden administration said it will update export controls to limit China’s ability to purchase or manufacture certain high-end chips used in military application and will stop the transfer of advanced technology to 31 companies and institutions. (Roll Call)

USTR Tai Says Biden Administration Not Swapping Trade Deals for Industrial Policy: U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai said the Biden administration has not “sworn off” efforts to liberalize trade and open markets, but such policies can no longer weaken supply chains and harm U.S. workers and the environment. Tai, speaking at a Roosevelt Institute conference on industrial policy, said that government efforts to rebuild U.S. industries must complement trade policies and rejected criticism of the Biden administration’s lack of appetite for traditional free-trade deals. (Reuters)


NASA’s Aircraft will Elevate the Hunt for Critical Minerals in the U.S.: NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey plan to deploy aircraft to spot critical minerals buried across the southwest United States. They’ll take to the skies to map the minerals, which are crucial to the Biden administration’s plans to build up American clean energy industries. (The Verge)

NOAA Looks to Transition Ground-Based Radio Processing to the Cloud: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued a special notice to examine its options to “transition from hardware-based ground radio processing to cloud-based software applications.” (NextGov)

Report Highlights U.S. Concerns Over China’s Space Infrastructure in South America: The expansion of Chinese ground stations in South America is generating concern regarding Beijing’s intentions in the region and in space, according to a new report. The network, while having clear civilian uses, could be used to spy on, monitor and potentially even target U.S. and other nations’ spacecraft. (Space News)


Army Climate Plan Relies on Technology That Doesn’t Exist Yet: The Defense Department could “build a fortress” with all of the reports it has released making statements on climate change without actually implementing anything, Army climate expert Sharon Burke said Thursday. The Army’s Climate Strategy Implementation Plan, released last week, aims to change that. (DefenseOne)

Pentagon to Resume F-35 Deliveries after Chinese Materials Discovered: The Pentagon has approved a national security waiver to restart F-35 fighter deliveries after Lockheed Martin discovered a metal component in the jet had come from China, according to three people with direct knowledge of the decision. (Politico)

DHS & Immigration

The White House is Discussing a Push Around Immigration — After the Midterms: As they plot a post-midterms legislative agenda for President Joe Biden, White House officials have been considering whether changes to the country’s immigration system should be one of his major policy pushes. (NBC News)

United States Fell Far Short of Refugee Goal Last Fiscal Year: The U.S. took in fewer than 26,000 refugees this past fiscal year, roughly 100,000 short of the Biden administration’s stated goal but significantly more than the previous fiscal year, according to official data released Wednesday by the State Department. (Roll Call)


Biden Pardons All Federal Offenses of Simple Marijuana Possession in First Major Steps Toward Decriminalization: President Joe Biden is taking his first major steps toward decriminalizing marijuana, fulfilling a campaign pledge to erase prior federal possession convictions and beginning the process of potentially loosening federal classification of the drug. Biden on Thursday pardoned all prior federal offenses of simple marijuana possession, a move that senior administration officials said would affect thousands of Americans charged with that crime. (CNN)


NIST to Establish Online Center for Trustworthy and Responsible AI Resources: The National Institute of Standards and Technology is currently finalizing plans to establish an online center to complement its Artificial Intelligence Risk Management Framework, according to an agency spokesperson. (FedScoop)

New U.S.-EU Data Privacy Framework Focuses on Limiting U.S. Surveillance: President Joe Biden unveiled a new executive order that implements the data privacy framework between the U.S. and European Union, focusing on facilitating transatlantic data flows to benefit international commerce as well as fortifying civil rights protections. (NextGov)

White House Guidelines for AI Aim to Mitigate Harm: The White House last week proposed a non-binding Artificial Intelligence (AI) Bill of Rights that it said would help parents, patients and workers avert harm from the increasing use of automation in education, healthcare, and employment. (Reuters)

CISA Announces DC Event for Public Input on Incident Reporting Regulations: The effort aims to give officials a greater understanding of cyber threats and the ability to defend U.S. critical infrastructure against cascading impacts when attacks occur. The notice, published in the Federal Register Wednesday, included a link to register for the event scheduled over several hours on Oct.19. (Next Gov)

Federal Government Considers Sharing Costs for ‘Catastrophic’ Cyber Incidents: As cyberattacks continue to rise, the federal government is contemplating whether it should step in to help private insurance companies cover some of the costs related to severe cyber incidents. The Treasury Department and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) recently asked stakeholders in the industry to weigh in on whether there’s a need for a federal insurance response to “catastrophic” cyber incidents and, if so, how such a program should be implemented. (The Hill)


Hunger Plan Builds on Federal Role in Getting Food to Millions: The federal government’s influence on what millions of people eat extends from school lunches for children to the dining halls of the Air Force, Army, Marines, and Space Force. The Biden administration’s national strategy to end hunger by 2030 and to improve the U.S. diet aims to tap into federal agencies’ ability to set policies and menus. The administration touted $8 billion in commitments, largely from the food sector, but it steered clear of imposing new mandates on the private sector — at least for now. (Roll Call) 


Federal Government to Prioritize U.S.-made, Lower-Carbon Construction Materials: The U.S. government will for the first time prioritize the use of American-made, lower-carbon construction materials in federal procurement and federally funded projects, the General Services Administration (GSA) announced. (The Hill)

U.S. EPA Expected to Propose Electric Cars be Eligible for Renewable Fuel Credits: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is expected to propose that electric vehicles be eligible for renewable fuel credits in an upcoming proposal on biofuel blending mandates. (Reuters)

EPA Proposes Deeming Lead in Aviation Fuel a Danger to Public Health: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed declaring lead in aviation fuel a public health danger, taking a step toward regulating this type of pollution from planes. (The Hill)

Biden Expected to Declare Colorado’s Camp Hale a National Monument this Week: President Biden will designate Camp Hale, an area in Colorado that was used to train soldiers in World War II, as a national monument this week. (The Hill)

Department of Energy

U.S. Delivers Angry Rebuke of Massive OPEC+ Production Cut — and It Could Backfire for Saudi Arabia: The White House angrily pushed back at OPEC+ after the oil producer group announced its largest supply cut since 2020, lashing out at what President Joe Biden’s administration described as a “shortsighted” decision. (CNBC)

DOE Takes Step to Advance Defense Production Act Use for Clean Energy: The Biden administration is taking another step toward advancing the use of the Defense Production Act to bolster clean energy. (The Hill)

White House Rules Out Ban on Natural Gas Exports this Winter: The White House has ruled out any ban or curbs on natural-gas exports this winter, in a bid to help alleviate energy shortages in Europe. (Reuters)

U.S. Wind, Solar Tripled over the Past Decade: The United States generated three times as much renewable electricity from the sun and wind last year in comparison to 2012, a new analysis has found. Seven states alone now produce enough electricity from these sources, as well as geothermal energy, to cover half of their consumption, according to an online energy dashboard. (The Hill)

A National Laboratory Comes up with a New Version of a Very Basic Metal: Cars, planes, and boats will be stronger and longer lasting thanks to a new metal alloy. It was developed by scientists at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. (Federal News Network)

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