Window On Washington - October 26, 2020, Vol. 4, Issue 43
Outlook for This Week in the Nation’s Capital
Congress. The House is not in session this week, though Members could be called back with 24 hours’ notice for a vote on a coronavirus relief package. The Senate is in session today to vote on the Supreme Court nomination but will likely go into recess afterwards. Separately, the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation will hold a hearing on Wednesday with Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Twitter’s Jack Dorsey, and Alphabet's Sundar Pichai for a hearing on the impacts of Section 230 on big technology companies.
Supreme Court. The Senate will hold a final vote on Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation tonight. Senate Republicans have the numbers to confirm Judge Barrett, as the vote only requires a simple majority.
Next COVID Package Negotiations. Though there are several items for the next coronavirus relief package that the White House and Democrats are still working through, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is optimistic about Congress passing a negotiated bill before Nov. 3. Should her concerns be addressed by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Speaker Pelosi believes a bill could be passed as soon as this week in the House but that it's up to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) as to whether it would go to the Senate floor. Many Senate Republicans oppose the current details of the deal, but McConnell indicated he will allow the Senate to vote on the package should President Trump say he will sign it into law.
White House Coronavirus Diagnoses. Vice President Mike Pence will continue to travel on the campaign trail despite five members of his team testing positive for the coronavirus, including Marc Short, the Vice President’s chief of staff, Marty Obst, a political adviser to the Vice President, and three other members of his inner circle.
2020 Elections. Election Day is 8 days away. President Donald Trump will be traveling every day between now and Election Day, including visits to Pennsylvania today, and Michigan, Wisconsin, and Nebraska tomorrow, while former Vice President Joe Biden will travel to Georgia tomorrow. Additionally, Biden recently laid out his first term priorities in a conversation with Dan Pfeiffer and Jon Lovett of Pod Save America. Separately, Axios identified eight trends that will continue past the election and analyzed how President Trump and Biden have or have not addressed them during the election cycle.
Last Week in the Nation’s Capital
Budget & Appropriations
Senate Dems Block Republicans’ Narrow Covid Relief Plan: Senate Democrats last Wednesday blocked a narrow $500 billion Republican-led coronavirus relief proposal, which was nearly identical to the Senate GOP bill Democrats rejected in September. (Politico)
House Democrats Threaten to Subpoena HHS Over Allegations of Political Interference at CDC: House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC), chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, threatened last Thursday to issue subpoenas in the panel's investigation of alleged political interference by the Trump administration CDC reports on the COVID-19 pandemic. (The Hill)
Labor & Workforce
PPP Plan Falls Short in Senate: Republicans were unified in their effort to push forward the measure in a test vote, and while Democrats support the Paycheck Protection Program, they voted to “table” the measure last Tuesday because it wasn’t included as part of a larger economic proposal. (Roll Call)
Banking & Housing
Report by Senate Budget Committee Republicans on Federal Housing Assistance Approach: The Senate Budget Committee produced a Majority Staff Report on how to reform the federal housing system. (Senate Budget Committee)
Senate Bill Would Outlaw Bank Discrimination for the First Time: Democrats in Congress have introduced legislation that would make it illegal for banks and other financial firms to discriminate against their customers because of their race, religion, sexual orientation and other characteristics — an effort meant to close a loophole in the Civil Rights Act highlighted in a New York Times report in June. (The New York Times)
Democrats Express Concerns About IRS Readiness for Next Year's Filing Season: Top Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee pressed the IRS about its readiness for next year's tax-filing season, given the many obstacles the IRS has faced this year as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. (The Hill)
House Transportation Leader in the Race of His Life: Peter DeFazio (D-OR), who has been in Congress since 1987 and led Democrats on the Transportation Committee for the past six years, is facing a massive fundraising blitz in favor of his GOP opponent, Alek Skarlatos, a 27-year old best known for his role in stopping a terrorist attack on a train in France. DeFazio would be the key point person on the Hill for a potential Biden administration infrastructure plan. (Politico)
Space/NASA & NOAA
Wicker Introduces Bill to Codify Commerce’s Role in Space Situational Awareness: The chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee has introduced legislation to formally put the Department of Commerce in charge of providing Space Situational Awareness (SSA) data to civil, commercial, and international satellite operators. A Trump Administration Space Policy Directive did that in 2018, but Congress has yet to codify it in law or provide the money to make it happen. (Space Policy Online)
Top Lawmakers Look to Start Talks on Finalizing 2021 Defense Policy Bill: Leaders of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees planned a “Big Four” meeting for today to begin hashing out an agreement on the 2021 defense policy bill, with a goal of final passage in December, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) told reporters last week. (Air Force Magazine)
Amy Coney Barrett Supreme Court Nomination Moves to Full Senate, Dems Boycott Vote: The Senate Judiciary Committee advanced last Thursday the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to serve as a Supreme Court justice in a 12-0 vote, with Democrats boycotting the day's proceeding. (NBC News)
Facebook, Twitter CEOs to testify before Senate Judiciary Committee on Nov. 17: The Senate Judiciary Committee announced on Friday that it will hear testimony from the CEOs of Facebook and Twitter on Nov. 17 over their platforms’ censorship decisions. (The Hill)
Budget & Appropriations
White House Looks at Cutting COVID Funds, Newborn Screenings in ‘Anarchist’ Cities: The White House is considering slashing millions of dollars for coronavirus relief, HIV treatment, screenings for newborns and other programs in Democratic-led cities that President Donald Trump has deemed “anarchist jurisdictions,” according to documents obtained by Politico. (Politico)
White House Chief of Staff Says ‘We’re Not Going to Control the Pandemic’: White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said yesterday that the U.S. will not get control of the coronavirus pandemic as the country reports a record high in new daily COVID-19 cases. Meadow’s comments point to the Trump administration’s focus on a potential vaccine or therapeutic to manage COVID-19, rather than implementing national measures to help mitigate the spread of infections. (CNBC)
Fauci Says Trump Hasn’t Attended White House Coronavirus Task Force Meeting in ‘Several Months’: President Donald Trump hasn’t attended a coronavirus task force meeting in “several months,” White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said Friday. Dr. Fauci added that they “certainly interact with the vice president at the task force meetings, and the vice president makes our feelings and what we talk about there known to the president.” (CNBC)
White House Backs Off Plan to Send Drug Cards Before Election: The White House is backing away from a plan to send $200 prescription drug discount cards to American seniors before Election Day after widespread criticism the effort could violate election laws. (Bloomberg)
Labor & Workforce
Trump Order Strips Workplace Protections from Civil Servants: A new executive order from President Trump makes it easier to hire and fire civil servants that work on policy, stripping some protections from career employees. (The Hill)
U.S. Weekly Jobless Claims Fall; Many Unemployed Losing Benefits: The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell more than expected last week but remained very high as the labor market recovery shows signs of strain amid a relentless COVID-19 pandemic and ebbing fiscal stimulus. (Reuters)
Banking & Housing/HUD
Fed’s Beige Book Shows Slight to Modest Growth, Recovery Uneven: The U.S. economy continued to grow across the country as it recovered from the coronavirus pandemic, but the picture was uneven, according to a new report from the Federal Reserve. (American Banker)
Department of Education
Major Student Loan Servicing Change Will Impact 1 Million Borrowers: An abrupt change to a sector of the U.S. Department of Education’s sprawling student loan servicing system will impact around one million student loan borrowers, sending ripples through the industry. (Forbes)
Space/NASA & NOAA
General Raymond: Space Force Has a Plan to Unify Acquisition Agencies: The Space Force is moving forward with plans to establish a field command sometime next year to oversee research, development and acquisition of major programs such as satellites, launch services and information systems. (Space News)
NASA Awards Contracts for Lunar Technologies and Ice Prospecting Payload: NASA has awarded more than $400 million in contracts to both demonstrate technologies needed for future lunar exploration and to send an ice-drilling payload to the south pole of the moon for missions that will be launching to the moon in 2022. (Space News)
Talk of National 5G Plan from DoD Causes Confusion, Concern Among Lawmakers: Pentagon IT leaders spent last week insisting the DoD does not want to build its own 5G network after a controversial request for information troubled lawmakers, including, most recently, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-WA). The White House is reportedly pressuring the Pentagon to lease some of its prized spectrum for the lucrative 5G market to a single politically connected company, Rivada, using a non-competitive process. (C4ISR Net)
DHS & Immigration
Supreme Court Will Decide Border Wall Funding, ‘Remain in Mexico’ Policy: The Supreme Court will decide cases this term on two of the Trump administration’s most contentious U.S.-Mexico border policies: transferring $2.5 billion in Defense Department funds to build a border wall and keeping immigrants who illegally cross that border in Mexico while their removal proceedings are pending. (Roll Call)
Homeland Security Will Pull 1,100 OPT Permits from International Students: More than 1,100 Optional Practical Training program work permits will either be revoked or not renewed over the next few months following a crackdown on the program, the Department of Homeland Security said last Wednesday. (Politico)
Five More States Voting this Fall on Legalizing Marijuana: Voters will decide next month whether to legalize recreational marijuana in four states, only one of which is reliably Democratic: Arizona, Montana, New Jersey and South Dakota. Mississippi will also consider a pair of ballot initiatives to legalize medical marijuana. (Roll Call)
CISA Lays Out Plan for Enhancing Cybersecurity: The federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency is focusing on improving data sharing and dashboards in the next fiscal year as part of an effort to address a recent DHS Inspector General report that found CISA made limited progress in improving the overall quality of information it shares with participants in its Automated Indicator Sharing program, which is designed to share cyberthreat information between the government and the private sector. (Fed Tech Magazine)
Trump Signs Legislation Making Hacking Voting Systems a Federal Crime: The Defending the Integrity of Voting Systems Act was unanimously approved by the House last month, and President Trump signed the legislation last Tuesday, just two weeks before the election. The new law empowers the Department of Justice (DOJ) to pursue charges against anyone who attempts to hack a voting system under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, commonly used by the agency to pursue charges against malicious hackers. (The Hill)
USDA Announces Fourth Round of the Farmers to Families Food Box Program: USDA authorized $500 million for a fourth round of purchases for the Farmers to Families Food Box Program. (USDA)
EPA & DOI
EPA Eases Permitting for Modifications to Polluting Facilities: The rule changes the way the threshold for a more stringent type of permitting is calculated, with EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler arguing that the action incentivizes industry to implement technology that would lessen air pollution. (The Hill)
Department of Energy
Mixed Reactions on Looming DOE NOPR for Bulk Power System Security: Earlier this month the Department of Energy (DOE) confirmed that it will not issue a notice of proposed rule-making (NOPR) to implement President Trump’s controversial broad bulk power system (BPS) security executive order (EO) until “later this Fall”, a delay caused in part by numerous comments submitted that raised concerns about implementation and scope. (Power Magazine)
Biden Says He ‘Would Transition from the Oil Industry': Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden pledged to transition away from fossil fuels last Thursday night while defending a climate plan that does not ban fracking. His plans call for no new drilling on public lands and would aim to transition the economy to net-zero emissions by 2050, which would significantly limit the oil industry’s role in energy production. (The Hill)
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