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Window on Washington – October 3, 2022, Vol. 6, Issue 37

October 3, 2022

Outlook for This Week in the Nation’s Capital 

Congress. The House and Senate are in campaign mode. Neither will return until after the November 8th midterm elections. Originally, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) had two weeks of votes scheduled for mid-October to allow for consideration of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), but Schumer amended the schedule late last week. The Senate, though, will still technically meet to begin floor consideration of NDAA with final passage not expected until the lame-duck session after the election.

FY23 Appropriations.  On Friday, the House passed a continuing resolution (CR) extending government funding until December 16th following Senate passage earlier in the week. President Biden signed it into law later Friday. The CR also included additional funding for Ukraine, as well as $1 billion for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program and $400 million to increase hiring at the Social Security Administration. The outcome of the midterm elections will heavily influence the December negotiations on the final appropriations bills, as will any potential Hurricane Ian supplemental appropriations package. While the measure enjoyed a wide bi-partisan majority in the Senate, it passed largely with Democratic votes in the House, portending a challenging dynamic when Congress reconvenes after the elections.  The outcome of the midterm elections will heavily influence the December negotiations on the final appropriations bills, including any extraneous legislation that will be included with an Omnibus package or on the final NDAA.  There is a long list of such measures that will bear close watch over the next three months.  A potential Hurricane Ian supplemental appropriations package will also likely alter the dynamics of any final negotiations.  Given the likely narrow margins in a divided Washington for the 118th Congress, action on an Omnibus measure this year may be the last such one until after the 2024 Presidential election is decided.

November Elections. The midterm elections are in thirty-six days. Republicans remain well-positioned to win back the House of Representatives, though by less than the historical average. Party experts now expect Republicans to pick up 20-25, less than the 60-seat majority once predicted by Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, who only needs to net five seats to take the majority. Control of the Senate will likely hinge on the outcome of three key Senate races: Nevada, Georgia, and Pennsylvania. Whichever party wins two of those three races will likely have the majority in January (Axios).

Biden Administration.  President Biden will visit Puerto Rico on Monday to survey hurricane damage. On Wednesday, he will travel to Florida to visit with rescue workers and displaced Floridians. Biden will also travel to New York City and also to the home of Governor Phil Murphy (D-NJ) for campaign fundraisers Thursday.

Supreme Court. The Supreme Court begins a new term today, one viewed with dread by Democrats and anticipation from Republicans. After June’s momentous decision striking down Roe v. Wade – and remaking the nation’s political landscape in the process – the conservative-dominated high court will take on affirmative action, minority representation, the way federal elections are held, immigration, EPA’s authority over the Clean Water Act and LGBTQ protections vs. religious rights, among other issues. (Punchbowl News)

Last Week in the Nation’s Capital

CONGRESS

Budget & Appropriations 

House Sends Stopgap Funding Bill to Avoid Government Shutdown to Biden’s Desk: The House on Friday passed a short-term funding bill to keep the government running for the next few months, narrowly avoiding a shutdown just hours until the midnight deadline. (The Hill)

GOP Leaders Prepare for 2023 Debt Limit “Nightmare”: GOP leaders, congressional aides, and business groups are preparing for a potential “nightmare scenario” next year if House Republicans take back the majority: a debt limit showdown reminiscent of the near-crisis in 2011. (Axios)

Rubio, Scott Call for Ian Relief as Florida GOP Votes Against FEMA Funding: Florida Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Rick Scott (R-FL) called on Senate leaders Friday to provide more funding to help Florida rebuild after the devastating Hurricane Ian wiped out buildings, roads, and power for millions of people. (Axios) 

Health 

House Passes Bill Addressing Mental Health Concerns Among Students, Families, Educators: The House passed a bill on Thursday that seeks to address mental health concerns among students, families, and educators aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which lawmakers say had a “severe impact” on those three groups. The bill, titled the Mental Health Matters Act, passed in a largely party-line 220-205 vote. One Republican, Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), joined all Democrats present in supporting it. (The Hill) 

Congress Passes Short-Term Spending Bill That Extends 2 Key Rural Hospital Programs: Congress has cleared a short-term spending bill that includes extensions of two programs aimed at helping rural hospitals, punting the issue and others into December. The House voted 230 to 201 to advance to President Joe Biden’s desk a continuing resolution that funds the federal government through Dec. 16. Biden is expected to sign the legislation. The short-term package gives providers another chance to include key end-of-the-year policy priorities such as delays to Medicare doctor payment cuts and extensions of a key quality bonus. The legislation also extends through Dec. 16 the hospital payment adjustment for certain low-volume hospitals (LVH) and the Medicare-Dependent Hospital (MDH) program. Both programs were set to expire after September. (Fierce Healthcare)

Lawmakers Eye Lame Duck for Unfinished Business on Insulin: A bipartisan Senate duo is still working to pass a bill to overhaul insulin prices, but the outlook is complicated by the messy drug pricing system, politics, and a busy congressional calendar. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Susan Collins (R-ME) are working to update a draft bill that would cap consumer copays for insulin in the commercial market and incentivize drugmakers to lower list prices. (Roll Call) 

Labor & Workforce 

House Panel Eyes Diversity in Hiring, Especially at Small Firms: The government, from Congress down to local boards, needs to step up support for programs like apprenticeships that would help small businesses compete in attracting a diverse group of workers, according to executives meeting with lawmakers this month to tackle the issue. Corporate leaders are appearing before the House Select Committee on Economic Disparity and Fairness in Growth to consider alternative ways for companies to hire and retain employees. (Roll Call) 

Education 

Congress Allows Ivy League Antitrust Exemption to Expire: Congress has allowed another layer of legal antitrust protection related to college athletics to expire last Friday. The law, which is officially removed at the end of the day Friday, previously granted an exemption to Ivy League schools that allowed them to prohibit merit-based scholarships to all students, including their athletes. Without that Congressional protection, the league becomes more vulnerable to lawsuits that claim schools are colluding with one another in order to avoid competing for the most talented students. (ESPN) 

Defense

Defense Committees Hope to Resolve Major Differences in Coming Weeks.  HASC Chairman Adam Smith said on Friday that leaders of the Armed Services Committee hoped to address major policy issues over the next month to reach a compromise that can pass in the upcoming lame duck session of the Congress.  (Politico Pro – subscription required)

Senators eye critical munitions acquisition fund in NDAA.   A bipartisan group of 10 senators is pushing to include the Pentagon’s request for a critical munitions acquisition fund in the Fiscal 2023 National Defense Authorization Act. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Thom Tillis (R-NC) introduced the PROCURE Act on Monday alongside eight other senators, noting they intend to file it as a floor amendment to the NDAA as well. The legislation would set up a revolving fund of up to $500 million per year in the Treasury Department for the Pentagon to procure critical munitions. (Defense News)

Banking & Housing  

Senate Bill Would Boost Alternative Assets in 401(k) Plans: A new bill from top Republicans on the Senate Banking Committee aims to open workplace retirement plans to a bigger range of investments, making it easier for 401(k) plans to diversify with holdings in private equity, hedge funds, real estate, cryptocurrencies and other alternative assets. (Roll Call)

House Democrats Demand Resignation of World Bank Chief over Climate Remarks: Twenty-seven House Democrats have joined a growing chorus of voices calling for the resignation of World Bank chief David Malpass after he made comments that critics say smacked of climate denial. (The Hill)

Lawmakers Furious at Democratic Leaders after Stock Trading Ban Stalls: Anger is boiling over at House Democratic leadership for failing to deliver on a bill to ban members of Congress from trading stocks — a key priority for voters on both sides of the aisle — ahead of the midterm elections. (The Hill)

Tax Reform 

Ways and Means Leaders Working on Lame-Duck Social Security Fix: Key lawmakers are eyeing a possible year-end tax package as their best shot at offering a fix for a Social Security provision that many on Capitol Hill believe unfairly cuts benefits for public employees who also have government pensions. (Roll Call)

Senators Launch 11th-Hour Push to Protect Broadband from New Taxes: A bipartisan group of senators is making an eleventh-hour push to shield President Biden’s billion-dollar broadband investment from being diluted by new taxes. The new legislation, co-sponsored by Sens. Mark Warner (D-VA) and Jerry Moran (R-KS), will give Congress another reason to push for a lame-duck tax package that addresses problems some lawmakers have been warning about all year. (Axios)

Transportation

Democrats Press Airlines Against Resuming Stock Buybacks: House Democrats on Thursday urged airlines to refrain from resuming stock buybacks until they overcome flight delays and cancellations stemming from a shortage of workers. (The Hill)

Bipartisan Group of Senators Press Buttigieg on Overdue Tourism Infrastructure Plan: A group of bipartisan senators wrote a letter to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg asking why his department has missed Congress’s deadline to update its strategy on tourism infrastructure. (The Hill)

Massachusetts Lawmakers ask Buttigieg to Investigate DeSantis Migrant Flights: Massachusetts lawmakers are asking Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to investigate whether the migrant charter flights organized by Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) broke the department’s rules by allegedly misleading those on board. (Politico) 

Homeland Security & Immigration 

Bill would Allow ‘Dreamers’ to Join the Military, Become Citizens: Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) unveiled legislation Thursday that would allow participants in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program to enlist in the military and ultimately obtain a pathway to citizenship. (Roll Call)

Judiciary/Justice

House Approves Antitrust Bill Targeting Big Tech Dominance: The House on Thursday approved antitrust legislation targeting the dominance of Big Tech companies by giving states greater power in competition cases and increasing money for federal regulators. (AP)

McConnell Endorses Bipartisan Bill to Prevent Another Jan. 6: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) came out on Tuesday in favor of legislation aimed at preventing election subversion, giving the bipartisan effort a major boost and putting him at odds with former President Donald Trump. (NBC News) 

Cyber

After Funding Tech Research, Lawmakers Look at Risk of Theft: After passing legislation that could pump almost $250 billion into cutting-edge scientific research and semiconductor manufacturing, lawmakers are turning their attention to protecting the fruits of that spending from theft by America’s rivals, particularly China. (Roll Call)

Environment & Interior  

With Manchin’s Bill Aside, Other Permitting Proposals Await: Despite the apparent death of Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-WV) permit overhaul legislation before it even got a vote, there are ingredients from both parties that could be blended into a bill to change how large construction projects such as power lines and highways are greenlighted in America. (Roll Call)

EXECUTIVE BRANCH 

Health/HHS/NIH

Monkeypox Response Relies on Trade-Offs Without Federal Aid: The lack of spending for monkeypox in the temporary government spending bill moving through Congress means that states will have to take a patchwork approach to paying for the ongoing public health crisis in the short term, the Biden administration said. (Roll Call) 

White House Hunger Strategy Widens Free School Meals, Food Stamps: The Biden administration outlined a national strategy of executive actions and legislative priorities it says will combat hunger and address diet-related conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and various cancers that plague millions of Americans. (Roll Call)

HHS says Price of More Than 1,200 Drugs Outpaced Inflation: More than 1,200 prescription drugs rose in price faster than the rate of inflation between 2021 and 2022, according to a new report released by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) last Friday. Between July 2021 and July 2022, the prices for 1,216 drugs rose more than the 8.6 percent rate of inflation, with these products having an average price increase of 31.6 percent. The price increases observed in 2022 were affected by the high rate of general inflation this year. The HHS report noted that most drug price increases occur in either January or July. (The Hill)

Suicides Increased 4% in 2021 After Two Consecutive Years of Decline: Suicide rates in the U.S. increased 4% in 2021 after declining for two years, according to preliminary data released Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Suicide remains a “major contributor to premature death in the United States, especially among people aged 10–34, for whom it is the second leading cause of death,” the CDC found. (Axios)

Department of Education

Biden Administration Scales Back Student Debt Relief for Millions Amid Legal Concerns: The Biden administration is scaling back its debt relief program for millions of Americans over concerns about legal challenges from the student loan industry as well as a new lawsuit from Republican-led states. (Politico) 

Banking & Housing/HUD

U.S. launches new crackdown on Russia with financial sanctions: The U.S. on Friday unveiled a raft of new sanctions against top Russian officials after Vladimir Putin declared that four provinces of Ukraine would become Russian territory, warning of severe financial costs for anyone who supports the move. (Politico)

Six Largest U.S. Banks to Join Fed’s First-Ever Climate Scenario Exercise: The nation’s six largest banks will participate in a pilot climate scenario analysis, the Federal Reserve announced Thursday. The pilot exercise — featuring participation from JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citi, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley — will launch in early 2023 and is expected to conclude around the end of the year. (Banking Dive)

Tax Reform/IRS

Millions of Eligible Families Did Not Receive Monthly Child Tax Credits, While More than 1 Million Ineligible Taxpayers Did: The Internal Revenue Service failed to send $3.7 billion in monthly child tax credit payments to 4.1 million eligible taxpayers last year, according to an audit released by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. (CNN)

Transportation/DOT 

U.S. Pushes for Aviation Emissions Cuts at Key Summit Meeting: The U.S. is using multilateral talks in Montreal to seek stronger emissions targets for aviation — and the new climate law is providing diplomatic leverage, according to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. Aviation accounted for just 2% of global energy-related greenhouse gas emissions in 2021, but it is growing quickly. (Axios)

All 50 States Get Green Light to Build EV Charging Stations Covering 75,000 Miles of Highways: The U.S. Transportation Department said it approved electric vehicle charging station plans for all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico covering roughly 75,000 miles of highways. (CNBC) 

Trade

U.S. Decides Against National Security Tariffs on Rare Earth Magnets from China, Japan, EU: President Joe Biden has decided against restricting imports of neodymium magnets that come primarily from China and are used in electric vehicles, wind turbines, and a variety of other tech and defense applications, the White House said last Wednesday. The decision avoids a new trade fight with Beijing, as well as with Japan, the European Union, and other countries that export the magnets or have hopes of doing that to meet an expected upsurge in demand in coming years. It also should allay the concerns of U.S. automakers and other manufacturers who rely on imports of the magnets to produce finished goods. (Politico)

Space/NASA & NOAA

Planned Next-Gen Satellites Can Help Address Extreme Weather Challenges, Officials Say: Even as NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration gear up to launch the final satellite in the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites—or GOES-R—series in the next two years, officials are already looking to the capabilities possible in the upcoming generation of weather satellites, a geostationary extended observation system, also known as GeoXO. (Next Gov)

National Space Council to Seek Industry Input on Future Regulatory Framework: The National Space Council plans to hold “learning sessions” with industry in coming weeks on how to develop a new regulatory framework for novel commercial space activities.  Speaking at the Advanced Maui Optical and Space Surveillance Technologies (AMOS) Conference on Sept. 29, Diane Howard, director of commercial space policy for the National Space Council, said the council would soon publish formal notifications of those sessions to get input on both the types of space activities and how they should be supervised in order to comply with the Outer Space Treaty. (Space News)

FCC OKs Satellite De-Orbit Rule Despite Possible Conflict with NASA Guidelines: The FCC recently unanimously approved a rule that aims to minimize space debris by requiring low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites to be disposed of no more than five years after being taken out of service. But there is controversy over the FCC’s authority to implement the rule and a possible conflict with NASA guidance. On Tuesday last week, leaders of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology and the Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics said they are “concerned by the FCC’s proposal to act unilaterally.” (Ars Technica)

NASA and SpaceX Explore Privately Financed Mission to Extend the Life of Hubble.  NASA and SpaceX will explore whether it’s possible to extend the life of the Hubble Space Telescope by using a SpaceX Dragon probe to nudge it into a higher orbit. (ZDNET)

Defense/DOD

How Will the Military Use 5G? A New Drone Experiment Offers Clues: High-speed networking promises to help bring AI to bear on floods of battlefield sensor data. Small copter drones can take video and pick up faint radio signals, but it still takes power-hungry data crunching to positively identify an enemy position. A recent industry experiment showed that 5G networking gear can bridge that gap. (Defense One)

Several Military Branches Poised to Miss Recruitment Targets for Fiscal 2022: Leaders across all military services warned Congress about low recruitment levels for the Air Force, Army, Navy, and Marine Corps. The Army, for instance, has so far met only 70% of its fiscal 2022 active duty recruiting goal. (Federal News Network)

DHS & Immigration

DHS Waives Jones Act for Puerto Rico to Supply Fuel after Hurricane: The Biden administration moved Wednesday to allow a non-U.S. flagged ship to transport fuel to Puerto Rico, following pressure to waive a rule in the face of a diesel shortage after Hurricane Fiona. (Politico)

Biden White House Preparing to Take Executive Action to Protect DACA ‘Dreamers’: The White House is preparing to take executive action to protect hundreds of thousands of immigrants known as “Dreamers” as the Biden administration braces for a potential court defeat that could end the decade-old Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. (NBC News)

Live Near Water? Get Flood Insurance, FEMA Admin says After Ian: Anyone living near water should buy flood insurance, FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell said Sunday, in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian. “If you live near water, or where it rains, it can certainly flood,” Criswell said on CNN’s “State of the Union,” adding: “Just because you’re not required to buy flood insurance doesn’t mean you don’t have the option to buy it.” (Politico)

Election Workers to be Trained to Deal with Violence at Polls as Midterms Approach: Federal officials are offering state and local election officials training to “safely de-escalate” confrontations with voters that could turn violent ahead of November’s midterm elections. (CNN)

Judiciary/DOJ 

Biden Pledged to End Solitary Confinement. Federal Prisons are Increasing Its Use: Four months after President Joe Biden issued an executive order to overhaul the criminal justice system, promising his administration would ensure federal prisoners are in “safe and humane” confinement and “free from prolonged segregation,” the total number of inmates being held in so-called restrictive housing has been climbing, recent data shows. (NBC News)

Biden Admin Urges Court Not to Allow Guns on DC Metro Trains: The Biden administration on Friday urged a Washington, D.C., court to uphold the District’s ban on carrying handguns on its Metro trains. The administration filed a statement of interest, which is meant to declare the country’s interests in a federal court case, to oppose a lawsuit four individuals filed to block D.C.’s law banning handguns on public transit. (The Hill)

Cyber

Military Innovation Office Launching Effort to Assess Cryptocurrency Threats to National Security: The innovation office of the U.S. military, DARPA, is teaming with industry and introducing an effort to assess cryptocurrency threats to national security and law enforcement, aiding authorities in preventing illegal uses of digital assets. Cyberattacks on a nation’s financial institutions, which happened in Ukraine prior to the invasion, are increasingly viewed as a national security issue by DOD. (The Hill)

Treasury Seeks Comment on How to Structure a Cyber Insurance Program: The Treasury Department’s Federal Insurance Office, along with CISA, wants to know whether a national cyber insurance program should require policy holders to implement basic cybersecurity measures in order to avoid creating a moral hazard. “Should cybersecurity and/or cyber hygiene measures be required of policyholders under the structure?” Steven Seitz, director of Treasury’s Federal Insurance Office, asked in a request for comment set to publish in the Federal Register Thursday. “If so, which measures should be required?” (Next Gov)

CISA Director Shares Importance of ‘Cyber Storytelling’: The federal agency tasked with safeguarding U.S. cyber infrastructure is pushing to make cybersecurity a “kitchen table issue.” Director Jen Easterly, during a visit to Seattle last week as part of an effort to connect with local governments, businesses, and educational institutions around the country, said her mission has been, in part, to cut the “nerdspeak.” (Gov Tech)

EPA & DOI

Supreme Court to Hear Case That Could Have Massive Impact on US Water Quality: The Supreme Court on Monday will hear arguments of a case between Idaho landowners and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a dispute that could redefine the scope of the country’s clean water regulations. The first case of the justices’ new term, landing just ahead of the Clean Water Act’s 50th anniversary, will feature arguments about wetlands and when they can or cannot be regulated by the federal government. (The Hill)

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