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Window on Washington – September 26, 2022, Vol. 6, Issue 36

September 26, 2022

Outlook for This Week in the Nation’s Capital

Congress.  Both the House and Senate are in session later this week. The House is in recess today and tomorrow for Rosh Hashanah while the Senate is back in session tomorrow. Congress must determine FY23 funding before the current deadline expires on Friday, September 30th. The Senate will start the process for a continuing resolution (CR) with a cloture vote on a “shell” legislative vehicle on Tuesday. The Senate will also hold several confirmation votes on nominees. In addition to a CR, the House will vote on more than 30 bills under suspension and potentially vote on a bill banning lawmakers from trading stocks. Once they pass funding, it is possible this will be the last week the House is in session until after the midterm elections. Hearings for the week include a mark-up of reforms to the Electoral Count Act and hearings on brownfields reauthorization, holding Russia accountable for the Ukraine war, war crimes, new entrants to the national airspace, veteran suicide prevention, oversight of Puerto Rico’s electricity grid, and the Farm Bill.

FY23 Appropriations.  The Senate will hold a cloture vote on a continuing resolution (CR) on Tuesday that will also include Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-WV) permitting reform bill. Several Senate Democrats, in addition to Republicans, are opposed to the Manchin bill for various reasons. If the cloture vote fails to receive the necessary 60 votes to overcome a potential filibuster, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) will introduce a “clean” CR without the permitting bill that extends funding until mid-December. Appropriators have not yet released text of the CR expected to be voted on Tuesday, but it is expected to include $12 billion in military and economic assistance for Ukraine, as well as additional funding for resettling afghan refugees, assistance for low-income families’ heating bills, and providing disaster relief in Jackson, MS. It will also reauthorize FDA user fees. It is not clear if the White House’s supplemental request for additional COVID-related funds will be included. The White House’s $22 billion COVID request was complicated when President Biden said the “pandemic is over” in a 60 Minutes interview last week, catching top public health officials off guard. Hardly anyone expects a government shutdown next week, but it will take Congress until the deadline to pass the CR.

Defense Authorizations.  Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the Senate will likely consider the FY23 National Defense Authorization Act when it is in session in October. The House passed the NDAA over the summer. Once the Senate passes its version, the Armed Services Committees will begin the conference negotiation process.

Biden Administration.  President Biden will meet with Cabinet and Administration officials today, where he will announce a new proposed rule on air travel fee transparency. He will also host the Atlanta Braves at the White House this afternoon before speaking at the White House Competition Council. Biden’s scheduled campaign trip to Florida Tuesday was cancelled as Tropical Storm  Ian, upgraded to hurricane status earlier today by the National Weather Service, threatens the state.  Vice President Harris is in Japan this week for the state funeral of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe; she will later travel to South Korea. Biden on Wednesday will host the first ever U.S.-Pacific Island Country Summit.

Mid-term Elections.  Polling data continues to show divided government in Congress as the most likely outcome this November. (FiveThirtyEight)  However, professional pollsters remain concerned that their models for projecting the composition of the likely voting electorate may once again miss key elements that led to significant errors in the size of the respective waves that determined the 2016, 2018 and 2020 elections.   (Politico)

Last Week in the Nation’s Capital

CONGRESS

Budget & Appropriations

Schumer Starts Process for Taking Up Stopgap Funding Bill: Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) took the first preliminary step toward considering stopgap funding legislation needed by the end of this week to avoid a partial government shutdown. Schumer teed up a legislative vehicle to swap in the contents of a stopgap bill that’s still being worked on, filing cloture on a motion to proceed to unrelated House-passed legislation to cap monthly insulin copays. (Roll Call)

Border Politics Threaten Push to Boost Spending on Migrant Aid: Partisan division over U.S.-Mexico border security threatens to tank a Democratic effort this month to ramp up federal grant funds to help migrants who recently crossed the border, including those whom Republican-led states have bused and flown across the country. Both the White House and Senate Democratic leadership hope to include language in an upcoming stopgap funding measure to boost assistance for local nonprofits that help asylum-seekers. (Roll Call)

House, Senate Conservatives say GOP Shouldn’t Give ‘Lame Duck’ Democrats Power in Funding Bill: Conservative Republicans in both chambers of Congress are calling on GOP colleagues to reject any government funding deal that could give Democrats the opportunity to pass a new budget before the end of the year, with 42 House Republicans and 14 Senate Republicans signing “Dear Colleague” letters. (The Hill)

Health

Lawmakers Strike Deal on ‘Practically Clean’ FDA User Fee Bill: Senate committee leaders have struck a deal to reauthorize five-year user fee deals for the Food and Drug Administration, although details of a broader stopgap government spending bill remain unfinished. Together, the deals make up roughly one-third of the FDA’s budget and ensure the agency can pay staff in charge of product reviews and approvals for prescription drugs, biologics and medical devices. The reauthorization is expected to hitch a ride on the short-term government funding bill Congress is expected to take up this week. (Roll Call)

With Overdoses Rising, a Push for Syringe Service Programs: Experts say the spike in overdoses and diseases related to sharing needles means it’s time to revoke a longtime ban restricting federal funds for syringe exchanges. But lawmakers in both parties remain resistant to allowing taxpayer dollars to go toward clean needles and syringes for drug use. Though controversial, syringe service programs have been active since the 1980s. Public health advocates argue that providing clean needles and disposing of old ones can reduce fatalities and limit the spread of infectious diseases for those who use injectable drugs such as heroin. (Roll Call)

Labor & Workforce

Senate Pulls SBIR Back from Brink of Sunsetting: The Small Business Innovation Research program is a big step further away from ending. The Senate passed a three-year authorization of SBIR and the Small Business Technology Transfer Research program by unanimous consent on Sept. 20. (Federal News Network)

Ways and Means to Take Up Social Security Benefits Bill: The House Ways and Means Committee will on Tuesday consider a widely backed bill that would scrap provisions under current law that shrink Social Security payouts for some beneficiaries with government pensions. (Roll Call)

Education

House and Senate Democrats Prepare Resolutions to Oppose Local Book Bans: Top congressional Democrats are preparing to address a wave of bans and restrictions on school library materials Thursday with new resolutions that call on local governments “to protect the rights of students to learn,” according to lawmakers and a draft copy of the legislation. The moves represent urgent statements of concern from President Joe Biden’s party about ongoing controversies that affect as many as 4 million U.S. schoolchildren, according to one recent estimate. The congressional response has won endorsements from the American Federation of Teachers and National Education Association labor unions as well as prominent literary and left-leaning educational interest groups. (Politico)

Banking & Housing

Bank Executives Warn Lawmakers of Lending Risk Among Nonbanks: Bank executives warned House lawmakers that their institutions are losing ground to lenders facing less stringent regulation, particularly requirements that they keep a minimum amount of capital to cover losses. Executives from seven of the largest banks in the U.S. testified before the House Financial Services Committee and told lawmakers capital requirements raise the costs of loans, depress their lending and could have negative consequences in a recession. (Roll Call)

Republicans Warn Bank CEOs to Steer Clear of Social, Cultural issues: The heads of the nation’s largest banks faced pointed criticism from Republicans complaining the firms are inappropriately taking liberal stances on social and cultural issues. (Reuters)

House Bill Would Require Lawmakers to File Financial Disclosures Electronically: U.S. Reps. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) and Dusty Johnson (R-SD) introduced legislation requiring Congress members to file their public financial disclosures electronically. Currently, members of both the House and Senate have the option of completing their public financial disclosures either by hand or electronically. (FinancialRegNews)

Crypto/Blockchain

House Stablecoin Bill Begins to Take Shape with Circulating Draft: A long-awaited bipartisan stablecoin bill from House Financial Services Committee lawmakers is expected to be introduced in 2022, Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC) said. Democrats on the Financial Services Committee met to go over a draft of the bill that subjects non-bank payment stablecoin issuers to Federal Reserve oversight while maintaining a role for state regulators that established their own rules for the digital tokens. (Politico)

Tax Reform

House GOP Leaders Vow to Undo $80B to Rebuild IRS if Party Regains Majority: Barely a month after the IRS got $80 billion to rebuild its workforce and upgrade its legacy IT, House Republican leaders are making repealing this funding their top legislative priority ahead of this November’s elections. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), speaking in Pittsburgh to promote the House Republicans’ legislative agenda, said a GOP-controlled House would introduce legislation that would block the IRS from receiving funds from the Inflation Reduction Act that President Joe Biden signed into law in August. (Federal News Network)

Trade

Bipartisan Group of Lawmakers Seeks to Review Apple Plan to Use Chinese Chips: A bipartisan group of senators have chips on their shoulders, asking U.S. security officials to review a plan by Apple to use Chinese parts for the iPhone 14. The senators urged Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines to review the national security threat that would result if Apple were to use memory chips from China’s state-subsidized Yangtze Memory Technologies Co. (Washington Examiner)

Defense

Senate Signs Off on SBIR Reauthorization, Setting Up House Vote:  The Senate quietly approved a bipartisan plan to extend the Small Business Innovation Research and complementary Small Business Technology Transfer programs by three years last Tuesday, teeing up a possible House vote in the coming days.  The move brings the efforts one step closer to reauthorization following weeks of negotiations on a potential standalone deal that have culminated in a framework that includes a number of programmatic changes targeting concerns over foreign influence and so-called “SBIR mills.”  (Inside Defense)

Homeland Security & Immigration

Afghan Visa Program Falls Short of Promises, Senator’s Review Finds: The Afghan special immigrant visa program “has not lived up to the promise we made to participants” and requires policy changes to meet its full potential, according to a review of the program released Thursday by New Hampshire Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH). (Roll Call)

Judiciary/Justice

House Passes Policing and Public Safety Package, Boosting Vulnerable Democrats: The House passed a package of police funding and public safety bills Thursday, legislation that will help vulnerable Democrats blunt GOP campaign attacks that they want to “defund the police” and are ignoring rising crime. (NBC News)

Republicans Block Bill Requiring Dark Money Groups to Reveal Donors: Senate Republicans voted Thursday to block the consideration of a bill to promptly require organizations that spend money on elections to promptly disclose the identities of donors who give $10,000 or more during an election cycle. The body failed to invoke cloture on the measure, in a 49-49 vote. (The Hill)

The House Just Passed a Bill that Would Make it Harder to Overthrow an Election: The House passed a set of electoral reforms aimed at shoring up ambiguities and archaic language in the presidential certification process, some of which former President Donald Trump and his allies tried to exploit in their efforts to overturn the 2020 election. (NPR)

Senate Panel Approves Bill to Give News Organizations More Power against Tech Platforms: The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee voted to approve a bill aimed at allowing news organizations to band together to negotiate with Alphabet Inc’s Google and Meta’s Facebook and win more revenue. (Reuters)

Cyber

Senators Propose Open Source Software Risk Framework in New Bill: Lawmakers introduced a bill that would have the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency develop a risk framework to strengthen the security of open-source software. (FedScoop)

Industry Objections Spur Changes to Cybersecurity Provisions in Defense Bill:  An important set of lawmakers trying to advance U.S. cybersecurity policy in this year’s National Defense Authorization Act—with implications for agencies’ procurement and risk management—is reworking their initial proposals after industry complaints, according to one of the lawmakers.  (Next Gov)

Environment & Interior

Manchin Permitting Bill Faces Difficult Path Forward: Legislation by Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) that would overhaul the federal permitting process for energy and infrastructure projects received the endorsement of his fellow Mountain State senator, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) who had previously introduced a Republican bill to counter Manchin’s. (Roll Call)

U.S. Ratifies Global Treaty to Curb Climate-Warming Chemicals in Air Conditioning, Refrigeration: The Senate has voted to ratify a global climate treaty that will phase down the use and production of hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, the climate-warming chemicals widely used in air conditioning and refrigeration. (CNBC)

Energy

Senate Confirms New White House Science and Tech Advisor in Historic Vote: The Senate voted to confirm Dr. Arati Prabhakar as the next director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, making her the first woman, immigrant or person of color to serve in the position. Prabhakar, who previously served as director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency from 2012 to 2017 and as director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology from 1993 to 1997, was confirmed in a 56-40 vote. (NextGov)

EXECUTIVE BRANCH 

Health/HHS/NIH

Moderna Asks FDA to Authorize Omicron Booster Shots for Kids As Young As 6: Moderna on Friday said it has asked the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to authorize its COVID-19 bivalent booster shot for adolescents and children as young as 6 years old. The application for children ages 6 months to under 6 years is expected to be completed later this year, the company said. (The Hill)

Banking & Housing/HUD

Biden Administration May Try to Oust World Bank Head: Biden officials have considered trying to oust World Bank President David Malpass, who took office during the Trump administration, because they believe he’s weak on climate. Administration officials are deeply concerned by Malpass’ failure to answer last week when asked if climate change was caused by humans. His response provides ammunition to officials who want Biden to spend some political capital to attempt to remove him. (Axios)

Crypto/Blockchain

Biden Team Unveils Blueprint for Regulating Digital Assets: Following a March executive order directing federal agencies to assess the benefits and potential risks of integrating digital assets into the mainstream, Biden’s first-of-its-kind digital asset agenda is comprised of nine reports. Treasury has released three of the nine framework reports. (Thomson Reuters)

Pentagon Launches Effort to Assess Crypto’s Threat: The military’s innovation office, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), is launching a sweeping review of cryptocurrencies to assess threats to national security and law enforcement posed by the rise of digital assets. It will develop tools that give the Pentagon a granular view of crypto markets’ inner workings, in part to help authorities crack down on illicit uses of digital assets. (The Washington Post)

Transportation/DOT

DOE and DOT Announce Gabe Klein to Lead Joint Office of Energy and Transportation: The U.S. Departments of Energy and Transportation announced that Gabe Klein — former Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Transportation and Director of the Washington D.C. Department of Transportation — will lead the Joint Office of Energy and Transportation, which was created by the President’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. (Clark Hill Insight)

Denver Airport CEO Phil Washington’s FAA Nomination May be Stalled: A search warrant that is part of a criminal probe involving the Los Angeles Metro transit agency and names Denver International Airport CEO Phil Washington could potentially prolong his confirmation process to lead the Federal Aviation Administration. Aviation leaders are raising concerns over a Los Angeles County search warrant executed involving allegations that Washington oversaw a no-bid contract at his past job leading the county Metropolitan Transportation Authority. (Axios)

U.S. Outlines Roadmap to Boost Sustainable Aviation Fuel: The U.S. Energy Department on Friday issued a plan detailing a government-wide strategy for ramping up production and use of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF). (Reuters)

Biden to announce new rules for airlines and travel sites to be more transparent about additional fees: President Joe Biden today is expected to announce a new proposed rule that would require airlines and travel sites to be more transparent about additional fees that customers could be charged, including for baggage, flight changes or cancellations. Under the proposed rule, airlines and travel sites “would have to disclose up front – the first time an airfare is displayed – any fees charged to sit with your child, for changing or canceling your flight, and for checked or carry-on baggage.” (CNN)

Space/NASA & NOAA

Lander Companies Prepare to Shoot for the Moon:  When NASA unveiled in 2018 the Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program, its effort to fly science and technology demonstration payloads on commercial lunar landers, the phrase agency officials often used to describe it was “shots on goal.” The phrase was meant to describe the agency’s acceptance of risk and expectations of success for the program – now the first shots are coming into view, with several landers scheduled to fly next year.  (Space News)

NASA’s DART About to Move an Asteroid:  On Monday evening, a NASA spacecraft will deliberately crash itself into an asteroid to change its orbit just a bit. The Double Asteroid Redirection Test is just that, a test to see if it is possible to divert an asteroid’s trajectory. This asteroid poses no threat to Earth, but NASA wants to find out if this kinetic energy method would work if the day comes when it’s needed.  (Space Policy Online)

NASA Artemis Launch Scrubbed due to Hurricane Ian. Hurricane Ian’s potential storm path led NASA to postpone Tuesday’s long awaited second attempt to launch its Artemis I mission.  A decision on whether to roll back the vehicle to Kennedy Space Center’s Vehicle Assembly Building is expected early this week.  (NASA)

Defense/DOD

Pentagon Plans to Give Troops Bigger Housing Allowances, Lower Priced Groceries: The Pentagon will undertake a series of reforms meant to make housing, moving and groceries cheaper for troops and their families as high inflation cuts into service members’ salaries. (The Hill)

Biden says U.S. Forces Would Defend Taiwan in the Event of a Chinese Invasion: U.S. President Joe Biden said U.S forces would defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion, his most explicit statement on the issue, drawing an angry response from China that said it sent the wrong signal to those seeking an independent Taiwan. (Reuters)

DOD’s Digital Threats are Increasingly Interconnecting, Watchdog Warns: The new wave of major national security challenges stem from the digital information environment and the continued spread of misinformation and cyber threats across virtual networks, according to a new Government Accountability Office study. (NextGov)

DHS & Immigration

Biden Administration Plans Private Refugee Sponsorship Program: The Biden administration is poised to launch a private refugee sponsorship program in the coming months, an effort that could accelerate lagging refugee admissions in the United States. The program will enlist private organizations and groups of everyday Americans to sponsor and resettle refugees, resembling similar efforts undertaken in the past year to resettle Afghans and Ukrainians, the State Department told Congress earlier this month. (Roll Call)

Border Apprehensions Exceed 2 Million this Year: The number of arrests or detentions of migrants at the border this fiscal year remains at a record high, according to data released — as Republicans level sharp criticism at the Biden administration, even as the White House says it is working to humanely manage immigration and stresses its limited influence over those seeking to enter the country. (ABC News)

DHS to Begin Electric Vehicle Adoption for Law Enforcement: The Department of Homeland Security is working on introducing a new fleet of electric vehicles to perform law enforcement functions, making it the first federal agency to implement cars with zero-emissions technology on such a wide scale. The agency will switch officers to the Ford Mustang Mach-E model for the first round of the agency’s new EVs to be used across the U.S. (NextGov)

Employees in Anonymous Letter Ask Biden to Remove DHS Inspector General: A group of employees who work for the internal watchdog at the Department of Homeland Security are calling on President Biden to remove their boss, saying they’ve lost hope the “ship will right itself.” (The Hill)

Biden Administration to Cover Puerto Rico’s Fiona Recovery Costs for the Next Month: President Joe Biden announced Thursday that the federal government will pay 100 percent of the costs of Puerto Rico’s recovery from Hurricane Fiona for the next month. The move would expand the federal role just a day after Biden issued a major disaster declaration on Wednesday for Puerto Rico, unlocking additional federal assistance as island residents navigate the aftermath of Fiona. (Politico)

Judiciary/DOJ

Judicial Conference Calls for Improved Safety Measures for Judges: The federal court system’s policymaking body called on Congress to pass legislation that would ramp up safety measures for judges. (Politico)

Cyber

ONCD Official Details Agency Steps for Coherent Cyber Action Plans: The Office of the National Cyber Director (ONCD) is developing Federal interagency processes to create transparent and coherent cyber action plans that align with the current activity underway in the cyber landscape, an agency official said. (MeriTalk)

CISA, Industry Expanding Effort to Secure “Operational Technology”:  Operational Technology (OT), which includes the control systems for industrial equipment and covers vast numbers of operating systems including dams, ports, fire control systems and building management systems, holds unique challenges for cybersecurity managers, due to parts of these systems predating the integration of OT and internet based controls.  At a recent meeting of the House Committee on Homeland Security, experts in OT admitted that vulnerabilities still exist, and there is not yet a firm timeline for solving the problems.  (Federal News Network)

Federal Cyber Commission Continues Despite Privatization:  From $1 billion for state and local cybersecurity initiatives to new reporting requirements for critical infrastructure companies, the policy suite developed by the Cyberspace Solarium Commission continues to garner interest from lawmakers, despite the commission being disbanded in December.  The commission’s recommendations are now being shepherded by CSC 2.0, a project of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), a D.C. think tank and lobbying organization.  (Gov Tech)

Agriculture

FDA Baby Formula Review Spares Specific Blame Amid Ongoing Shortages: A long-anticipated internal review of the FDA’s response to the infant formula crisis stopped short of blaming any individual or federal team, after the agency’s head acknowledged to lawmakers earlier this year a string of failures and delays during the months-long federal response. The new report is based on interviews with more than 60 FDA staffers and “leadership directly involved with the events that transpired,” according to Steven Solomon, who heads the FDA’s veterinary division and was tasked by FDA chief Robert Califf to conduct an internal review of the matter in May. (Politico)

EPA & DOI

EPA Launches New Office Dedicated to Environmental Justice: The Environmental Protection Agency will create a new national office of environmental justice to address the disproportionate harm that pollution and climate change has caused in low-income areas and communities of color, the agency announced Saturday. (CNN)

U.S. EPA to Consider Tougher Emissions Rules for Heavy Trucks: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will consider adopting more stringent greenhouse gas emissions rules for heavy trucks after Congress passed new incentives to speed the adoption of zero-emission vehicles. (Reuters)

Department of Energy

DOE, Federal Agencies to Draft Plan for Slashing Transportation Carbon Emissions: The Biden administration intends to release a plan in-mid December for slashing greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector related to funding streams created through the bipartisan infrastructure law and the Inflation Reduction Act. (UtilityDive)

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