Window on Washington – September 6, 2022, Vol. 6, Issue 33
Outlook for This Week in the Nation’s Capital
Congress. The Senate returns from its August recess today. While the House is in recess until next week, several committees will hold remote hearings. In September, Congress must act on Fiscal Year 2023 appropriations before government funding runs out on September 30th. Last week, the Congressional Budget Office released an annual report on expired and expiring authorizations; some of the expiring authorizations may be included in a Continuing Resolution (CR), such as an authorization of the FDA’s user-fee agreements for prescription drugs, generic drugs, and medical devices. The Senate is also expected to prioritize confirming President Biden’s judicial nominees. In addition to government funding and judicial nominations, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) guaranteed to Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) a vote before the end of the month on a bill that would expedite permitting related to energy projects as a condition of Manchin’s support for the Inflation Reduction Act. It is possible the Senate may also hold votes codifying the right to same-sex marriage, as well as reforms to the Electoral Count Act, which has public support of more than 60 senators. Hearings for the week include multiple nominations, examining the United States’ policy toward Venezuela, juvenile justice, offshore energy in the West, and workplace protections for child farmworkers.
FY23 Appropriations. Congressional negotiators have between now and September 30th to reach an agreement on FY23 appropriations. While both the House and Senate have introduced government funding proposals, it is not expected Congress will pass any FY23 measure prior to the current appropriations deadline at the end of the month, which means Congress will be forced to consider a Continuing Resolution (CR). Many expect a CR to last until December 9th or 16th, which will give leaders several weeks after the midterms to assess the political landscape and negotiate a funding deal. On Friday, the White House Office of Management and Budget released two lists of FY23 anomalies (here and here), which will influence FY23 CR negotiations, as well as a supplemental request for emergency appropriations, which includes $11B for continued support for Ukraine, $22B for COVID needs, $4B to increase access to monkeypox vaccines and slow its spread, as well as nearly $7B to assist with relief efforts from domestic natural disasters. Reports surfaced earlier today that Democratic leaders were contemplating attaching both the aforementioned same-sex marriage legislation to the CR and permitting reform legislation. This development will bear close watch between now and next week when the House returns.
Defense Authorizations. The Senate is expected to consider the FY23 National Defense Authorization Act this month, potentially as early as September 12th. The House passed its version of the NDAA in July.
November Elections. Forecasters have revised their expectations of a “red wave” for Republicans in recent weeks. Several primaries and special elections in August were closer than expected, with Democrats winning special elections for House seats in upstate New York and Alaska that Republicans had hoped to win.
Biden Administration. President Biden will hold a cabinet meeting today. Tomorrow, he will host President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama for a portrait unveiling. On Friday, Biden will attend a semiconductor fab groundbreaking ceremony in Ohio, where he will speak about the CHIPS Plus Science law. This weekend, Biden will attend a ceremony at the Pentagon to honor the victims of 9/11.
Last Week in the Nation’s Capital
Budget & Appropriations
House Prepping Stopgap Funding Bill Through Mid-December: House Democratic leaders are working on a tentative plan to take up a temporary spending bill the week of Sept. 12 that would extend current government funding levels through Dec. 16, sources familiar with the discussions said. That end date is the House’s adjournment target for the 117th Congress, and it could still shift in talks with Senate leaders, who are currently planning to be in session a few extra days, through Dec. 21. Either way, it signals a seriousness about getting an omnibus appropriations package for the upcoming fiscal year done before the new Congress is seated, when control of one or both chambers could shift. (Roll Call)
Earmarks’ Future Unclear as Republicans Split Ahead of Midterms: Potential changes in control of one or both chambers in the midterm elections could put the practice of earmarking federal funds for local projects on the chopping block in the next Congress. The last time Republicans recaptured the House, after the 2010 midterms, party leaders banned earmarks amid the anti-spending, tea party-fueled sentiment of the time. (Roll Call)
Democratic Hopefuls Steer Clear of Biden Student Loan Plan: Several Democratic candidates in tough Senate races are treading carefully when it comes to President Biden’s decision to cancel student loans for millions of borrowers, with some distancing themselves from the new White House plan that has quickly became a major campaign issue. The long-awaited move to forgive $10,000 in federal student debt was geared toward gaining support from young people and working Americans just three months out from the midterms. But some Democrats in closely watched Senate races that will help determine control of the chamber have criticized Biden’s policy for not being targeted enough and not addressing underlying issues. (The Hill)
Banking & Housing
Powell’s ‘Dangerous’ Words Risk Resistance from Lawmakers: Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell is entering perilous new territory as he warns the American people of coming economic pain from sharply higher interest rates, with signs of political frustration already surfacing. With inflation at more than a four-decade high, Powell and other Fed officials in the past few weeks have torpedoed the hopes of many investors, lawmakers and labor advocates that the central bank will be able to achieve a “soft landing” — a slowdown in growth that curbs spiking prices but avoids a damaging recession. (Politico)
A Bipartisan Bill Would Ban Top Feds from Trading Stocks: A bipartisan pair of lawmakers is looking to create a new prohibition of stock trading for the top civil servants in government, saying it would avoid conflicts of interest and unfair advantages. (GovExec)
House Committee Sends Inquires to Crypto Exchanges: In a series of letters sent last week, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform asked four agencies, as well as five digital asset exchanges — Coinbase, FTX, Binance.US, Kraken, and KuCoin — for information and documents about what they are doing to safeguard consumers against scams and combat cryptocurrency-related fraud. The committee says that the responses could be used to craft legislative solutions. (CNBC)
Homeland Security & Immigration
Klobuchar, Murkowski Raise Concerns over Work Permit Delays: A bipartisan pair of senators have raised concerns about lengthy work permit delays at a federal immigration agency, which they say have kept Ukrainian refugees and other constituents out of work for months and aggravated workforce shortages. Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) wrote U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services about reports that thousands of Ukrainians who arrived in the U.S. in the spring following Russia’s invasion are still waiting to receive their work authorization documents. Many of those Ukrainians are living in America under temporary humanitarian protections. (Roll Call)
Pelosi Expresses Reservations about Bipartisan Privacy Bill: A bipartisan privacy bill aimed at reining in the tech and data industries just hit a serious roadblock: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has issues with the legislation. In a statement, Pelosi raised issues with the American Data Privacy and Protection Act (HR 8152) preempting state laws, specifically the ones in her home state of California. Without Pelosi’s support, the bill likely won’t make it to a floor vote in the House, despite making it through the Energy and Commerce Committee by a decisive 53-2 vote. (Politico)
Environment & Interior
Reconciliation Language Shores up EPA Clean Air Authority: Folded into the text of the climate, health care and tax bill that became law in August is language that may buttress a 2007 Supreme Court precedent underpinning EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. The measure signed into law by President Joe Biden on Aug. 16 included multiple amendments to the foundational environmental law first passed in 1970. Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman Tom Carper (D-DE) said they were “the most significant changes since 1990.” (Roll Call)
Three House Democrats Call for Tighter Carbon Offset Standards: Three House Democrats in environmental leadership positions called on the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to strengthen standards for voluntary carbon offsets. In the letter, Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee; Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA), the chairman of the House Natural Resources Water, Oceans and Wildlife Subcommittee; and Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL), the chairwoman of the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, noted that there is no single standard for voluntary carbon offset programs. (The Hill)
Budget & Appropriations
Biden Seeks $47 Billion in Emergency Funding: The White House on Friday asked Congress for $47 billion in emergency funding to assist the administration’s efforts in fighting COVID-19 and monkeypox, supporting Ukraine and responding to natural disasters. The request comes as lawmakers on Capitol Hill face a September deadline to fund the government, carrying with it the risk of a government shutdown just before midterm elections. The largest request is $22.4 billion in COVID-19 funding, which would support testing, research on vaccines and therapeutics, preparations for future variants and assisting in the global response to the virus. (Axios)
CDC Recommends Updated COVID-19 Booster Shots: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky signed off on an advisory committee’s recommendation of updated COVID-19 vaccine boosters for people 12 and older, clearing the way for a fall campaign for the shots. Following the CDC’s decision, the vaccinations can now begin. (The Hill)
VA Plans to Offer Abortion Services to Certain Veterans and Beneficiaries: The Department of Veterans Affairs plans to offer abortion counseling and some abortions for pregnant veterans and VA beneficiaries. The VA submitted an interim final rule that would enable it to provide abortions when the life or health of a veteran or beneficiary is in peril, or in cases of rape or incest. It would also cover dependents under the agency’s Civilian Health and Medical Program. (Politico)
Biden Administration Weighs Saving Monkeypox Doses for Potential Smallpox Outbreak: Top health officials in the Biden administration are weighing whether to save vaccine doses that could be used to fight monkeypox for a potential future smallpox outbreak. The U.S. has purchased approximately 16.5 million vials of the Jynneos vaccine, which is FDA-approved for both smallpox and monkeypox to combat the current monkeypox outbreak. Manufacturer Bavarian Nordic, a pharmaceutical company based in Denmark, is now bottling 5.5 million of those vials, equivalent to about 27.5 million doses using intradermal administration. (Politico)
CMS Indefinitely Delays Controversial Radiation Oncology Model: The Biden administration has finalized a rule that indefinitely delays the controversial radiation oncology payment model, which generated significant pushback from providers. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a final rule recently surrounding the payment model that intended to reimburse oncology practices and outpatient sites for a total episode of care. It would also develop site-neutral payments for certain radiation therapies. (Fierce Healthcare)
Labor & Workforce
The Biden Administration Moves to Make Unions More Accessible to Federal Contractors: Labor organizations will soon be able to access federal property to inform federal contractors about the perks of organizing, collective bargaining and unions. A final rule from the General Services Administration, which took effect on Friday, carries out one of the recommendations on ensuring union access for contractor employees from the White House Task Force on Worker Organizing and Empowerment’s report released in February 2022. President Biden established the task force via executive order in April 2021. (GovExec)
Biden Backs California Farmworkers Union Bill as Pressure on Newsom Grows: President Biden on Sunday endorsed a California bill that would expand union organizing rights for agricultural workers, a measure long pushed by labor organizers who are now pressuring Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA) to sign the legislation. The bill, which state lawmakers sent to Newsom’s desk last week, would allow farmworkers to choose whether they want to vote in a union election in person, by mail or by submitting a card to a California Agricultural Labor Relations Board office. (The Hill)
White House Issues Federal Workforce To-Do List to Meet Green-Government Goals: The Biden administration is instructing agencies on how to build up the federal workforce to meet its green-government goals. The White House Council on Environmental Quality released guidance directing agencies and the federal government as a whole to “develop new resources, trainings and systems to equip and inspire the federal workforce.” (Federal News Network)
Department of Education
Education Secretary Cardona says Dramatic Drops in Reading, Math Scores should be Call to Action: Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said that the pandemic has had “profound impacts” on the nation’s schoolchildren and called for communities to “raise the bar for our students” in the wake of a new report showing test scores for America’s 9-year-olds fell dramatically in 2020 and 2021. (The Hill)
Biden-Harris Administration Announces Public and Private Sector Actions to Strengthen Teaching Profession and Help Schools Fill Vacancies: The Biden-Harris Administration announced new efforts to strengthen the teaching profession and support schools in their effort to address teacher shortages as the new school year begins. This announcement includes new commitments from leading job platforms to make it easier for Americans to find opportunities in the education field, and new initiatives from teachers’ unions and national and state organizations to expand high-quality pathways into the profession for future teachers. (Clark Hill Insight)
Banking & Housing/HUD
FHFA Announces Review of Federal Home Loan Bank System: The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) said it will conduct a comprehensive review of the Federal Home Loan Bank (FHLBank) System, beginning this fall. The FHLBank System was founded in 1932 by the Federal Home Loan Bank Act as a government-sponsored enterprise to support mortgage lending and related community investment. It is composed of 11 regional FHLBanks and the system’s fiscal agent, the Office of Finance. Each FHLBank is a separate, government-chartered, member-owned corporation. (National Mortgage Professional)
CFTC Examining Whether to Allow Bets on Party Control of Congress: The Commodity Futures Trading Commission plans to decide by October whether to allow Kalshi LLC to offer the public a way to wager on which party will control the House and Senate. Kalshi is proposing to offer event contracts that allow participants to put up money on the question of which party will control the House or Senate. The event contracts will have a price of between 1 cent and 99 cents, with the amount determined by market interest. (Roll Call)
Yellen Kicks Off Month-Long Economic Victory Tour: Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen will deliver a major economic speech in Detroit this week as part of a month-long push to sell President Biden’s signature legislative achievements before the midterms. Deploying Yellen, an economist who has been reluctant to lend her name to arguments she doesn’t buy, is the administration’s attempt to seize on a spate of positive headlines and make a broader intellectual argument for Biden’s efforts to re-engineer large sections of the economy. (Axios)
IRS Indicates Steady Progress Towards Clearing Processing Backlog: The IRS as of August 19 had 8.7 million unprocessed individual tax returns it has received in 2022, a mix of returns for 2021 and late-filed returns for previous tax years, the agency said in an update on its backlog of returns and taxpayer correspondence. Among the returns are 1.7 million that contain errors or require special handling, while 7 million are paper returns that still must be reviewed and processed, according to an August 29 update posted on the IRS.gov webpage “COVID-19: Mission-critical functions continue.” (Reuters)
DOT Launches New Dashboard to Help Air Travelers Know Their Rights When They Experience Flight Disruptions Caused by Airlines: In August, Secretary Buttigieg wrote a letter to airline CEOs informing them that DOT would publish the dashboard before Labor Day and urged the airlines to improve their customer service plans before the release. As a result, all but one of the ten largest U.S. airlines made significant changes to their plans to improve services provided to passengers when their flights are canceled or delayed because of an airline issue. (Clark Hill Insight)
FTC Publishes New Strategic Plan, Performance Plan, and Performance Report: The Federal Trade Commission has published its FY 2022-2026 Strategic Plan and its FY 2021-2023 Performance Report and Performance Plan as required under the GPRA Modernization Act of 2010. The FTC Strategic Plan for Fiscal Years 2022-2026 sets the FTC’s priorities over the next five years and will serve as the foundation for annual performance reporting. (Clark Hill Insight)
Space/NASA & NOAA
Fuel Leak Ruins NASA’s 2nd Shot at Launching Moon Rocket: NASA’s new moon rocket sprang another dangerous fuel leak Saturday, forcing launch controllers to call off their second attempt to send a crew capsule into lunar orbit with test dummies. The first attempt earlier in the week was also marred by escaping hydrogen, but those leaks were elsewhere on the 322-foot rocket, the most powerful ever built by NASA. (Politico)
Europe Looks at Possibility of a Major Investment in Space-Based Solar Power: Europe is seriously considering developing space-based solar power to increase its energy independence and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, according to the leader of the European Space Agency. However, according to some estimates the initiative, which is targeting a 2025 start, would require a 200-fold increase over current space-lift capacity over the next 30 years. (Ars Technica)
NASA and China are Eyeing the Same Landing Sites Near the Lunar South Pole: China and the United States have identified overlapping potential landing sites at the south pole of the moon as both countries ramp up their lunar exploration ambitions. The partially intersecting plans for lunar landings highlight the new interest in particular lunar resources and pose questions as to how competing countries implement and coordinate their respective moon exploration plans. (Space News)
Biden Asks Congress to Approve $1 Billion Arms Deal with Taiwan: The Biden administration is requesting approval from Congress for more than $1 billion in arms sales to Taiwan amid increased tensions with China over the island’s status. The State Department announced Friday that it approved three separate proposed military sales for Taiwan, and Congress has been notified of them. (The Hill)
All Army Chinook Helicopters Grounded over Fire Risk: The U.S. Army has grounded its fleet of Chinook helicopters, citing fuel leaks that caused “a small number” of engine fires among the aircrafts. The Army has identified the cause of the fuel leaks and is working to take “corrective measures” to address the issue, Army spokesperson Cynthia Smith in a statement. (The Hill)
U.S. Has Work to do to Compete with China in Space in the Long Run: Last week, the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU), the Space Force, and the Air Force Research Laboratory released their fourth annual joint report on the state of the space industrial base. The verdict: The U.S. has a lot of work to do if it wants to compete with China over the long run. (Fast Company)
‘We Need to Own the Heat the Way We Now Own Night,’ Pentagon Climate Leader Says: When future U.S. troops deploy to environments several degrees hotter than today’s hottest places, they’ll need special gear to help them train and operate, the Pentagon’s climate-adaptation chief recently stated. And if the U.S. military can figure out how to operate in extreme heat, it could give them an advantage similar to the advent of night vision. (Defense One)
Army Electronic Warfare Office Seeks to Adapt Now for Future Threats: The Army is reinvigorating its networks, sensors, EW arsenal and related tools following decades of counterterrorism operations — a period when troops engaged with forces sporting less-advanced gear and communications were less at risk. The U.S. is now preparing for potential fights against China and Russia, two world powers that spend significantly on military science and technology. The targeting of networks and other battlefield systems seen in the Russia-Ukraine war is only adding to the sense of urgency. (Defense News)
DoD Reports ‘Tragic’ Uptick in Military Sexual Assaults, Vows to Implement Reforms: The Defense Department is in the midst of implementing a series of Congressionally-mandated reforms meant to address sexual assault in the military. And the latest numbers show change can’t come soon enough. According to figures the Pentagon released Thursday, sexual assault is more common than at any time since DoD started keeping data. Reporting, meanwhile, is down, as is military members’ level of trust in the military justice system. (Federal News Network)
DHS & Immigration
US Ends One Immigration Pathway for Afghan Evacuees, Shifting to Long-Term Strategy: The U.S. government will no longer temporarily waive immigration requirements for vulnerable Afghans entering the country, instead focusing on more enduring pathways as the evacuation enters a new phase. The government will largely cease its use of humanitarian parole to allow at-risk Afghans to enter the country after Oct. 1, requiring remaining evacuees to demonstrate family ties in the U.S., a connection with the U.S. military, or that they are among the most vulnerable applicants to the U.S. refugee program. (The Hill)
Cyber Agency Highlights Emerging Threats From Quantum Computing: The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) released new advice on ways critical infrastructure should prepare for potential security risks stemming from quantum computing. While quantum computing provides greater speed and power than classical computers, the emerging technology comes with potential risks, including data breaches, that could threaten the security of business transactions, secure communications, digital signatures and customer information. (The Hill)
Election Officials Have Been Largely Successful in Deterring Cyber Threats, CISA Official Says: Increased coordination between federal agencies, election officials, and private sector election vendors has helped deter an influx of cyber threats directed at U.S. voting systems, an election official from the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency said on Thursday during an event hosted by the Election Assistance Commission and Pepperdine University. (Next Gov)
The Pentagon May Require Vendors Certify Their Software is Free of Known Flaws; Experts Are Split: The House of Representative’s software vulnerability provision from within the massive 2023 National Defense Authorization Bill — passed July 14 — has divided the cybersecurity community. The debate boils down to two key arguments: the requirement is unnecessary and impossible to achieve or a game-changing move that will begin holding software vendors accountable for selling faulty technology. (Cyberscoop)
EPA & DOI
EPA Proposes Hazardous Designation for Two ‘Forever Chemicals’: The EPA has proposed designating two “forever chemicals” as hazardous substances under the Superfund law. The proposal released would designate the two most widely used per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances — perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) — under the Comprehensive Environmental, Compensation and Liability Act. If finalized, it would require releases of one pound or more within a 24-hour period to be reported, which the agency said would provide it with better data as well as the option to require cleanups and recover costs. (Roll Call)
Western Drought Funding Pushes Feds and States to Cooperate: The climate and social spending package boosted funding levels for Western drought mitigation projects to an unprecedented level — one that water advocates in the region say the U.S. may never see again. But how the Interior Department decides who gets what water from the dwindling resources in the West, particularly in the Colorado River Basin that is facing a drought crisis, could make or break the historic funding, experts say. (Roll Call)
John Podesta Joins White House, Gina McCarthy Exits: President Joe Biden is reshaping his White House energy and climate team. Gina McCarthy will depart her White House post and John Podesta is joining Biden’s team as a senior adviser. Podesta, a longtime Democratic operative who served as a senior White House climate adviser during the Obama administration, will oversee the spending from the major climate and clean energy bill that was just enacted, Biden said. McCarthy’s deputy, Ali Zaidi, will take over as national climate adviser. (E&E News)
Legal, Tax and Infrastructure Requirements for Fleet EV Charging
Organizations that currently own or intend to acquire electric vehicles can gain insights into tax, legal, and infrastructure requirements by understanding best practices and common mistakes. The panel will also discuss new EV laws and charging technology.
For companies considering a full or partial transition to EV fleets, the webinar will discuss how to maximize tax rebates, determine optimal legal contracts, and identify funding opportunities. The presentation will also cover infrastructure considerations with regard to electrical and cyber requirements.
Recreational Windfall: How to Prepare for Outside Players in Montana’s Cannabis Industry
Join national cannabis service providers Clark Hill, MGO, and eXp Commercial for a deep dive into the challenges and opportunities facing operators in Montana’s new adult-use cannabis industry.