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Window on Washington – September 7, 2021, Vol. 5, Issue 36

September 7, 2021

Outlook for This Week in the Nation’s Capital

Congress. The House and Senate are both in recess this week. The Senate returns next week, and the House returns September 20 for what is set to be an incredibly busy legislative period for both chambers. Legislative priorities for the chambers include avoiding a government shutdown, moving forward with the reconciliation bill, the House passing the bipartisan infrastructure bill, dealing with the debt limit, and addressing the Afghanistan withdrawal.

Reconciliation Package. While the full House has no legislative business, key Committees will continue to hold markups on their portions of the reconciliation package.  Last week the House Oversight Committee completed action on its portion of the bill, and the Natural Resources Committee began action on its portion of the legislation.  This week, markups continue in Natural Resources and will commence in Education and Labor, Science, Space, and Technology, Small Business, Veterans Affairs, Ways and Means, Agriculture, and Homeland Security. Next week, Ways and Means is expected to finish its portion of the bill as will Energy and Commerce, Financial Services, Judiciary, and Transportation and Infrastructure. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) hopes to bring the package for a vote to the House floor by the end of September, but differences within the party regarding the size and scope of the bill may alter this timeline. Some moderate House Democrats reiterated that they expect the bill will be “pre-conferenced” with the Senate to avoid having to make any major changes in either chamber once it is brought to the floor, that the bill be fully paid for with the exception of its climate provisions, and for members to be given at least 72 hours to review the legislative text before it goes to the House floor. Meanwhile, Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) has asked Democrats to slow down their work on the reconciliation bill and to focus on a smaller package.

FY22 Appropriations. Since the House and Senate have not yet wrapped up work on their FY22 appropriations bills, there will likely be a continuing resolution (CR) to avoid a government shutdown. As of now, it remains unclear how long the CR would extend government funding for, and while this is a must-pass bill, there is added complexity as to how it will play out since Democrats plan to attach a debt ceiling increase to the bill (which Republicans oppose) as well as potentially attach emergency funding to address Hurricane Ida and the fire season on the West Coast (which would help Republican states/districts). The White House is also working to send the House and Senate Appropriations Committees its list of priorities in need of funding anomalies for attachment to the CR.

Biden Administration. President Joe Biden will visit New Jersey and New York today to survey the damage left behind by Ida. On Saturday, Biden and first lady Jill Biden will visit New York City, Shanksville, Pennsylvania, and the Pentagon to mark the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Vice President Kamala Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff will travel to Shanksville separately before joining the President and the first lady at the Pentagon. Former President George W. Bush is expected to speak in Shanksville.

Last Week in the Nation’s Capital

Budget & Appropriations
Manchin Calls for ‘Pause’ on $3.5 Trillion Budget Bill: In remarks made last Wednesday at the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce’s 2021 business summit and in an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal last Thursday, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) said there are too many economic unknowns at present to warrant rushing ahead with such an expansive measure. Manchin’s call for a pause on the reconciliation bill could affect the timeline to wrap up working on the bill, as House moderates also got their leadership to agree to not asking them to pass a reconciliation package in their chamber unless all 50 Senate Democrats support it too. (Roll Call)
Congress Braces for Spending Fights Amid Threat of Government Shutdown: Lawmakers are bracing for budget battles later this month when they return to Washington, where they’ll be racing against the clock to pass trillions of dollars in spending while the threat of a government shutdown looms. (The Hill)
House to Vote on Bill Guaranteeing Abortion Access in Response to Texas Law: Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said Thursday that the House will vote on legislation to guarantee access to abortion upon its return to Washington later this month after the Supreme Court refused to block a restrictive Texas law that bans most abortions. Late last Wednesday night, the court issued a 5-4 ruling denying an emergency request from abortion providers to block the Texas law, with Chief Justice John Roberts joining the three liberal justices in dissent. (The Hill)
Banking & Housing
House Budget Chief Praises Powell as Biden Mulls Replacement: House Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth (D-KY) all but formally endorsed Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell for another term amid growing liberal pressure on President Biden to replace him. In a Thursday statement, Yarmuth praised Powell for pushing aggressively for a full recovery from the pandemic-driven recession and expressed concern about a sudden change atop the Fed. (The Hill)
Tax Reform
Wyden Eyes Taxes on Billionaires, Executive Pay to Fund Spending Plans: The Senate’s top tax writer is proposing new taxes on executive compensation, stock buybacks and plastics to help pay for Democrats’ multitrillion-dollar social spending plan. Finance Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR) is also suggesting the creation of a new levy on billionaires, raising the estate tax and cracking down on tax breaks for so-called conservation easements. Altogether, his panel is considering more than a dozen-and-a-half possible tax increases. (Politico)
Washington Test-Drives a New Driving Fee: Charging Americans for road upkeep based on how many miles they’ve driven has long been relegated to the dustbin of policy — intriguing ideas that are too politically toxic. Like raising the gas tax, a per-mile fee for vehicles is sporadically floated and quickly quashed, as Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg discovered earlier this year when — just weeks into the job — he stepped on a political landmine for suggesting the idea shows promise. But the concept is poised to get a significant boost in the infrastructure plan moving through Washington. Tucked into the legislation is a provision that would create a national test of replacing the current gasoline tax with a per-mile fee, for the first time ever. (Politico)
House Approves Legislation to Electrify Vehicle Fleets, Tackling Climate Change: The Committee on Oversight and Reform on September 2 approved legislation S.Con.Res.14, the concurrent resolution for the congressional budget of the fiscal year 2022. If passed, it would provide critical funding to electrify government vehicle fleets tackling climate change. Specifically, the legislation would provide $12 billion in funding to position the Federal government as a leader in modernizing vehicles to reduce carbon output, build charging stations and support infrastructure across the country, and take a significant step towards a fully electric future for Federal vehicles. (MeriTalk)
Banking Committee Members Call for $30 Billion in Transit Funding in Reconciliation Bill: Last Thursday, Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee members called for an additional $30 billion to be dedicated to expanding transit and transportation in the upcoming budget reconciliation package, citing equity and racial and economic justice for their constituents. (Clark Hill Insight)
House Armed Services Committee Approves Space National Guard, Challenges DoD on Space Programs: The recently marked up bill includes legislation includes a number of space policy provisions including new rules on in-house procurement, the establishment of a Space National Guard, requires updated threat assessments and addresses the threat of space debris, among many other provisions. (Space News)
Durbin Announces Judiciary Hearing on Texas Abortion Law, Supreme Court ‘Shadow Docket’: “This anti-choice law is a devastating blow to Americans’ constitutional rights — and the Court allowed it to see the light of day without public deliberation or transparency,” Durbin said in a statement. (NBC News)
Industry Lobbies Congress to Extend Notification Timeline After Cybersecurity Incidents: Key industry groups were in Washington last week during a House Homeland Security cybersecurity subcommittee hearing pushing to give organizations at least three days to report cybersecurity incidents to the federal government, effectively opposing Senate legislation that would give them 24 hours to report breaches. (The Hill)
House Panel Backs $24B Pentagon Budget Boost, Defying Biden: The House Armed Services Committee, like the Senate before it, voted to boost the budget topline of the annual National Defense Authorization Act in a 42-17 vote during its marathon markup of the military policy legislation last week, building bipartisan momentum toward a big budget hike on both sides of the Capitol. The proposed major increases would boost procurement, shipbuilding and R&D accounts primarily. (Politico)
Lawmakers Load Defense Bill With Measures Demanding Answers for Afghanistan’s Fall—and Its Future: The House Armed Services Committee approved at least half a dozen bipartisan amendments to the fiscal 2022 National Defense Authorization Act that pointedly ask the administration for more details on both the withdrawal and the future security situation in Afghanistan, expressing their dissatisfaction with the botched withdrawal. (Defense One)
Environment & Interior
Chair Maloney, Chair Khanna, and Rep. Omar Lead 50+ Democrats Calling for End of Fossil Fuel Tax Giveaways: Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY), Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), Chairman of the Subcommittee on the Environment, and Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) led more than 50 Democrats in sending a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer requesting that they include the repeal of fossil fuel subsidies in the Build Back Better Act. (Clark Hill Insight)
Democrats on Key Panel Offer Bill on Solar Tax Incentive: A group of Democrats on the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee introduced a bill Friday aimed at encouraging clean-energy production that they’re seeking to include in a forthcoming multitrillion-dollar spending package. The legislation would allow solar companies to be eligible for a full-value production tax credit. Currently, this incentive is available for wind and geothermal energy. (The Hill)
White House Unveils $65B Pandemic Preparedness Plan: The Biden administration last Friday unveiled its $65.3 billion plan to improve the U.S.’s pandemic preparedness strategy in the midst of COVID-19 and as the country readies for any future biological threats. The White House plans to funnel the $65.3 billion over seven to 10 years to invest in the country’s ability to respond “rapidly and effectively” to future epidemics and pandemics, as the current COVID-19 crisis has disrupted society and killed millions worldwide. (The Hill)
Biden Administration Delays Booster Rollout for Some Covid Vaccines: Senior Biden administration health officials are delaying the Sept. 20 deadline for making booster doses of some coronavirus vaccines available to most adults — instead rolling shots out gradually when data is ready, according to three people familiar with discussions. Food and Drug Administration Acting Commissioner Janet Woodcock and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky told White House officials last Thursday that they may not have sufficient safety and efficacy data on boosters in time for the Sept. 20, the target date that they and other top health officials announced last month with backing from President Joe Biden. (Politico)
Department of Education
Education Department to Probe 5 States With ‘Unacceptable’ School Mask Bans: Federal education authorities launched five investigations into statewide school mask bans last Monday, ratcheting up the Biden administration’s feud with Republican governors as Covid-19 infections disrupt the fall back-to-school season in some communities. The Department of Education’s civil rights office will review indoor masking prohibitions in Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Utah, and examine whether bans in those states violate the rights of students with disabilities. (Politico)
Banking & Housing/HUD
Consumer Protection Agency Looks to Increase Transparency for Small Business Loans: The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau proposed a rule Wednesday to raise transparency around loans for small businesses. If finalized, the federal agency’s rule would require lenders to collect and report more data about credit applications from small businesses, including demographic and pricing data and reasons for which lenders deny a loan. (CNBC)
White House Unveils Plan to Produce 100,000 Affordable Homes: The White House announced plans Wednesday to make available nearly 100,000 affordable homes over the next three years, in an effort to tackle a housing supply shortage that has contributed to skyrocketing home prices. (Politico)
Companies Brace for Biden’s New Labor Cops: A new Democratic majority at the National Labor Relations Board is poised to carry out sweeping policy changes in the coming months that could dramatically shift the balance of power toward workers and away from employers. (Politico)
SEC’s Gensler Lays Out US Crypto Regulation Stance to European Parliament: In reiterating his stance on crypto regulation stated in various recent interviews, Gensler highlighted two broad areas of focus for the SEC: Platforms for crypto trading and lending, and stablecoins. (Coindesk)
With Big Spending Plans Looming, Key Roles are Unfilled at DOT: As the Biden administration edges closer to the passage of a bill providing a dramatic infusion of federal dollars into the nation’s transportation system, key posts at the agency tasked with implementing that bill remain vacant. (Roll Call)
The First National Cyber Director has Big Plans to Toughen U.S. Digital Defenses: In a wide-ranging interview with Politico, Chris Inglis explained how he’s using his new White House office to better synchronize the government’s fight against hackers. (Politico)
GAO Will Release Report on Pandemic Cyber, Expand Reviews to Include Supply Chain in Near Future:  The Government Accountability Office is planning to release a report in early fiscal 2022 about the cybersecurity impacts of technologies federal agencies adopted in response to the pandemic, and potential software and hardware supply chain reforms that may also be needed to reduce risk. (Federal News Network)
New Federal Guidance on Ransomware Released: The FBI and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) have issued an advisory outlining mitigation measures that organizations in public and private sectors can implement to reduce the risk of ransomware attacks and other cyber incidents. (Government Executive)
Army Researchers Seek to Provide More Data to Soldiers Through Two New Projects: The U.S. Army Research Lab made breakthroughs this summer on two neural networks projects that could assist commanders’ decision-making on the battlefield and provide soldiers’ health information through fibers in their uniform. (Defense News)
China May Use an Existing Rocket to Speed up Plans for a Human Moon Mission: China appears to be accelerating its plans to land astronauts on the Moon by 2030 and would use a modified version of an existing rocket to do so, however the plan would require several technology developments and is not yet official policy. (Ars Technica)
NASA Starts Testing Electric Air Taxi for First Time: The all-electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, designed by California startup Joby Aviation, is a helicopter powered by six rotors. It was designed to be as quiet as possible in order to fit into busy city life without disturbing residents and might soon be flying cargo and passengers in busy cities, helping to ease annoying traffic jams. (
DHS & Immigration
Biden Mulls ‘Lite’ Version of Trump’s ‘Remain in Mexico’ Policy: The Biden administration is debating restarting what it describes as a more humane version of a controversial Trump-era program for asylum seekers. The new proposal — what some have dubbed “Remain in Mexico lite” — would require a small number of asylum seekers to wait in Mexico for their cases to be processed but give them better living conditions and access to attorneys, according to three people familiar with the discussions. (Politico)
FEMA Changes Policy that Blocked Disaster Aid for Many Black Families: The Department of Homeland Security on Thursday announced it will amend a department policy that disproportionately withheld disaster aid from rural Black communities. Under the previous policy, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) required applicants for aid to produce specific documents such as deeds to prove their ownership of affected properties. The new policy will expand the allowable documentation to include vehicle registrations, legal documents and signed statements from a benefit provider, social service organization or mobile home park owner. (The Hill)
DHS S&T Looks to Boost Tech Transfer by Fostering New Startup Companies: The Department of Homeland Security wants to commercialize technologies developed in federal laboratories to expand the selection of companies and applications in its industrial base, especially in areas like artificial intelligence and cybersecurity. (Federal News Network)
DOJ Issues Warning to States Ahead of Redistricting: The latest guidance from the DOJ signals an administration prepared to take a more aggressive approach in battling gerrymandering. (The Hill)
Biden Administration Aims to Cut Costs for Solar, Wind Projects on Public Land: The Biden administration plans to make federal lands cheaper to access for solar and wind power developers after the clean power industry argued in a lobbying push this year that lease rates and fees are too high to draw investment and could torpedo the president’s climate change agenda. (Reuters)
Department of Energy
Advocates Push White House to Nominate Energy Regulator: The White House is under increasing pressure to nominate a new energy regulator, weeks after it has been able to do so. President Biden has been able to nominate a member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission since June when former Commissioner Neil Chatterjee’s term expired; however, he has yet to name a nominee for the five-member commission that has jurisdiction over interstate electricity transmission and natural gas infrastructure like pipelines. (The Hill)
The U.S. Added More New Energy Capacity from Wind than Any Other Source Last Year: Last year, 42% of new electricity generation capacity in the U.S. came from land-based wind energy — more than from any other source — according to numbers in a series of reports from the Department of Energy (DOE) last week. By contrast, solar amounted to only 38% of new capacity last year. (CNBC)

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