Window On Washington - Vol. 5, Issue 14

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Outlook for This Week in the Nation’s Capital

Congress. The House and Senate are in recess until next week.

FY22 Budget and Appropriations. The White House delayed the release of its FY22 “skinny” budget last week, though it is expected to be released as soon as this week instead.

Jobs and Infrastructure Package. President Joe Biden introduced the American Jobs Plan last week, the first half of a two-part package. The plan proposes $2.3 trillion over eight years for job creation and to modernize the nation’s infrastructure, including roads, bridges, ports, transit systems, airports, broadband access, housing, water systems, climate resiliency, and manufacturing. Other provisions include $100 billion for modernizing the power sector, research and development investments which includes $50 billion for the National Science Foundation (NSF), and $100 billion for workforce development programs. The proposal also includes a corporate tax plan and other tax modifications to help pay for the package.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) wants to pass the measure by July 4, but it remains to be seen how the timeline will play out, especially given that House Democrats can only lose three votes for the package to pass without Republican support. Given the opposition from Senate Republicans as well, there is a chance Democratic leadership will use budget reconciliation to pass the bill. The second package, the American Families Plan, is expected to be released in the next few weeks and focus on “social infrastructure” programs such as universal pre-kindergarten and health care reform.

Last Week in the Nation’s Capital

CONGRESS

Budget & Appropriations

GOP Response Puts Biden Infrastructure Plan on Road to Reconciliation: Republican leaders blasted President Joe Biden’s plans for a $2 trillion infrastructure plan as an anti-business, tax-and-spend package that likely will become the second proposal from the president that will have to be pushed through Congress in a partisan reconciliation bill. (Roll Call)

Health

House Democrats Target HHS 'Sunset' Rule with Congressional Review Act: House Democrats are eyeing the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to overturn a controversial Department of Health and Human Services rule passed in the final days of the Trump presidency that would require the agency to review thousands of regulations to prevent them from expiring. However, time is of the essence to use the act, as it's available for only the first 60 legislative days of the new Congress. The resolution currently has no Senate co-sponsors. (The Hill)

Education

Lawmakers Urge Education Department to Take Action to Defend Schools from Cyber Threats: Reps. Doris Matsui (D-CA) and Jim Langevin (D-RI) last Friday urged the Department of Education to prioritize protecting K-12 institutions from cyberattacks, which have shot up in the past year as classes moved increasingly online during the COVID-19 pandemic. (The Hill)

Judiciary/Justice

Schumer Says Senate Will Act on Marijuana Legalization With or Without Biden: President Joe Biden has been a conspicuous outlier among Democrats when it comes to supporting marijuana legalization. (Politico)

EXECUTIVE BRANCH

Budget & Appropriations

White House Delays Release of Budget Plan: The White House is delaying the release of its top-line spending request for the 2022 fiscal year, further putting off the start of the annual process of funding the government despite earlier indications that the proposal would be released last week. (The Hill)

Labor & Workforce

Biden Targets $100 Billion in Plan to Aid Downturn-Hit Workers: Biden’s $2.25 trillion plan calls for $100 billion for workforce training programs, including services for dislocated workers—the first proposal that spends serious money on such programs since the pandemic-linked economic downturn. The White House is also seeking to double the number of registered apprenticeships. (Bloomberg Law)

U.S. Jobless Claims Rise to 719K As Virus Still Forces Layoffs: The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits rose by 61,000 last week to 719,000, signaling that many employers are still cutting jobs even as more businesses reopen, vaccines are increasingly administered and federal aid spreads through the economy. However, even with the pace of layoffs still relatively high, hiring has begun to accelerate. (Politico)

Department of Education

Unions Demand Biden Cancel Student Debt for Public Service Workers: A wide range of unions representing teachers, fire fighters, health care workers and government employees last Thursday called on Education Secretary Miguel Cardona to fully erase the debt of borrowers who have worked for more than a decade in public service jobs. (Politico)

Banking & Housing/HUD

CDC Will Extend National Eviction Ban Through June 30: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has extended the national ban on evictions through the end of June. (CNBC)

What Biden’s Infrastructure Plan Does for Housing: The “American Rescue Plan,” unveiled last Wednesday, includes $213 billion allocated for housing, with a focus on low- and middle-income homeowners and prospective homebuyers. (HousingWire)

Transportation/DOT

Biden Taps Five Agency Heads to Sell Infrastructure Plan: Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Marcia Fudge, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh will be at the forefront of the public relations push. (The Hill)

DOT Halts Texas I-45 Highway Project in Test of Biden’s Promises on Race: President Joe Biden's Department of Transportation is invoking the Civil Rights Act to pause a highway project near Houston, a rare move that offers an early test of the administration's willingness to wield federal power to address a long history of government-driven racial inequities. (Politico)

Space/NASA & NOAA

Pandemic to Cost NASA up to $3 Billion: A NASA audit concluded that costs imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic on the agency could reach $3 billion, with several major science and exploration programs accounting for much of that cost. (Space News)

White House Says Space is One Area Where Biden and Trump Agree: White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki confirmed what many in the space community have come to realize over the past two months — the space program is one area where President Biden and former President Trump actually share common ground. (Space Policy Online)

New Reports Detail Ongoing Space Threats, and Russia is Raising Concerns: In 2020, Russia conducted a number of anti-satellite (ASAT) tests and even tested multiple ASAT weapons, being even more aggressive than China in the areas of counterspace weapons and other space threats. (Space)

Science & Technology

Biden Plan Includes $180 Billion for R&D, Critical Technologies: The package includes $50 billion for the NSF, $30 billion for R&D across federal agencies, $40 billion in research infrastructure and labs with half of the funds reserved for HBCUs and other MSIs, $35 billion for climate research, $15 billion for climate R&D demonstration projects, and $10 billion for R&D at HBCUs and MSIs. The plan also includes $15 billion to create centers of excellence and research incubators at HBCUs and MSIs. (White House)

Defense/DOD

Biden’s Infrastructure Plan Includes Billions to Develop Emerging Tech the Military Needs: If Congress accepts the proposal, the government would try to counter China by pushing billions into R&D on emerging technologies — including quantum computing, artificial intelligence, and microelectronics — that underpin weapon systems and will help the Pentagon compete in increasingly digital battlefields. (C4ISR Net)

Biden Taps Current, Former Defense Officials for Key DOD Positions: The Pentagon moved a step closer to getting more of its leadership in place as the White House said President Joe Biden would nominate officials to oversee the budget, acquisition, and intelligence. (Defense One)

DHS & Immigration

DHS Chief Mayorkas Outlines 60-day Cybersecurity Goals: The six areas include fighting against ransomware, improving the resiliency of industrial control systems that undergird water and sewage treatment facilities to withstand a cyberattack, protecting data that underlies transportation and pipeline systems, safeguarding election security, building international partnerships on cybersecurity and finding ways to fill open cybersecurity positions in the federal government. (Roll Call)

Number of Migrants Detained at Southern Border Reaches 15-year High: The record numbers come after Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas recently said that the border patrol was likely to see a 20-year high in border crossings as the Biden administration faces mounting pressure to address the surge in migrants. (The Hill)

Judiciary/DOJ

Biden Struggling to Fill DOJ Job that Could Rein in Silicon Valley: President Joe Biden’s search for the Justice Department’s top trust-busting role is being bogged down by ethics concerns, both about candidates who have represented Silicon Valley’s giants and those who have represented critics of the big tech companies. (Politico)

Biden Releases First Slate of Judicial Nominees: President Joe Biden released his first slate of 11 federal judicial nominations last Tuesday, nine of them women of diverse backgrounds including several Black candidates and an Asian American. (Reuters)

Cyber

Lack of Cyber Funds in Biden Infrastructure Plan Raises Eyebrows: President Biden's $2.25 trillion infrastructure plan does not include any funds to protect critical infrastructure against cyberattacks, even as the threat grows against targets such as the electric grid. (The Hill)

EPA & DOI

Haaland on Public Lands Drilling Says Taxpayers Deserve 'A Return on Their Investment': Currently, the Biden administration has paused new leasing on federal lands and waters “pending completion of a comprehensive review and reconsideration of federal oil and gas permitting and leasing practice.” (The Hill)

Department of Energy

Biden Plan Aims to Reenergize America’s Power Infrastructure: President Biden’s plan includes $100 billion to build a more resilient electric transmission system, to spur jobs modernizing power generation and delivering clean energy, building next generation industries in distressed communities, plugging orphan oil and gas wells and cleaning up abandoned mines, mobilizing the next generation of conservation and resilience workers, and remediating and redeveloping idle real property and reinvesting in distressed and disadvantaged communities. (White House)

Nuclear Should be Considered Part of Clean Energy Standard, White House Says: More details have emerged about the climate and energy priorities of President Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan, and they include support for nuclear power and carbon capture with sequestration (CCS), from remarks made by White House climate adviser Gina McCarthy last week. (Ars Technica)

Biden Offshore Wind Plan Faces Northeast Climate, Jobs Test: Northeastern governors are seeing green when it comes to offshore wind energy, but they also face opposition and obstacles, and all need help from Washington to realize their goals. (E&E News)

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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