Window On Washington - Vol. 5, Issue 18

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Outlook for This Week in the Nation’s Capital

Congress. The Senate is in recess this week, though the House is in session. Hearings for this week include a House Science, Space, and Technology (SST) hearing on climate and energy science research at the Department of Energy, a House Energy and Commerce hearing on the Climate Leadership and Environmental Action for our Nation's (CLEAN) Future Act (H.R. 1512), a House SST hearing on the National Science Foundation advancing research for U.S. innovation, and a House Energy and Commerce hearing on broadband equity. The House Energy and Commerce and Education and Labor committees will also hold hearings on H.R. 3, the legislation to lower drug prices.  

FY22 Budget and Appropriations. The President’s FY22 Budget Request is expected to be released towards the end of this month, and the House Appropriations Committee will likely mark-up its appropriations bills either in the second half of June or early July. In the meantime, the House Appropriations Committee will hold hearings this week on the FY22 budget requests for the Department of Justice, National Guard, Department of Education, the Army, the Department of Energy, the Department of Commerce, and the Air Force and Space Force.

Infrastructure Package. Cabinet officials will be traveling in the weeks ahead to promote the Biden Administration’s infrastructure plans, including both the American Jobs Plan and American Families Plan.

Biden Administration. President Joe Biden and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden will travel to Yorktown, Virginia today to discuss the Administration’s education efforts, including school re-openings and the American Families Plan. On Thursday, President Biden will travel to Lake Charles and New Orleans in Louisiana to discuss the American Jobs Plan. Additionally, President Biden plans to hold a meeting with bipartisan House and Senate leadership on May 12 to discuss his legislative agenda.

Last Week in the Nation’s Capital

CONGRESS

Budget & Appropriations

Leahy Tees Up Return of Earmarks in Senate Spending Bills: Senate Appropriations Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) last Monday officially announced a return to earmarking, clearing the way for senators to request funding for home-state projects for the first time in a decade. Leahy’s earmarks announcement came just five days after Senate Republicans kept their ban on earmarks in internal party rules, though that decision won’t prevent GOP senators who want to request directed spending from doing so. (Roll Call)

Health

Biden’s Families Plan Excludes Medicare Expansion, Drug Price Changes Backed by Democrats: President Joe Biden’s new plan to boost the social safety net would not expand Medicare coverage, an omission that could irk dozens of Democratic lawmakers who urged him to extend the program to more Americans. (CNBC)

Science, Space/NASA & NOAA

Senate Unanimously Confirms Nelson as NASA Administrator: The Senate unanimously confirmed Bill Nelson to be NASA’s next administrator, wrapping up a whirlwind confirmation process that was vastly different from that experienced by his predecessor. (SpaceNews)

Beyer Seeks Funding for NASA in Infrastructure Bill: The chairman of the House space subcommittee says he is working to secure funding for NASA as part of what could be a multitrillion-dollar infrastructure package proposed by the White House, mentioning an estimated maintenance backlog of $2.6 billion. (SpaceNews)

Biden’s Nominee for Science Chief Issues Apology, Defends Character at Confirmation Hearing: Eric Lander, President Joe Biden’s nominee to lead the White House’s science office, apologized last Thursday to a U.S. Senate panel for “understating” the contributions of two female scientists to the discovery of the CRISPR gene-editing technology. But the molecular biologist and former head of the Broad Institute also mounted an aggressive defense of his character and suitability for the job during a 2-hour confirmation hearing that included pointed questions—from both Democrats and Republicans—about his past actions related to gender and controversial figures including Nobel laureate James Watson and sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. (Science)

Defense

Biden Budget Delay Pushes Back Annual Defense Policy Bill: Instead of working on the defense bill in May, the Senate Armed Services Committee will now focus on confirmation hearings for the 23 pending nominees, with markup likely delayed until July. (The Hill)

Environment & Interior

Senate Passes Bipartisan $35B Water Infrastructure Bill: The measure, the Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act of 2021, would put $35 billion toward state water infrastructure programs. It authorizes gradual increases in funding for state water infrastructure systems from fiscal 2022 through 2026, beginning with $2.4 billion and ending with $3.25 billion. It is unclear when the bill will be considered in the House. (The Hill)

EXECUTIVE BRANCH

Budget & Appropriations

Biden Appoints Official to Oversee 'Buy American' Initiative: President Biden announced Celeste Drake will serve as the director of Made in America, a first of its kind role within the Office of Management and Budget. She will oversee federal procurement policies in accordance with Biden's pledge to increase the government's purchase of U.S.-made goods. (The Hill)

Health/HHS/NIH

Biden's $1.8T American Families Plan: The American Families Plan includes $1 trillion in new spending and $800 billion in new tax credits, focused on increasing access to preschool and community college, as well as child care and health care benefits. (White House)

Labor & Workforce

Biden Signs Executive Order Raising Federal Contractors' Minimum Wage to $15 an Hour: President Joe Biden signed an executive order last Tuesday that raises the minimum wage for federal contractors and tipped employees working on government contracts to $15 an hour. (NBC News)

Department of Education

Biden Proposes Free Community College, Pell Expansion: President Biden wants $109 billion for two-year colleges, $80 billion addition for Pell Grants, $62 billion for retention and completion efforts, and $39 billion for two free years at minority-serving institutions for most students (Inside Higher Ed)

Banking & Housing/HUD

Biden to Tap Crebo-Rediker, Nelson as Treasury Undersecretaries: President Joe Biden is set to nominate economist Heidi Crebo-Rediker to serve as the Treasury Department’s top diplomat and attorney Brian Nelson as the agency’s top sanctions official, filling out Secretary Janet Yellen’s leadership team. (Bloomberg)

Transportation/DOT

Sen. Capito Says She Wants No Earmarks in Upcoming Highway Bill: The ranking Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), said last Wednesday that she is “strongly discouraging” the notion of adding earmarks to the upcoming Senate highway bill, despite the House moving forward with them. (Roll Call)

Space/NASA & NOAA

NASA Suspends HLS Contract with SpaceX: NASA has suspended its contract with SpaceX for the landing system to take astronauts down to and back from the lunar surface. Two other competitors for the contract, Blue Origin and Dynetics, have filed protests with the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and NASA issued the stop work order until GAO resolves the matter. (Space Policy Online)

Vice President Kamala Harris to Lead National Space Council Under Biden Administration: The National Space Council, a space policy group resurrected by the Trump administration, will continue in a new form under the Biden White House with Vice President Kamala Harris at the helm. Harris intends "to put her own personal stamp" on the council to focus on a wide variety of space policies, including the sustainable development of commercial spaceflight, "advancing peaceful norms and responsible behaviors in space," climate change and more. (Space)

Defense/DOD

Unspent Border Wall Funds Will be Rerouted Back to Military Construction Projects: The Pentagon announced last Friday that it would cancel all of the border construction projects funded by the siphoning of money destined to build military schools, training facilities, and more, returning the funds to those uses. (Military Times)

Judiciary/DOJ

Court Watchers Buzz About Breyer's Possible Retirement: The Biden administration said earlier this month that the president seeks no influence over Justice Stephen Breyer’s decision, even as the justice faces mounting pressure from progressive groups to step down. (The Hill)

Cyber

$2 Trillion Can Build a Lot of Infrastructure, But Can the U.S. Secure it? Without dedicated cybersecurity funding, experts say, Biden’s plan will leave America’s shiny new infrastructure vulnerable to catastrophic hacks. (Politico)

Justice Department to Undertake 120 Day Review of Cybersecurity Challenges: The review will focus on cybersecurity issues including digital currency, supply chain attacks such as the SolarWinds incident, which compromised nine federal agencies last year, and the ways countries such as China and Russia use cyber operations against other nations. (The Hill)

Agriculture/USDA

Vilsack Confirms that USDA Research Arms Will Not Return to Washington, D.C.: Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said last week that USDA will keep the agencies headquartered in Kansas City, Missouri, to maintain stability for staff. (The Counter)

EPA & DOI

Interior Department Appoints First Native American Chief of Staff: The Interior Department announced last Friday that Lawrence Roberts will serve as its first ever Indigenous chief of staff. (The Hill)

USDA Chief Says Climate Plans Won’t Involve a Leaner Meat Diet: The Biden Administration will not use eminent domain to take farm or ranch property out of production to meet its climate goal of conserving 30 percent of U.S. land and water by 2030, nor will it try to restrict people's meat consumption, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. (Roll Call)

Department of Energy

Biden is Pledging Steep Carbon Cuts – but Isn’t Explaining How He Got There: White House officials have said the ambitious target to reduce U.S. emissions of planet-heating gases by 50-52 percent by 2030 was built on a rigorous analysis that laid out the pathways to restructure the energy sector to lead to success. But nearly a week later, no one outside the administration seems to have seen it. (Politico)

Biden's Conundrum – Expand EVs Without Harming the Earth: President Biden's plan to rapidly shift to electric vehicles and renewable energy could find itself in conflict with another, less prominent commitment: improving the sustainability of the mineral and metals sector. (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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