Window on Washington - Vol. 5, Issue 19

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Outlook for This Week in the Nation’s Capital

Congress. The House and Senate are in session this week. The House floor schedule for this week includes numerous mental health, addiction, and suicide prevention bills, as well as bills on debt collection improvement and protecting pregnant employees from workplace discrimination. The Senate will have floor work focused on confirming President Joe Biden’s nominees. The Senate Rules and Administration Committee also plans to vote tomorrow on the House-passed For the People Act (H.R. 1), which addresses voting rights, election integrity and security, campaign finance, and ethics. Separately, the House Republican Conference is expected to meet Wednesday to replace Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) with Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) as conference chairwoman. There are also numerous hearings this week, including a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) hearing on federal efforts to combat COVID-19, a Senate Finance hearing on post-COVID mental health and addiction services, and a House Science, Space, and Technology hearing on COVID-19 variants evolving research needs as well as a markup on future appropriations for the National Science Foundation (H.R. 2225).

FY22 Budget and Appropriations. The House Appropriations Committee will mark up its FY22 appropriations bills in June and hold floor votes in July. Meanwhile, the Senate Appropriations Committee is still finalizing its FY22 appropriations process, and House Budget Chairman John Yarmuth (D-KY) and Senate Budget Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-VT) have yet to release the FY22 budget resolutions that would outline top-line spending levels. The slow start to the congressional budget process is in part due to the delay of President Biden’s full budget request, which is now expected for a late May release. Separately, the House Appropriations Committee has a handful of hearings this week, including on USDA research, on the Navy and Marine Corps quality of life and installations, and on building a robust crisis response system for mental health emergencies. The Senate Appropriations Committee also has some hearings this week, including one on rethinking disaster recovery and resiliency.

Infrastructure. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a hearing tomorrow on transportation infrastructure equity.

Biden Administration. President Joe Biden will host his first meeting with Republican and Democratic leadership from the House and Senate on Wednesday. The meeting will include House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

Last Week in the Nation’s Capital

CONGRESS

Budget & Appropriations

Earmark Intrigue Splits Senate Republicans: At least six GOP senators plan to violate their conference’s toothless earmark ban and more than a dozen others won’t commit either way, citing fears that they’re relinquishing power to Democrats if they don’t participate, according to a POLITICO survey of all 50 upper-chamber Republicans. (Politico)

House to Advance Appropriations Bills in June, July: The House Appropriations Committee and its subcommittees are planning to mark up the 12 spending bills to fund the government for the 2022 fiscal year in June, with floor passage expected in July. (The Hill)

Health

Congress, White House Plan Action on Maternal Health Policies: The White House and lawmakers are seeking to build momentum on what they view as a more comprehensive policy solution to address the nation’s rising rates of maternal mortality and morbidity. (Roll Call)

Education

Republican Senators Oppose Amnesty for Nondisclosures: A group of Republican senators wrote to Attorney General Merrick Garland last Thursday opposing a possible amnesty program that would allow scholars to report past foreign funding without penalty and saying they expect the Department of Justice to announce such an amnesty program in the coming weeks. (Inside Higher Ed)

Tax Reform

Congress’ Top Tax Man Won’t be a Blank Check for Biden: President Joe Biden’s $4 trillion plan to greatly expand the federal government relies on sharply higher taxes on the wealthy, but the man who would steer the proposal through Congress has his own ideas. (Politico)

Defense

Republicans Urge Probe into Amazon DOD Cloud-Computing Bid:  Two Republican lawmakers are urging the Justice Department to investigate the Pentagon’s Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) procurement process over allegations that Amazon improperly tried to influence the bid process.  (The Hill)

At House Hearing, Defense Appropriators Discuss Everything but the Budget:  When U.S. Air Force and Space Force leaders testified before a House appropriations subcommittee last Friday on their 2022 budget requests, only a single question about actual program costs was asked.  (Defense One)

Homeland Security & Immigration

Partisan Divides Emerge over Border Infrastructure: Democratic and Republican lawmakers have vastly different ideas of what that funding should look like, teeing up a partisan battle when the narrowly divided Congress considers its annual spending bills. (Roll Call)

Judiciary/Justice

Clyburn Says He’s Willing to Compromise on Qualified Immunity in Policing Bill: House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC) yesterday said he is willing to compromise on qualified immunity to pass a policing reform bill through Congress with bipartisan support. (The Hill)

Energy

Katie Porter Preps Hot Seats for Oil and Gas Execs:  Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA) is making good on her promise to ask tough questions of the oil and gas industry in her new role as chair of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.  (E&E News)

EXECUTIVE BRANCH

Health/HHS/NIH

Waiver of Patent Rights on COVID-19 Vaccines, in Near Term, May Be More Symbolic than Substantive: The U.S.’s stunning endorsement of a proposal to waive Covid-19 vaccine patents has won plaudits for President Biden and roiled the global pharmaceutical industry. But, at least in the short term, it’s likely to be more of a symbolic milestone than a turning point in the pandemic. (Stat)

HHS, HUD Team Up to Extend COVID-19 Vaccine Access in Vulnerable Communities: The departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced plans last Wednesday to team up to extend access to COVID-19 vaccines and testing in vulnerable communities. (The Hill)

Labor & Workforce

Workplace Reopenings Stalled by Unclear Safety Rules: While some employers have already offered paid time off, swag or other perks, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the federal agency in charge of policing federal anti-discrimination law, hasn’t clarified whether such incentives could “coerce” employees into getting the shot or disclosing their vaccination status in order to get the benefits. (Politico)

Department of Education

Biden Admin Taps Rich Cordray, Former CFPB Chief, to Oversee Federal Student Loans: The selection of Cordray, who previously was attorney general of Ohio and ran unsuccessfully to be governor, is a major victory for progressives who have been calling on the Biden administration to take more aggressive action on student loans and for-profit colleges. (Politico)

Banking & Housing/HUD

Yellen Says Debt Limit Action May Be Needed this Summer: Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen said last Friday that the federal government could run out of borrowing room as early as this summer, contradicting some analysts who’ve said Treasury’s large cash balance could provide a cushion well into the fall. (Roll Call)

Judge Temporarily Stays Ruling in Eviction Moratorium Case: A federal judge has temporarily stayed an order that found the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention exceeded its authority when it imposed a federal eviction moratorium to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. The stay, issued late last Wednesday by a federal judge in Washington, came after the Justice Department filed an emergency appeal in the case. The administrative stay means there will be no immediate impact on the ban, which was extended in March to go through the end of June. (AP News)

Transportation/DOT

Biden to Meet with GOP Senators on Infrastructure Proposal:  President Biden will hold a meeting next week with six key Republican senators as he looks to pass his sprawling infrastructure plan through Congress.  (The Hill)

White House Eyes $42B in Existing Funding for Biden Electric Vehicle Push:  Federal lawmakers are working to translate Biden’s jobs plan into an infrastructure bill that will help to revitalize and decarbonize the United States’ economy. While that legislation is being developed, experts say it is important that existing funding opportunities be tapped in order to begin making immediate progress on transportation electrification.  (Utility Dive)

Trade

CBP Continues Crack Down on Forced Labor: In its ongoing pursuit of monitoring personal protective equipment brought to the United States during the pandemic, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) seized a shipment of disposable gloves from Malaysia’s Top Glove Corp Bhd of almost 4 million nitrile gloves, estimated to be worth $518,000, on indications they were made by forced labor. (Reuters)

Changes in Shipping Regulations Needed to Fix Issues at Ports: Federal Maritime Commission Chair Daniel Maffei is “frustrated” with the situation at the nation’s ports and is speaking with Congress about potentially proposing regulatory changes. Congressional leaders have urged the FMC and other U.S. agencies to intervene amid reports that carriers are declining shipments of agricultural exports in the past months. (Export Compliance Daily)

Space/NASA & NOAA

Space Force Lays Out its Vision as a “Digital Service”:  Gen. Jay Raymond, Chief of Space Operations and head of the U.S. Space Force, routinely stresses that this new military service is vastly different than its predecessors. Created in the 21st Century, it is being built from the bottom up as a digital service. Last Thursday, he released a report explaining what that means.  (Space Policy Online)

For Lunar Cargo Delivery, NASA Accepts Risk in Return For Low Prices:  Intuitive Machines and other companies are part of an innovative program developed by NASA to harness the potential of U.S. space companies to get cargo to the Moon at a lower price point, requiring NASA to both accept more risk and offer more support to commercial partners using their Center assets.  (Ars Technica)

DHS & Immigration

Biden Fills Immigration Court with Trump Hires: The first 17 hires to the court system responsible for determining whether migrants get to remain in the country is filled with former prosecutors and counselors for Immigration and Customs Enforcement as well as a few picks with little immigration experience. (The Hill)

Following Backlash, Biden Lifts Refugee Cap to 62,500: President Joe Biden said he would raise the refugee admissions cap for the current fiscal year to 62,500, revising an earlier announcement that would have maintained historically low Trump-era levels. (Roll Call)

Judiciary/DOJ

DOJ Proposes Crackdown on ‘Ghost Guns’ Following Biden Pledge: The homemade weapons allow those barred from owning a firearm to skirt background checks, but the assembly kits’ parts also lack a serial number, making it difficult to trace guns that have been used in crimes. (The Hill)

Cyber

‘Jugular’ of the U.S. Fuel Pipeline System Shuts Down After Cyberattack:  The main fuel supply line to the U.S. East Coast was shut down last Friday after the pipeline’s operator was hit by what is believed to be the largest successful cyberattack on oil infrastructure in the country’s history. (Politico)

DIU Looking for New Multifactor Authentication Tool:  The Pentagon’s Silicon Valley outreach team needs an internal cybersecurity tool to safely collaborate with commercial vendors outside of the department’s networks, according to a recent notice.  (C4ISR Net)

DHS Set to Launch its ‘Most Significant Hiring Initiative’ as Part of Cyber Workforce Sprint:  The Department of Homeland Security is building momentum on its plans to get ahead of an escalating ransomware threat and is getting started on a 60-day sprint focused on ramping up its cyber workforce to get ahead of these threats.  (Federal News Network)

EPA & DOI

What Does ‘Conserved’ Environment Mean? Interior Seeks an Answer: Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said last Thursday that her department is pushing forward with its efforts to conserve 30 percent of U.S. land and waters by 2030, even as the administration’s own findings highlight the need to define what it means for an area to be considered conserved. (Roll Call)

Department of Energy

Off-Put by Offsets – Why Some Advocates Doubt ‘Net Zero’ Pledges:  Climate advocates worry that while net-zero goals are based on climate science, they allow governments and corporations responsible for emissions to delay tough decisions and have no clear standards to account for the amount of carbon that goes into and comes out of the atmosphere.  (Roll Call)

Granholm Says Cyber R&D is a Priority at DOE:  Department of Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm last Thursday said cybersecurity research and development will be a top priority for DOE technology programs in the agency’s fiscal year 2022 budget and rebutted suggestions that the administration was not sufficiently prioritizing cybersecurity in the wake of multiple high-profile intrusions.  (Federal Computer Week)

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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