Window on Washington - Vol. 5, Issue 27

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Outlook for This Week in the Nation’s Capital

Congress.  The House and Senate are not in session this week. The Senate returns next week, and the House returns the following week.

FY22 Budget and Appropriations. House Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth (D-KY) said he expects to soon receive a FY22 budget resolution framework from Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-VT). The two chambers will use the framework as a discussion draft as they work on a budget resolution that they both can agree to. Both chambers will need to pass the same budget resolution and include reconciliation instructions in order to pursue a reconciliation package in the fall. Congressional leadership hopes to adopt the final budget resolution before the August recess.

Biden Administration. President Joe Biden will visit Crystal Lake, Illinois tomorrow, but a reason for the trip or where exactly he will stop has not yet been shared. This will be his first visit to Illinois since taking office.

Last Week in the Nation’s Capital

CONGRESS

Budget & Appropriations

House Democrats to Skip Budget Markup, Wait for Senate: House Budget Committee Democrats have decided to forgo their own fiscal 2022 budget resolution and wait to see what Senate Democrats can muscle through their 50-50 chamber. (Roll Call)

CBO Projects $3T Budget Gap this Year Thanks to Pandemic: The federal budget gap will widen to $3 trillion this year, nearly triple the shortfall recorded just two years ago as the pandemic continues to grow the deficit, the Congressional Budget Office said in its latest 10-year projections released last Thursday. (Politico)

Crypto/Blockchain

Inside the NRCC’s Plan to Accept Crypto Donations: The National Republican Campaign Committee (NRCC) is the first major congressional campaign group to accept cryptocurrencies in the U.S. Its chair, Rep. Tom Emmer (R-MN) says this move comes at donors’ request. (Coindesk)

Tax Reform

Congress Introduces Tax Preparer Regulation Bill: The legislation would enable the Internal Revenue Service to regulate paid tax preparers and mandate minimum competency standards. (Accountancy Today)

Elections

Supreme Court Decision Amps Up Voting Rights Battle in Congress: It also means that calls to reform the Senate’s rules will only continue to grow, despite recent declarations from Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) that they will not support eliminating or curtailing the filibuster. (The Hill)

Transportation

House Passes $759 Billion Public Works Bill with Elements of Biden Plan: The House of Representatives passed H.R. 3684, the INVEST in America Act in a vote of 221-201. The package includes more than $720 billion in surface transportation and water project spending over five years. The current surface transportation law expires on September 30. (Roll Call) 

Defense

Army’s $10 Billion Barracks Plan in Jeopardy, Lawmakers Fear:  Lawmakers pressed Army Secretary Christine Wormuth and Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville about the Army’s slim fiscal year 2021 budget request for barracks construction and renovation during a meeting of the House Armed Services Committee last week, as other priorities and an overall proposed budget cut of $3.6B have reduced the Army’s previous plans.  (Army Times)

Military Braces for Sea Change on Justice Reform:  As lawmakers gear up for defense bill season, it appears all but certain change is coming to the military justice system in an effort to tackle sexual assault.  The only question remaining is just how broad lawmakers will go.  (The Hill)

Smith Slams F-35 Lifecycle Costs, Says ‘We Can Do a Hell of a Lot Better’:  House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-WA) last Tuesday again criticized Lockheed Martin and other contractors over the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and its exorbitant lifecycle costs, pointing to the its costs and performance problems as a symbol of the Pentagon acquisition system’s shortcomings.  (Defense News)

Homeland Security & Immigration

Senate Bill Asks for DHS Study on ‘Hack-Back’ Options: Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Steve Daines (R-MT) introduced the Study on Cyber Response Options Act (S. 2292) that would direct the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to study the risks and benefits of allowing private organizations to respond in kind to cyberattacks. (MeriTalk)

Bill Introduced to Strengthen Digital Identity Infrastructure: Reps. Bill Foster (D-IL), John Katko (R-NY), Jim Langevin (D-MI), and Barry Loudermilk (R-GA) have introduced the Improving Digital Identity Act of 2021 (H.R. 4259), which aims to modernize the United States’ digital identity infrastructure and protect Americans from having their personal information stolen. (MeriTalk)

Judiciary/Justice

Cheney Joins Dems on Jan. 6 Probe, Defying McCarthy Threat: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has chosen Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) to join the Democrat-led investigation of the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, a rare cross-aisle elevation of one of Donald Trump’s most prominent conservative critics. (Politico)

Cyber

Pentagon’s Top IT Official Says More Coordination Needed on Weapon Systems and Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity:  John Sherman, DOD’s Acting Chief Information Officer, testified before the HASC Subcommittee on Cyber, Innovative Technologies, and Information Systems and told lawmakers that cybersecurity is his “top priority” but that the Office of the CIO must “do a better job” working with Cyber Command and the DOD’s undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, who is the chief weapons buyer. (C4ISR Net)

New Bill Aims to Secure Federal Government IT Against Cyberattacks:  A bipartisan bill introduced in the Senate last Thursday, The Supply Chain Security Training Act, would attempt to address cybersecurity threats to the federal government stemming from the use of potentially insecure third party services  and would establish a training program for federal employees tasked with purchasing information technology products for agencies. (The Hill)

EXECUTIVE BRANCH

Health/HHS/NIH

Biden Admin Releases First Rule Banning Surprise Medical Bills: The Biden administration has released an interim final rule that bans surprise billing and certain out-of-network charges, implementing a law passed by Congress late last year. (Fierce Healthcare)

Labor & Workforce

U.S. Jobs Jump by Most in 10 Months as Economy Gains Steam: The pace of U.S. hiring accelerated in June, with payrolls increasing by the most in 10 months, suggesting firms are having greater success recruiting workers to keep pace with the economy’s reopening. (Bloomberg) 

Banking & Housing/HUD

Fed’s Harker Supports Start of Bond Buying Pullback Later This Year: Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia President Patrick Harker said last Thursday that while an interest rate rise lies some ways in the distance, he is ready for the U.S. central bank to begin slowing the pace of its asset buying stimulus this year. Harker was referring to slowing down the Fed’s $120 billion a month in bond purchases. (Politico)

Crypto/Blockchain

Fed Chair Met with Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong and Former House Speaker in May: According to Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell’s meeting calendar, which was made public last Friday, the Fed chair held a 30-minute meeting with Armstrong as well as former House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan on May 11. (Coin Telegraph)

Tax Reform/IRS

Supreme Court Nixes California Disclosure Law in Blow to Dark-Money Opponents: The high court split 6-3 along ideological lines in its decision on a pair of cases challenging a California requirement, which forced non-profits raising money in California to give the state copies of federal tax forms containing donor information. (Politico)

FEC

FEC Reviewing Rules on Salaries, Benefits for Candidates: Under current rules, candidates may not pay for their own health insurance with campaign funds, although campaigns may insure staffers. (Roll Call)

Transportation/DOT

NHTSA Orders Makers of Autonomous Vehicles to Report Crashes: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) last Tuesday ordered automakers to report any crashes involving automated vehicles. This new order will require companies to report crashes having to do with automated vehicles on public roads or crashes in which driver-assist systems were being used. (The Hill)

Space/NASA & NOAA

Radio Telescope Faces “Extremely Concerning” Threat from Satellite Constellations:  A multibillion-dollar radio telescope is moving into its construction phase while still working to raise funding and deal with satellite mega-constellations whose interference “change the game” for their plans. (Space News)

Why is Russia Launching a New Module to the Space Station if it’s Pulling Out?  This will be Russia’s first significant addition to the International Space Station in more than a decade, and it will provide the Russians with their first module dedicated primarily to research. “Nauka” means science in Russian.  (Ars Technica)

Lunar Exploration as a Service – From Landers to Spacesuits, NASA is Renting Rather than Owning:  HLS may be the biggest example of NASA buying services to support the Artemis program, but it is not the only one. Even as some cornerstones of Artemis — Orion, the Space Launch System and the Gateway — move forward under conventional contracts where NASA owns and operates the hardware, it’s making greater use of service contracts to acquire the other things it needs to explore the moon, from landers and communications to even the spacesuits the astronauts will wear on their moonwalks.  (Space News)

Judiciary/DOJ

Garland Pauses Federal Executions as DOJ Reviews Policies: Attorney General Merrick Garland is also calling for a review of adjustments made to the Justice Department regulations in November 2020 that expanded the methods of execution, as well as later changes that allowed for expedited execution of capital sentences. (Politico)

Cyber

Industry Presses for More Time on Cyber EO’s Software Transparency Initiative:  Industry groups are pressing the Biden administration for more time before it potentially rolls out new rules requiring federal contractors to provide purchasing agencies with a “software bill of materials.”  The order requires the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to publish by July 11 the “minimum elements” for an SBOM.  (Federal News Network)

EPA & DOI

Focus Shifts to EPA on Methane Regulation After Biden Action: President Biden’s restoration of Obama-era rules on methane emissions is shifting all attention to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as regulators indicate they plan to clamp down further on the potent greenhouse gas. (The Hill)

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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