Window on Washington – Vol. 6, Issue 25

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Outlook for This Week in the Nation’s Capital

Congress. The House is in a committee work period this week, and the Senate is in recess. Once they are back in session after the July 4th recess, they aim to reach an agreement on the USICA/COMPETES bill and to continue working on a reconciliation package, which could potentially address temporarily extending enhanced Obamacare subsidies. Hearings for this week include examining the national drug control strategy, FY23 appropriations markups, how to support patients, workers, and research in public health, housing inequality, and improvements to America’s recycling system.
FY23 Budget and Appropriations. House and Senate Appropriations Leaders have yet to come to an agreement on topline numbers for defense and non-defense spending, though parallel actions by the House and Senate Armed Services Committees to increase defense spending levels for next year suggest where these negotiations will eventually end. With its final Committee action this week, the House Appropriations Committee will complete action on all 12 appropriations bills, with many of them headed for action on the House floor in July. The Committee approved Subcommittee allocations, known as the 302(b)s – named for the section of the Congressional Budget Act that requires such a division of funding – last week. Senate Appropriations Chairman Pat Leahy (D-VT) announced that the Committee plans to markup its version of the appropriations bills after the July 4th recess without a topline deal. With Senate Republicans so far not willing to come to the table on a topline deal, it remains to be seen how the Senate Committee will divide funds to induce Committee Republicans to support moving the majority of these bills through Full Committee. No formal schedule for the Senate markups is likely until after the Independence Day holiday. In the House, this week’s full House Appropriations Committee markups include Energy and Water (EW), Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS), State and Foreign Operations (SFOPS), Interior and Environment, Transportation and Housing and Urban Development (THUD), and Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS).
Jan. 6 Hearings. The House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack is pressing pause on two of its hearings originally planned for this week and rescheduling them for July due to receiving new information.
Abortion. Congressional Democrats are working on their next steps post-Roe, such as looking at codifying abortion rights and addressing the broader implications of the Supreme Court’s decision. President Joe Biden stated only Congress can restore the federal protections under Roe, but in the meantime, the Administration announced they are working to protect access to abortion medications as well as the right for women to cross state lines to receive an abortion. Notwithstanding these actions, much of the next action on this issue shifts to the States given the narrow margins under which Democrats now control Congress.
Biden Administration. President Joe Biden is currently in southern Germany attending a G7 Leaders’ Summit with the primary focus remaining on the crisis in Ukraine. From there, he will head to Spain tomorrow for the annual NATO summit, where on the sidelines South Korea plans to hold a trilateral meeting with the U.S. and Japan. This would be the first time the three countries have gathered for such a meeting in nearly five years.
Programming Note. Given the Fourth of July holiday, the Window on Washington’s next publication will be Wednesday, July 6th.

Last Week in the Nation’s Capital

CONGRESS

Budget & Appropriations

New Small Businesses Pandemic Relief Bill: Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) introduced a new bill that would offer about $6 billion in grants for restaurants and other small businesses impacted by the pandemic. This is a downsized version of the package he worked on earlier this year which did not have enough support in the Senate. (Clark Hill Insight)

Conservative Faction’s Earmark Requests Illustrate GOP Divide: The Republican Study Committee, the traditional bastion of conservative thought within the House Republican Conference, has taken an official position on the practice of earmarking funds in spending bills for lawmakers’ districts: It’s opposed. But of the 16 signatories on that budget plan, six have themselves requested earmarks during the fiscal 2023 appropriations process: Reps. Byron Donalds (R-FL), Fred Keller (R-PA), Trent Kelly (R-MS), Troy Nehls (R-TX), August Pfluger (R-TX), and Beth Van Duyne (R-TX). Within the broader group of RSC members, CQ Roll Call tallied up 83 who submitted requests this year for “community project funding,” as House Democrats have rebranded earmarks. That’s over half of the group’s membership, which underscores the ambivalence within the Republican Party over the long-criticized practice that returned last year after more than a decade. (Roll Call)

Court Security Funding Bill Heads Back to Senate with COVID-19 Add: The House attached a pandemic-related amendment to a Senate-passed Supreme Court security emergency spending bill last Friday, ensuring the legislation will not go to President Joe Biden’s desk this week even as the high court handed down its expected opinion overturning the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. The Senate earlier this week stripped the contents of a spending bill that came over from the House last year and replaced it with the text of a $19.4 million package drafted by Sens. Bill Hagerty (R-TN) and Mark Warner (D-VA). The Senate passed the amended bill by unanimous consent. (Roll Call)

House Budget Committee Membership Change: Due to Rep. Trent Kelly’s (R-MS) resignation from the House Budget Committee, Rep. Blake Moore (R-UT) was appointed to replace him. Moore will have second seniority on the Committee and will also be the Committee’s Armed Services representative. (Clark Hill Insight)

Health

House Passes Package Addressing Mental Health, 20 Republicans Vote ‘No’: The House passed a bipartisan package last Wednesday that seeks to address mental health and substance abuse in the U.S. (The Hill)

Senate Democrats Call on FDA to Change ‘Discriminatory’ Blood Donor Policies: Close to two dozen Senate Democrats have called on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to provide an update on its efforts to change what they refer to as “discriminatory blood donor deferral policies” for gay men. In a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Becerra and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Robert Califf, Senate Democrats have asked them to act on the most up-to-date science and update its blood donation policies amid the first-ever declared national blood shortage. (The Hill)

Education

Congress Passes Bill to Help Feed Kids Days Before Child Nutrition Waivers Set to Expire: Congress passed a bill last Friday extending some food assistance measures for children that anti-hunger advocates have called critical as more parents struggle with the rising costs of inflation, less than a week before the measures were set to end. The pandemic-era child nutrition waivers have helped millions of kids get access to meals both in school and during the summer for the last two years and were scheduled to expire June 30. The bipartisan legislation now heads to the president’s desk for his signature. It would extend some of the dozens of child nutrition waivers that Congress gave the Agriculture Department the authority to issue at the start of the pandemic. (NBC News)

Banking & Housing

Cannabis Banking Bill Removed from China Competition Package: Congressional leaders have removed a key cannabis banking measure from their China competition bill, dealing a blow to marijuana advocates who pushed for its inclusion. The SAFE Banking Act, which would allow legally operating cannabis businesses to access banking services, was included in House Democrats’ COMPETES Act but not the Senate’s bipartisan U.S. Innovation and Competition Act passed last year. (The Hill)

Proposed Changes to Retirement System get Approval from Senate Committee, Setting Stage for Potential Passage of ‘Secure 2.0’ this Year: The Senate Finance Committee last Wednesday unanimously approved a series of proposals that make full congressional passage of a retirement-improvement package more likely this year. The measure, called the Enhancing American Retirement Now Act, contains some provisions that are the same as or similar to those proposed in the House, which passed the Securing a Strong Retirement Act (H.R. 2954) in late March in a bipartisan 414-5 vote. (CNBC)

Waters and Green Complete Investigation of Meme Stock Market Event; Release Report Revealing the Troubling Business Practices and Inadequate Risk Management Leading up to the Trading Frenzy: Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), Chairwoman of the Committee on Financial Services, and Congressman Al Green (D-TX), Chair of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, released a Majority staff report entitled, “Game Stopped: How the Meme Stock Market Event Exposed Troubling Business Practices, Inadequate Risk Management, and the Need for Regulatory and Legislative Reform.” (Clark Hill Insight)

Republican Draft Bill would Tighten Rules for Finance Firms using Customer Information: A new draft bill from House Financial Services Ranking Member Patrick McHenry (R-NC) lays the groundwork for how the GOP will tackle financial data privacy if the party wins back the majority in the chamber this November. The discussion draft, shared exclusively with CNBC, would modernize a financial data protection law known as the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act to cover data aggregators in addition to financial institutions and require more transparency with customers. Such changes could end up applying to fintech companies like Plaid or Intuit’s Mint. (CNBC)

Transportation

Manchin Slams ‘Stupid’ EV Push, Cites Chinese Supply Chain: Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) criticized the idea of a national shift away from gas cars toward electric vehicles in lacerating terms last week, raising doubts about the fate of pro-EV policies being discussed in reconciliation bill talks. Manchin’s comments during a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing on trade coincided with Manchin’s meeting with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) on a slimmed-down budget reconciliation package. (E&E News)

Bipartisan Letter Urges Secretary Buttigieg to Protect NTSB Independence Amid Growing Commercial Space Industry: Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-MO), Chair of the Aviation Subcommittee Rick Larsen (D-WA), and Subcommittee Ranking Member Garret Graves (R-LA) sent a letter to U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Buttigieg urging him to protect the independence of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) regarding oversight of commercial space accidents. (Clark Hill Insight)

Padilla, Cornyn, Garamendi, LaMalfa Urge Transportation Department to Provide Flexibility in Using Infrastructure Relief Funds After Natural Disasters: U.S. Senators Alex Padilla (D-CA) and John Cornyn (R-TX), along with U.S. Representatives John Garamendi (D-CA) and Doug LaMalfa (R-CA), led a bipartisan, bicameral letter to Secretary Pete Buttigieg urging the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to provide flexibility to states like California and Texas in using relief funds for transportation repair projects on roads, bridges, trails, and transit systems in the aftermath of natural disasters. (Clark Hill Insight)

Space/NASA & NOAA

House Appropriators Recommend FY23 Boost for NASA, but Short of Biden Request: The draft bill is recommending $25.45 billion and spells out funding levels for NASA’s major funding accounts and a few specific programs, but most details will be released this week in the Committee’s explanatory report. While as welcome as a $1.4 billion increase would be, it likely is not enough for NASA to execute its ambitious portfolio of space technology, aeronautics, science, and human exploration missions on their current schedules. (Space Policy Online)

Defense

House Panel’s NDAA Adds Money to Defense Topline, Rejecting Biden Limits: The House Armed Services Committee approved a defense authorization package of $840 billion for 2023, almost $37 billion more than President Joe Biden requested but less than $44 billion in additional funding approved by its Senate counterpart. The extra funds were offered by two Democrats facing tough races this fall, Reps. Jared Golden (D-ME) and Elaine Luria (D-VA). The House panel approved the final NDAA package 57-1, with only Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) voting no. The bill is expected on the House floor in Mid-July. (Punchbowl)

House Committee Approves Defense Funding Bill: In contrast to its authorizing committee colleagues, the House Appropriations Committee last week approved the fiscal year 2023 Defense bill on a 32-26 vote. For 2023, the bill provides total funding of $761.681 billion, an increase of $32.207 billion above 2022. It is in line with President Biden’s budget request. The bill now awaits full House action, but it is unclear when exactly the appropriations bills will be brought to the floor. Reconciling the conflicting topline amounts between the authorization and appropriations bills poses a major challenge to Congress finishing its year end spending priorities. (House Appropriations)

Biden Confronts Increasingly Fractured Alliance on Ukraine. With Russia intensifying its attacks in eastern Ukraine as G-7 leaders meet in Europe, President Biden confronts an increasingly fractured Europe willing to support more arms shipments to the embattled Zelensky Government, but ambivalent about how further that can or should go over additional sanctions. (Politico)

Homeland Security & Immigration

House Appropriators Move to Extend Title 42 through DHS Budget: House appropriators voted last Friday to extend a Trump-era border policy, adding a six-month extension of Title 42 to the Department of Homeland Security Budget. The amendment, sponsored by Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA), was passed by voice vote, leaving unclear which Democrats voted in support of the effort. (The Hill)

House Committee Approves DHS Funding Bill: The House Appropriations Committee last week approved the fiscal year 2023 Homeland Security bill on a 32 to 25 vote. For fiscal year 2023, the bill provides total funding of $85.67 billion. The bill now awaits full House action, but it is unclear when exactly the appropriations bills will be brought to the floor. (House Appropriations)

Judiciary/Justice

Apple and Google should Face FTC Probe over Ad Practices that Could End Up Harming Abortion-Seekers, U.S. Lawmakers say: The Federal Trade Commission should investigate Apple and Google over what they initially told consumers about how their information would be used for advertising purposes, according to a group of U.S. lawmakers warning that the loosely regulated data industry could result in particular harms to abortion-seekers. (CNN)

Agriculture

House Committee Approves Ag Funding Bill: The House Appropriations Committee last week approved the fiscal year 2023 Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies bill on a 31 to 26 vote last week. For 2023, the bill provides funding of $27.2 billion– a critical increase of $2.075 billion, 8 percent– above 2022. The bill now awaits full House action, but it is unclear when exactly the appropriations bills will be brought to the floor. (House Appropriations)

Energy

House Committee Approves Energy, Water Funding Bill: The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, and Related Agencies last week approved by voice vote its fiscal year 2023 funding bill. For 2023, the Energy and Water bill provides $56.275 billion, an increase of $3.4 billion above the fiscal year 2022 level. The bill now awaits approval by the full Committee tomorrow and House floor action in July. (House Appropriations)

EXECUTIVE BRANCH

Health/HHS/NIH

Biden Vows to Protect Access to Abortion Pills, Contraception and Travel: President Biden last Friday vowed to protect access to abortion pills and contraception in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade decision. In remarks from the White House, Biden lambasted the decision as a “tragic error” carried out by an “extreme,” conservative-controlled Supreme Court. “It’s a sad day for the country in my view, but it doesn’t mean the fight’s over,” he said, calling for Congress to codify the abortion protections that were guaranteed through Roe v. Wade through federal laws. (The Hill)

Harris Says Abortion Ruling Poses ‘Health Care Crisis’ for U.S.: Vice President Harris last Friday said that the Supreme Court ruling striking down Roe v. Wade had spurred a “health care crisis” in the United States and warned that other rights were under threat. “This is a health care crisis because, understand, millions of women in America will go to bed tonight without access to the health care and reproductive care that they had this morning,” Harris said in remarks from Plainville, Ill. (The Hill)

Biden Officials to Keep Private the Names of Hospitals Where Patients Contracted Covid: The Biden administration during the Omicron wave considered publicly releasing data detailing how prevalent Covid-19 spread was inside individual hospitals, but ultimately chose to keep that information private, according to two people familiar with the discussions. The decision to withhold the names, based partly on concerns about duplicative data and partly on fears of embarrassing hospitals, denies patients the opportunity to steer clear of health systems with poor track records and allows facilities to avoid public scrutiny, patient advocates say. (Politico)

FDA Orders All Juul E-Cigarettes Off the Market: The Food and Drug Administration last Thursday ordered Juul to take all of its vapes off the market, eliminating a major player from the market though Juul says it intends to litigate the order. “Today’s action is further progress on the FDA’s commitment to ensuring that all e-cigarette and electronic nicotine-delivery system products currently being marketed to consumers meet our public health standards,” FDA Commissioner Robert M. Califf said in a statement. (Politico)

Department of Education

Education Department Unveils Title IX Rule Boosting Protections For Transgender Students: Education Secretary Miguel Cardona last Thursday unveiled his plan to codify safeguards for transgender students and overhaul the Trump-era version of the rule that mandates how schools must respond to sexual misconduct complaints. The proposal would ban “all forms of sex discrimination, including discrimination based on sex stereotypes, sex characteristics, pregnancy or related conditions, sexual orientation and gender identity.” (Politico)

Biden Administration Agrees to Cancel Student Debt Of 200K Borrowers Who Say They Were Defrauded: The Biden administration has agreed to fully discharge the federal student loan debts of approximately 200,000 borrowers who claimed they were defrauded by their college but whose applications for relief have languished at the Education Department for years. The agreement, which could wipe out more than $6 billion of student loan debt, was reached as part of a proposed class-action settlement filed in federal court last Wednesday evening. (Politico)

Banking & Housing/HUD

CFPB Initiates Review of Credit Card Company Penalty Policies Costing Consumers $12 Billion Each Year: The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is taking the first step toward addressing credit card company penalty policies costing consumers $12 billion each year, starting by looking at excessive late fees. In a published Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, the CFPB asks for information on the Federal Reserve Board of Governors’ 2010 immunity provision for excessive late fees that allows credit card companies to escape enforcement scrutiny. (Clark Hill Insight)

U.S. Treasury’s New Tribal Office Takes Aim at Tax, Finance Inequities: U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said last Tuesday the department’s new Office of Tribal and Native Affairs will to try to address chronic tax and financing inequities faced by tribes but will need Congress to sustain it beyond the Biden administration. (Reuters)

Crypto/Blockchain

Powell Says Fed Plans Recommendation to Congress on CBDC: Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said that the U.S. central bank plans to recommend to Congress how to advance a potential central bank digital currency (CBDC). He also said that if the U.S, were to roll out a digital dollar, it would have to be issued by the government rather than by a private company. The Fed issued a report on the question of a digital dollar earlier this year, and officials are still combing through the responses from the crypto industry, traditional financial firms and investors. Those answers are likely to inform the Fed’s eventual recommendation. (CoinDesk)

Tax Reform/IRS

Backlog of Unprocessed Tax Returns is Growing, Watchdog Says: The IRS has made little progress in taming a backlog of millions of unprocessed tax returns despite a concerted effort by the agency, a government watchdog said last Wednesday. Though the agency has said that digging out of the mountain of filings is a top priority, the number of returns awaiting action has actually increased by 6.5 percent, National Taxpayer Advocate Erin Collins said in a report to Congress. (Politico)

Transportation/DOT

‘Sully’ Steps Down from ICAO Role: C.B. “Sully” Sullenberger, the commercial pilot who safely landed an Airbus A320 on New York’s Hudson River in 2009 after hitting a flock of geese, said last Thursday he would step down as U.S. envoy to an international aviation group on July 1. (Reuters)

Biden Administration Leans on Tesla for Guidance in Renewable Fuel Policy Reform: U.S. President Joe Biden rarely mentions electric car maker Tesla Inc in public. But privately his administration has leaned on the company to help craft a new policy to allow electric vehicles (EVs) to benefit from the nation’s lucrative renewable fuel subsidies. (Reuters)

Space/NASA & NOAA

For the First Time, a Small Rocket Will Launch a Private Spacecraft to the Moon: NASA and Rocket Lab are gearing up to fly a novel mission to lunar orbit that in many ways serves as the vanguard of what is to come as the space agency and US companies ramp up exploration and development of the Moon. The mission’s scientific aims are also modest—primarily, the demonstration of a new system of autonomous navigation around and near the Moon, NASA considers it is very important because there is a lack of fixed tracking assets near the Moon, especially as the cislunar environment becomes more crowded during the coming decade. (Ars Technica)

Office of Space Commerce on a “Listening Tour” for Civil Space Traffic Management: The new head of the Office of Space Commerce, Richard DalBello, says he’s talking with industry on how his office can best take over civil space traffic management while also potentially taking on more regulatory responsibilities. That office is charged with implementing Space Policy Directive 3, a four-year-old policy that directs the Commerce Department to take over civil space traffic management responsibilities (STM) currently handled by the Defense Department. (Space News)

Defense/DOD

Head of U.S. Army Combat Vehicle Modernization Moves to Army Futures Command: Maj. Gen. Ross Coffman received his third star and will take over as deputy of a somewhat controversial command formed less than five years ago. Coffman gained attention in his job as the Next-Generation Combat Vehicle Cross-Functional Team lead when he spearheaded the Project Convergence exercise, now a well-known event conducted annually to assess where the service needs to focus its technological development. (Defense News)

DHS & Immigration

‘We Know We Have Work to Do’ on Equity, FEMA Tells Lawmakers: Sen. Tina Smith (D-MN) last week pressed a Federal Emergency Management Agency official to respond to an E&E News investigation that found that wealthy, white communities have received a disproportionate share of some FEMA grants. Smith raised the issue at a Senate Banking Committee hearing that featured David Maurstad, who oversees FEMA grant programs that pay for local projects to fortify against disasters such as flooding, tornadoes, and earthquakes. The hearing was focused on FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program, which the Biden administration has proposed overhauling. (E&E News)

Judiciary/DOJ

Biden Signs Bipartisan Gun Control Bill into Law: President Joe Biden on Saturday signed into law the most significant gun control bill in three decades, one day after the House approved bipartisan gun legislation that was approved by the Senate late Thursday and sent to Mr. Biden for his signature. (CBS News)

Cyber

CISA Advisory Panel Wants Agency to Act on Election Disinformation, Multifactor Authentication: A panel advising the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency on everything from combatting disinformation to reducing critical infrastructure risks approved its inaugural set of recommendations for the DHS cyber agency last Wednesday. In total, the panel approved more than 100 recommendations (“Develop incentives and access to information to aid security researchers who will submit vulnerabilities affecting critical systems”) and sub-recommendations (“Encourage continued participation by providing rewards such as public recognition and cash awards”). (Cyberscoop)

GAO Says Potential Federal Cyber Insurance Program Should Avoid Moral Hazard: The Treasury Department’s Federal Insurance Office and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency should consider the danger of creating counterproductive incentives while examining the need for a federal cyber insurance program to assist private sector entities following a catastrophic event, according to the Government Accountability Office. (Next Gov)

Agriculture/USDA

Biden Officials Still Trying to Get Better Baby Formula Supply Data as Shortages Continue: The Biden administration is still seeking a full picture of ongoing problems with infant formula supply — more than four months after a key plant shutdown sparked shortages and a national crisis. (Politico)

Department of Energy

‘Constructive’ Talk but No Deal as Granholm Meets Oil Execs: A meeting last Thursday of oil company executives and Energy Secretary Jennifer M. Granholm concerning high consumer gas prices and refining capacity was “constructive,” even as it failed to produce a policy to address prices at the pump, industry leaders said. (Roll Call)

Biden Announces a Likely Doomed Gas Tax Holiday: President Joe Biden last Wednesday called for suspending the federal gasoline tax, in his latest bid to curb rising fuel prices, though it stands almost no chance of passage in Congress. Biden asked lawmakers to pass a three-month pause on the federal 18-cent-per-gallon levy, casting the proposal as a temporary measure that would provide relief to Americans without harming the road-building projects the tax traditionally funds. (Politico)

Biden Teams with East Coast Governors to Boost Offshore Wind: The White House last Thursday launched a formal partnership with 11 East Coast governors to boost the growing offshore wind industry, a key element of President Joe Biden’s plan for climate change. Biden, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, and other top administration officials met with governors, wind industry officials, and labor leaders at the White House. The session focused on ways to expand important segments of the offshore industry, including manufacturing facilities, ports, and workforce training and development. (AP)

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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