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NCA’s Washington Weekly Update 7-12-21

Situational Awareness
The House and Senate return to work this week. The Senate continues work on State Department and Department of Labor nominees. The House continues its work on spending bills in committee with no votes scheduled for the full chamber.

We’ve Got a Long Way to Go and a Short Time to Get There …
Democratic leadership in the Senate and House have set an ambitious schedule for July, which reminded me of Jerry Reed’s classic theme song for Smokey and the Bandit—thus, the title. While no one would ever accuse Congress of moving with the speed of Burt Reynold’s Bandit character, what they’re aiming to accomplish before the August recess period could be the legislative equivalent of Big and Little Enos’ challenge to the Bandit and Snowman. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) sent a letter to his colleagues late last week to warn them that the August recess could be delayed in order to complete work on a bipartisan infrastructure package and a Democrat-only budget blueprint to facilitate another taxation and spending measure. Although the House can consider these measures with relative ease and alacrity, the Senate process can be a slog—particularly when the chamber is split 50-50. House leadership has signaled that they will not take up either until the Senate proves it can pass both. In addition to those two packages, Congress will likely have to raise or suspend the national debt limit prior to the end of the month or risk defaulting on the nation’s financial obligations. Buckle up.

The House Appropriations Committee released its outline of the final four appropriations bills for Fiscal Year 2022 yesterday. The bills include funding for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services (HHS) and Department of Education and others. The Labor, HHS and Education package increases overall funding for the Department of Labor by $2.2 billion over last year’s level and by $400 million over what the White House requested in its budget. The Wage and Hour Division and Occupational Safety and Health Safety Administration (OSHA) would receive a $305 million increase over 2021 spending, which highlights an anticipated increased emphasis on worker protections.

Noncompete Agreements Under Microscope
Last week, President Biden announced an executive order requiring the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to look into banning or severely limiting noncompete agreements used by employers. Biden used the opportunity to demonstrate his belief that such agreements stifle competition and harm many workers, even lower-wage workers. Recent studies have estimated that as much as 20% of the U.S. workforce is covered under some type of noncompete contract. The order has stirred up controversy among business interests as contract law is generally covered under state jurisdictions.

2022 Election – 484 Days Away
Alaska Senator, Lisa Murkowski, drew the ire of then President Trump and the Alaska Republican Party for her vote to impeach Trump earlier this year. That lead to the state party censuring her and stirred up talk of a primary challenge. The 3-term senator has been known in Washington as a relatively independent and moderate vote within the Republican Conference. Last week, the Alaska GOP endorsed her challenger, Kelly Tshibaka by a margin of 58 – 17. This is a worrisome development for the longtime Senator as former President Trump has already endorsed her challenger and announced he will travel to the state to campaign on Tshibaka’s behalf.

Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley indicated recently that he will announce his intentions to run for reelection or retire sometime between Labor Day and Nov. 1, 2021. Grassley, a Republican and currently the second-longest serving member of the Senate, was first elected in 1980 and if reelected in 2022 would be 95 at the end of his term.