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NCA’s Washington Weekly Update 9-27-21

Situational Awareness
The House and Senate are both in session this week. The Senate is expected to take up several nominations, as well as tThe Senate is in session this week and will consider a House-passed measure to extend the federal debt ceiling. The House does not have anything scheduled on the floor for the next two weeks, though that could change if there is a breakthrough on lifting or suspending the debt ceiling.

Continuing Resolution Passes

After a week of wrangling over how to best proceed with President Biden’s agenda and keep the federal government from shutting down after the fiscal year ended on September 30, the House and Senate passed a continuing resolution that keeps federal agencies funded until December 3, 2021. The resolution maintains funding at fiscal year 2021 levels until the 12 appropriations bills are cleared by each chamber. The resolution excluded $1 billion for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense program, but did include $28.6 billion for states recovering from hurricanes and wildfires as well as an additional $6.3 billion for the settlement of Afghani refugees.

Pathway to Increase Debt Ceiling Narrowing

Senate Republicans held firm last week in forcing Democrats to increase the debt ceiling on their own. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) attempted to package a continuing resolution with an increase in the debt ceiling, but Republicans objected to its consideration and a procedural vote to move forward with that plan failed 48-50. Before adjourning for a planned two-week recess period, the House voted on a stand-alone measure to increase the debt ceiling until December 2022 and sent it to the Senate for consideration this week. Schumer will attempt to bring the bill to the Senate floor for consideration, but Senate Republicans are expected to vote against proceeding. Senate Republicans are trying to force Democrats to use the reconciliation process to increase the debt ceiling, but Democrats have asserted such a process will take too long and risks the federal government defaulting on its obligations for the first time in our nation’s history. Republicans received a boost in their argument over the weekend when the Senate Parliamentarian’s office indicated the reconciliation move could be completed in relatively short order without disrupting Democrats’ plans on the larger reconciliation measure. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has held that the government will run out of borrowing authority on October 18, but recently indicated there may be a few additional days before reaching that point.

Reconciliation and Infrastructure Bills Stall

During her two stints as the top leader in the chamber, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has built a reputation for her ability to hold the often-fractious Democratic Caucus together to get major legislation passed, but last week’s events showed how difficult it can be for even the most skilled legislators to navigate the pitfalls of a historically narrow majority. The massive $3.5 trillion reconciliation package and $1.2 trillion infrastructure bills were set upon a collision course last week as a result of negotiations to secure passage of a budget resolution allowing for the construction of the reconciliation bill touching on nearly every aspect of Americans’ lives. With only four votes to spare, Pelosi faced rebellion from both the liberal progressive wing of her caucus and moderate Blue Dogs hailing from districts that voted for former President Trump, either one of which could sink passage of the two major pillars of President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda. Vote troubles were not limited to the House. With the slimmest majority possible, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has two Democratic Senators, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, balking at the $3.5 trillion price tag attached to the reconciliation bill causing tension within his ranks and with the Democratic Caucus in the House. Last week’s attempt to force the issue in the House and vote on an infrastructure package already passed by a healthy bipartisan vote in the Senate failed due to threats by a bloc of 30 to 40 progressives to vote against the bill unless the reconciliation package moved at the same time. Ultimately, Pelosi had no choice but to pull the infrastructure bill from the floor and regroup despite a visit from President Biden urging passage of the bill. The House is in recess until October 18 and leaders have set a new deadline for passage the week of October 25, which is days before authorization for infrastructure spending is set to expire.

The reconciliation package is now in the midst of a rewrite in an attempt to meet the demands of Senators Manchin and Sinema who have objected to the overall price tag and key policy provisions such as the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funds from being used for abortions—something that has been a part of federal policy for decades. Manchin has set his topline figure at roughly $1.5 trillion, while Sinema has yet to reveal her limit on the package. Sinema has been the subject of a pressure campaign from progressive groups while back in Arizona—to the point of being followed by a group of hecklers into a bathroom. Efforts are now underway to lower the overall cost of the reconciliation bill, while still achieving the objectives set out in the larger package. It is possible leaders will look to budgetary maneuvers, like limiting the years new programs are in effect with the hope that they will be popular with voters and reauthorized in future years or jettisoning entire provisions of the reconciliation bill in order to lower the cost. Despite Manchin’s topline figure of $1.5 trillion, I expect the package will net out to somewhere between $1.8 to $2.2 trillion once the negotiations conclude. There are still many landmines leadership in both chambers need to avoid in order to pass both bills and the three weeks ahead will show whether they can be managed successfully. With Biden’s approval ratings dropping and mid-term elections coming in 2022, Democrats in both chambers are looking to complete work on major legislation before the end of the year.

OSHA Heat Rule/RFI

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has forwarded a formal request for information (RFI) on heat-related illness in the workplace to the White House for review prior to publication in the Federal Register. OSHA does not currently have a standard or regulation in place for employers to mitigate the risks of heat-related illness in the workplace but has enforced it through the general duty clause of the OSH Act. Several states already have regulations in place and with several of the top regulators coming from the State of California, it is expected California’s standard will play an outsized role in informing the agency’s efforts. For clubs, new rules in this area could affect operations in many areas, including groundskeeping, caddies, golf, tennis and other teaching professionals, pool staff, kitchen staff and servers. NCA will be providing comment to OSHA, and I urge members to contact me with their thoughts, concerns and measures already undertaken regarding heat-related illness. You can reach me at [email protected].