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NCA’s Washington Weekly Update 11-15-21

Situational Awareness
The House and Senate return to Washington this week. The House will consider several bills reported out of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee and may move to the Build Back Better Act, also known as reconciliation. The Senate will consider nominations and may move to the National Defense Authorization Act.

So Much to Do in So Little Time
Congress has until December 3 to complete work on three must-pass items and with the Thanksgiving holiday break next week, they have precious little time to get them done. The federal government is currently operating under a continuing resolution that expires on December 3, a rapidly approaching debt ceiling limit and an expiring extension on the National Defense Authorization. It doesn’t appear likely the annual appropriations bills will be ready in time, which sets up a choice between a short-term extension to December 17 or 24 and one that takes us into 2022. The debt limit increase passed in late September bought legislators some time, but with the enactment of the infrastructure bill, that extension will be reached sooner than previously thought, setting up yet another battle between Republicans and Democrats over the debt. The National Defense Authorization Act is needed to ensure the Pentagon has the authority and direction from Congress on its spending programs for fiscal year 2022. All of this, in addition to President Biden’s economic agenda, creates a log-jam on the legislative calendar with very few days to complete what are absolutely necessary bills to avoid disruption.

OSHA Vaccine Mandate Stay Extended
On Friday, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals extended the stay imposed on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) emergency temporary standard (ETS) requiring employees of businesses with more than 100 employees to either be vaccinated or test weekly for COVID-19. Fifth Circuit Judge Kurt Englehardt wrote the ruling and stated, “A stay is firmly in the public interest. From economic uncertainty to workplace strife, the mere specter of the Mandate has contributed to untold economic upheaval in recent months.” To date, there have been more than a dozen suits filed against the ETS in federal courts and a decision by the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation is expected to make a decision on combining the suits into one case in one circuit. OSHA is still receiving comments on the ETS, but NCA has joined with allied business organizations requesting an extension of the deadline.

Infrastructure Package Goes to the White House
The $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill was passed by the House of Representatives two weeks ago and is slated to be signed by the President today. The bill passed the Senate with bipartisan support this summer and was caught in a tug of war between moderates and progressives in the House who were attempting to use the bill for leverage to move the Build Back Better legislation that contained the social spending, tax increases and climate provisions.

Reconciliation Up This Week
An agreement reached two weeks ago between progressive and moderate Democrats should position House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to pass President Biden’s Build Back Better Act this week. The agreement hinged on receiving confirmation from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) that the bill would not add to the deficit and paved the way for the House to finally pass the infrastructure bill after weeks of wrangling. While a full CBO score is not likely to come this week, it is believed a preliminary estimate will confirm the spending contained in the bill will be offset by revenue from tax increases. Over months of negotiations, the package has been trimmed from the original price tag of $3.5 trillion to roughly $2 trillion for the House version. The legislation is expected to pass with only Democratic votes. Prospects for passage in the evenly split Senate is less assured. Democratic Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona are both likely to have concerns about the overall size of the House version as well as tax components contained in the bill.