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NCA’s Washington Weekly Update 11-29-21

Situational Awareness
Both the House and Senate return to Washington this week with deadlines looming over funding the federal government, the federal debt limit and the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The Senate will continue work on the NDAA this week. The House will consider a slew of bills on the suspension calendar and prepare for a continuing resolution to fund the federal government beyond the December 3 deadline under the current continuing resolution.

Biden Addresses Country on Omicron Variant
President Biden addressed the nation this morning about the latest COVID-19 variant, Omicron, after meeting with the White House COVID-19 response team. The World Health Organization (WHO) announced last week that Omicron is a variant of concern due to probable higher transmissibility rate and more than 30 genetic mutations to the virus of unknown impact. The variant first appeared in South Africa, but has already been detected in other countries. Over the weekend, President Biden announced new travel restrictions for nations on the African Continent.

OSHA Vaccine ETS Update
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) emergency temporary standard (ETS) requiring vaccination or testing for employees in organizations with more than 100 employees faces an uncertain future due to ongoing litigation. Within hours of finalizing the ETS, the Fifth Circuit Court imposed a stay on the rule and more than 30 separate suits had been filed challenging the ETS. The suits have been consolidated in the Sixth Circuit Court and the stay was affirmed. Last week, the administration asked for the stay to be lifted, though a briefing over the motion will prevent any decision from the Court before the first deadline in the ETS of December 6. The ETS is scheduled to go into effect on January 4, but with decisions on a stay drifting into mid-December and the possibility of any decision to be kicked up to the Supreme Court, the effective date is wholly dependent on the Court’s decision on the stay and then turns on arguments on the merits of the suits.

Year-end Funding Deadlines Loom
The federal government is currently operating under a continuing resolution that expires on Friday, December 3, and a debt limit increase likely to expire as early as December 15. House leaders have yet to decide how far the next extension of federal funding will take them into the year, but House Appropriations Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) has indicated a desire to set a deadline, most likely December 17. Others have suggested a continuing resolution pushing the deadline into late January 2022. Appropriators in both the House and Senate have made little progress on finalizing fiscal year 2022 funding bills due to disagreements over longstanding policy riders such as the Hyde Amendment, which bans federal funding for abortions. Democrats want to remove the restriction. Details about a continuing resolution are expected either Tuesday or Wednesday.

With House and Senate Republicans offering no help in extending the federal debt limit, Democratic leaders are likely to decide this week on how they plan to proceed with another increase. Senate Republicans have objected to allowing the chamber to move an extension bill, which may force Democrats to use the reconciliation process to accomplish what for decades had been done under the regular order. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) met earlier this month to discuss the issue, but no agreement had been reached. Republicans have offered a relatively expedited reconciliation process to limit the number of votes required. Democrats are reluctant to use reconciliation because it requires setting an actual debt limit amount and they would prefer to suspend the debt limit to a specific date.

ClubPAC Insider Resumes Publication
NCA’s political action committee, ClubPAC, will resume publication of its monthly political update ClubPAC Insider this week. ClubPAC Insider provides NCA members who have valid prior authorization forms on file with political analysis on key Senate and House races and activities of the PAC. The election landscape is shifting due to the decennial redistricting process, and I will be providing members with a look into the impact of new maps being adopted by states and what it means about which party wields the gavels in the House and Senate. If you would like to sign up to receive ClubPAC Insider, please make sure your club has signed the prior authorization form and you will be automatically receive the updates.

Your Weekly Update on Reconciliation
With the House having passed its version of the Build Back Better plan the week before the Thanksgiving break, eyes now shift toward the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has the unenviable task of trying to shepherd the massive social spending bill through an evenly divided Senate without a vote to spare. Senate Budget Committee Chair, Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has expressed concerns about the deduction for state and local taxes (SALT) adopted in the House and appears to be working on an alternative proposal. Senators Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) continue to raise objections about the overall spending figure and tax provisions. Manchin has also expressed concerns about paid leave provisions contained in the House package. As noted, the Senate has a full schedule the next couple of weeks addressing must-pass measures such as a continuing resolution, debt ceiling and national defense, so the likelihood of the Build Back Better plan reaching the floor this year is somewhat diminished.