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NCA’s Washington Weekly Update 12-6-21

Situational Awareness
The House and Senate are in session this week. The Senate will continue consideration of the National Defense Authorization Act and may bring up a resolution that would block OSHA’s vaccine or test emergency temporary standard (ETS). The House will likely consider legislation from the House Intelligence Committee to address concerns about foreign interference in U.S. elections as well as legislation related to human rights in China.

OSHA ETS Tested by CRA
Shortly after the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released its ETS mandating vaccines or testing for employees in workplaces with more than 100 employees, a resolution was introduced in the House and Senate to block the rule under the Congressional Review Act (CRA). The CRA provides a mechanism for Congress to overrule any regulations promulgated by federal agencies within a specified time frame—the resolution is a privileged motion, meaning it cannot be filibustered in the Senate. The resolution garnered its 51st Senate cosponsor last week and may be considered in the chamber this week. Should the resolution pass the Senate and a vote forced in the House, it would still need to be signed by President Biden, which is very unlikely. The ETS is currently enjoined by the courts and faces more than 30 suits challenging its validity

NYC Mayor Mandates COVID Vaccines for All
Earlier today, New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio issued an order mandating all private sector employees in the city be vaccinated against COVID-19 beginning December 27. The order includes businesses of all types and sizes—an estimated 184,000 in the city. The mayor also announced an expansion of the city’s “Key to New York” program by requiring proof of vaccination for indoor dining, entertainment and fitness facilities to include children ages 5 to 11. Kids in this age group will also be required to prove vaccination status to participate in organized sports, band, orchestra, dance and other activities. DeBlasio’s term as mayor expires January 1, 2022.

Reconciliation Negotiations Continue in Senate
Negotiations over the reconciliation package that embodies President Biden’s Build Back Better plan are ongoing in the Senate. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has set a goal of passing the measure by Christmas, though much of official Washington believes that goal is unattainable. The House has already passed its version and while it is being used loosely as a template for the Senate package, significant changes are expected. In particular, changes are expected in provisions providing for four weeks of paid family and medical leave as well as the state and local tax deduction (SALT). Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) continues to have concerns about not only the substance of the bill, but also the timing given concerns about inflation and the amount of spending the federal government has engaged in this year alone. Manchin has in the past called for the measure to be delayed until 2022.

Spending Extended, Debt Limit Next
Last week Congress reached an agreement on a continuing resolution (CR) to fund the federal government until February 18, 2022, thereby averting a potential government shutdown on December 3. The CR provides what leadership believes is enough time for appropriators to come to an agreement on regular funding bills for federal agencies’ 2022 budgets. The federal debt ceiling is rapidly approaching, and negotiations are still ongoing in an effort to avoid the government defaulting on its debt obligations. Independent organizations have estimated that the debt ceiling will be reached sometime between December 21 and January 28, 2022, though some in government have estimated it could be reached by December 15. Senate Leaders Schumer and McConnell have been negotiating a path forward for the last several weeks, but no agreement has been reached. Republicans have been trying to force Democrats to use the reconciliation process to raise the debt ceiling, but Democrats have balked at such a strategy believing it will take too long and subject their members to difficult votes heading into a campaign year.

Senator Bob Dole Passes
With the House having passed its version of the Build Back Better plan the week before the Thanksgiving break, eyes Former Senate Majority Leader and three-time presidential candidate, Bob Dole, passed away on Sunday morning December 5. Dole was a World War II veteran earning two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star with Valor. He spent most of his post-war career in politics, including 27 years in the Senate until he resigned to run for President in 1996. Senator Dole was Majority Leader of the Senate when I arrived in Washington, and I had the opportunity to see him in action several times in private meetings. At my very first meeting in the Majority Leader’s conference room, I happened to be standing in the wrong place when a door opened and nearly knocked me to the ground—it was Dole entering the meeting. Both of us stunned, we exchanged apologies, he slapped my shoulder and began the meeting. While I’m certain the encounter was easily forgotten by the Leader, it was a moment early in my career that I would never forget. He was a gracious yet firm presence in the Senate and deeply respected on both sides of the aisle. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has ordered the flags at the Capitol be flown at half staff.