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Washington Weekly Update 9-25-23

Situational Awareness

Both the House and Senate are in session this week. With only five work days left until government funding expires, leadership in both chambers will focus their efforts on drafting and passing a short-term spending measure to fund the government past September 30. However, differences between Republicans and Democrats on whether to include new funding for border security and Ukraine in a supplemental package requested by the White House continue to hinder any compromise. These challenges, coupled with threats from conservative members of the House to push Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) if he agrees to a spending deal with Senate Democrats, risk sending the government into a shutdown.

Lawmakers in the House were unable last week to pass a rule that would permit debate on the Department of Defense appropriations bill and a GOP-led stopgap funding measure that would fund the government through October. House GOP leadership will work to pass individual appropriations bills that dramatically reduce funding levels for federal agencies. These bills would be dead on arrival in the Senate, which is still working to pass its own “minibus” package consisting of the Agriculture-FDA, Military Construction-VA, and Transportation-HUD appropriations bills.

NCA Joins Allies Requesting Time on Overtime Rule Comments

NCA joined with allies in the business community last week to request the Department of Labor to allow additional time to file comments on the recently released overtime threshold rule. The rule would increase the overtime threshold for exempt employees by a minimum of $20,000 per year from $35,000 to $55,000 and set a 60-day time period for comments. You can see a copy of the letter here

Government Accountability Office Gives Su the Green Light

Last week, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) determined that Acting Secretary of Labor Julie Su can stay in her current role indefinitely. Original law establishing the Department of Labor (DOL) clarifies the line of succession between secretary of labor and deputy secretary of labor. This statute guided the GAO’s determination. The decision was in response to a Congressional request led by House Education and Workforce Committee Chair Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) regarding the legal authority permitting Su to serve as acting secretary.

FTC-DOL Memorandum of Understanding

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and DOL signed a new agreement to bolster the FTC’s efforts to protect workers by promoting competitive U.S. labor markets and putting an end to unfair, deceptive and other unlawful acts and practices that harm workers. The memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the two agencies outlines ways the FTC and DOL will work together on key issues such as labor market concentration, one-sided contract terms and labor developments in the “gig economy.” The MOU builds on the FTC’s recent enforcement policy statement related to gig work, which outlined how the FTC will work to hold companies accountable for claims and conduct about costs and benefits for prospective gig workers. The MOU could signal that the DOL is drawing closer to releasing its highly-anticipated final independent contractor rule.

Oversight of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

On Wednesday, Sept. 27, the House Education and Workforce Subcommittee on Workforce Protections will hold a hearing titled “Examining the Policies and Priorities of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.” In a press release announcing the hearing, Subcommittee Chair Rep. Kevin Kiley (R-Calif.) criticized OSHA for prioritizing the Biden administration’s policy priorities over “proper” health and safety oversight. The hearing will take place against the backdrop of broader frustrations with the DOL under the leadership of Acting Secretary of Labor Julie Su. Last month, Rep. Kiley sent a letter to DOL accusing the agency of violating the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA) by failing to consider regulatory impacts on small businesses. In June, OSHA initiated the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA) process, which includes convening a Small Business Advocacy Review (SBAR) to review how a proposed rule for a Heat Injury and Illness Prevention federal standard could impact employers.

Examining Fraudulent COVID-19 Loans

On Wednesday, Sept. 27, the House Committee on Small Business will hold a hearing titled “Action Through Innovation: Private Sector Solutions to Recouping Stolen Pandemic Loan Funds.” This hearing serves as a follow-up to one held in July where members examined the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Office of Inspector General’s (OIG) pandemic lending fraud report. Most recently, the Committee unanimously passed two separate bills that would require the SBA to place a web link on their official website that allows individuals to report suspected fraud to the OIG and prohibit individuals convicted of defrauding COVID-19 lending programs from receiving additional SBA loans.

End-of-the-Year Tax Package Remains in Sight

Last week, House Ways and Means Committee Chair Jason Smith (R-Mo.) signaled that he felt optimistic about House Republicans and Senate Democrats finding a way forward on a tax package that includes a child tax credit compromise. In response to Rep. Smith’s comments, Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) told reporters that Democrats remain adamant on a child tax credit proposal that’s “proportional” to provisions that reduce the corporate tax rate.