Legislative Updates – January 30, 2023
118th Congress begins to kick into gear
The 118th Congress began to kick into gear this week, with both the House and Senate in session for the first time. While most of the focus of the leadership has been on developing a framework for the new Congress, including the structure and membership of the House and Senate Committees, it’s clear that the new House leadership will be focused on three major issue areas:
• An extension of the debt limit in exchange for significant budget cuts;
• Reducing overall FY 24 appropriations to FY 22 enacted levels;
• Aggressive oversight of the Bident Administration.
Last week, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen announced the U.S. has begun using extraordinary measures to pay its bills upon reaching the $31.4 trillion borrowing limit. The Treasury expects to prevent the U.S. from defaulting on its obligations, at least through early June, though the timeline is uncertain.
Negotiations on the debt limit have yet to truly begin. The White House and Democratic leadership in Congress have called for a clean debt limit increase and stated they have no intention to negotiate on the debt limit. Meanwhile, Republicans would like to negotiate an agreement that addresses federal spending, though Speaker McCarthy has yet to stake out an opening bargaining position.
President Biden and Speaker McCarthy are expected to have their first meeting this congress sometime before the President’s State of the Union Address on Tuesday, February 7.
There will be many twist and turns in these high stakes negotiations over the next several months. One scenario House Republicans are considering a short-term, clean suspension of the borrow cap, potentially lining up the deadline for the debt ceiling with September 30, the end of the current fiscal year. This could incentivize a joint FY 24 appropriations/debt limit deal but would also pair two bleak scenarios—a government shutdown along with a government default.
FY 24 Appropriations
In order to secure the gavel, Speaker McCarthy (R-CA) reportedly agreed to seek FY 24 appropriations bills that kept domestic discretionary spending at FY 22 levels. This would equate to a 10% overall cut to defense related funding and an 8% cut to domestic programming. However, many Republicans are opposed to defense cuts, which could mean even greater reductions to domestic programs – as much as 18% according to House Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Rosa DeLauro (D-CT).
Speaker McCarthy has also pledged that each of the twelve annual appropriations bills will be debated on the floor individually and any “Omnibus” Appropriations proposal from the Senate combining multiple bills to expedite their passage, will be rejected out of hand. These new demands will likely cause further delays to an appropriations process already struggling to be completed in a timely manner.
New Senate Appropriations Chair Patty Murray (D-WA) and new Senate Appropriations Ranking Member Susan Collins (R-ME) met on Tuesday discussing their shared desire to restart the appropriations process move away from doing an Omnibus bill. Sen. Collins acknowledged that it would be very difficult to get back completely to regular order, but that she hoped to move some of the President’s desk before the October 1 start of the fiscal year. She noted it would take an aggressive schedule and lots of cooperation, as the Senate has been unable to move appropriations bills through the floor individually for the past three years.
Unlike the House, Murray and Collins are not interested in making significant reductions to discretionary programs, setting the stage for difficult negotiations between the House and Senate and increasing the chances of the need for a year-long Continuing Resolution to keep annually funded programs at the same level for an additional year.
The President’s budget proposal is not expected to be released until late March, well beyond its traditional due date in early February. This delay will stall the appropriations process, and impact hearing with Cabinet officials. Once released, it will likely be carefully considered in the Democratic led-Senate, while summarily dismissed by the Republican-led House.
Along with ongoing debates over funding, House Republicans will emphasize their oversight authority from two different Committees. First, via the Oversight Committee, which has specific jurisdiction over federal agencies performance and operation. This Committee has also been used by both parties as the tip of the spear to launch high profile political investigations on a range of issues. Republicans are expected to use this Committee to launch investigations on Hunter Biden, the origin of Covid, and a host of other issues. Their first hearing will be next week on pandemic Unemployment Insurance fraud.
In addition, the authorizing Committees also have an oversight role. Dr. Foxx has indicated the Education and Workforce Committee will have a vigorous role in oversight on a host of issues involving the operation and policy choices made by the Departments of Education and Labor, the highest profile of which is the authority of the Department of Education to cancel up to $20,000 in federal student loans.
Organization of Congressional Committees Underway
Both the House and Senate are in the process of organizing their Committees for the upcoming Congress, a process that will take at least another week to complete. We will provide you with a full list of Members on key Committees once they have been finalized. However, we would like to share a few of the highlights to date.
1) The House Appropriations Committee will have 34 seats to Democrats’ 27 seats. Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX) will Chair the Committee and Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-AL) will Chair the Labor-HHS Subcommittee, after Tom Cole’s (R-OK) waiver request to chair this Subcommittee for an additional two years was denied, as it exceeded House Republicans’ six-year term limits for committee leadership positions. The Republican roster includes ten new Members to the Full Committee. The Democratic roster, led by Ranking Member Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), includes the return of Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and sees the departure of Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA) to serve as House Whip.
On Senate Appropriations, the ratio is expected to be 15 Democratic seats to 14 Republican seats. As last Congress the ratio was 15 to 15, Republicans are expected to lose a seat. Sen. Murray (D-WA) Chairs the Committee. The Democratic roster remains the same except for the addition of Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI), who will take the place of the retired Chair Patrick Leahy of Vermont. The Republican roster, led by Ranking Member Susan Collins (R-ME) is expected soon. Sen. Braun (R-IN) is expected to depart the Committee as he is running for Governor.
2) The Republican House Education & Workforce Committee roster was announced this week. The Committee will be chaired by Dr. Virginia Foxx, who was the only Committee Chair to receive a waiver from the Republican leadership. Fourteen incumbents returned to the panel, along with Lloyd Smucker (R-PA), the former Higher Ed and Workforce Subcommittee Chair who returned to the Committee after leaving the panel last Congress. Eleven Republicans left the Committee, while eight Freshman are joining the Committee.
There are still two open slots on the Republican side, as only 23 Members have been selected and the Committee ratio is expected to be 25-20. There will also be a new Chair of the Higher Education and Workforce Subcommittee, as Rep. Miller-Meeks has left the Committee. Dr. Foxx once again faces a substantial education effort to get so many new Members up to speed on the work of the Committee.
Education and the Workforce Committee Republican Members:
- Foxx, Virginia (NC-05) *Chair
- Wilson, Joe (SC-02)
- Thompson, Glenn (PA-15)
- Walberg, Tim (MI-05)
- Grothman, Glenn (WI-06)
- Stefanik, Elise (NY-21)
- Allen, Rick (GA-12¬)
- Banks, Jim (IN-03)
- Comer, James (KY-01)
- Smucker, Lloyd (PA-11)
- Owens, Burgess (UT-04)
- Good, Bob (VA-05)
- McClain, Lisa (MI-09)
- Miller, Mary (IL-15)
- Steel, Michelle (CA-45)
- Kiley, Kevin (CA-03) *New Member
- Bean, Aaron (FL-04) *New Member
- Burlison, Eric (MO-07) *New Member
- Moran, Nathaniel (TX-01) *New Member
- James, John (MI-10) *New Member
- Chavez-DeRemer, Lori (OR-05) *New Member
- Williams, Brandon (NY-22) *New Member
- Houchin, Erin (IN-09) *New Member
Democrats are expected to announce their Committee Members shortly.
3) The Democratic Senate HELP roster was announced this week. Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) has departed, while Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) will join the Committee.
Senate HELP Democratic Members:
- Senator Sanders (VT) *Chair
- Senator Murray (WA)
- Senator Casey (PA)
- Senator Baldwin (WI)
- Senator Murphy (CT)
- Senator Kaine (VA)
- Senator Hassan (NH)
- Senator Smith (MN)
- Senator Luján (NM)
- Senator Hickenlooper (CO)
- Senator Markey (MA) *New Member
Republicans are expected to announce their members next week.
4) House Ways & Means Republicans named their Subcommittee Chairs on Thursday. Of particular note, the Worker and Family Support Subcommittee has been renamed the “Work and Welfare” Subcommittee and will be chaired by Darin LaHood (R-IL). This Subcommittee oversees a broad swath of social service programming including TANF and Unemployment Insurance.
Additional Work and Welfare Republican Subcommittee Members include:
- Adrian Smith (R-NE);
- Blake Moore (R-UT)
- Michelle Steel (R-CA)
- Mike Carey (R-OH)
- Claudia Tenney (R-NY)
Pell Act Introduced
On Wednesday, House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (R-NY), along with Education and the Workforce Committee Chair Virginia Foxx (R-NC), Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN), Rep. Ashley Hinson (R-IA), and Agriculture Committee Chair “GT” Thompson (R-PA), introduced H.R. 496, the Promoting Employment and Lifelong Learning (PELL) Act.
This bill would expand educational and credentialing opportunities for workers looking to gain skills in high-demand fields by creating a Workforce Pell Grant to extending Pell Grant eligibility to high-quality, short-term programs. The bill would allow both for profit and nonprofit training providers to participate as long as they meet certain requirements, including that students will be qualified to work following program completion.
The 14-page bill is available here, a press release is available here, a fact sheet is available here, and a section-by-section is available here.
Jose Javier Rodriguez renominated to be ETA Assistant Secretary
This week, the White House nominated Jose Javier Rodriguez to be an Assistant Secretary of Labor. Rodriguez was nominated in 2021 and 2022 as well, but his nomination did not receive a vote on the Senate floor.
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