Congress. The House and Senate are out this week. The House returns Feb. 1 and is then scheduled to recess after votes on Feb. 9. No floor votes are scheduled from Feb. 10 through Feb. 27. However, that could change if action is needed at the last minute on legislation that would extend federal government funding beyond the Feb. 18 expiration of the current continuing resolution. After this week’s recess, the next break for the Senate is the Presidents’ Day recess from Feb. 21 to 27.
Competitiveness Legislation. As soon as Tuesday, House Democrats could unveil a competitiveness measure that is designed to be a counterproposal to the Senate’s U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (USICA). The House legislation will include proposals from at least three committees – Science, Space, and Technology; Energy and Commerce; and Education and Labor – and could also include trade provisions from the Ways and Means Committee and possibly language from the Foreign Affairs Committee.
The House has already passed related legislation dealing with R&D and funding for the National Science Foundation, so the next step for the competitiveness package will be a conference committee to resolve differences between the House and Senate. One area of agreement is that the measure should include an investment in semiconductor chips. USICA, which the Senate approved in June on a bipartisan vote of 68-32, would provide $52 billion over five years to fund the CHIPS Act that was enacted last year.
Retirement Savings. House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) and Ranking Member Kevin Brady (R-Tex.) are optimistic that the House will soon take up legislation referred to as SECURE 2.0 that their panel unanimously approved last May. Among other things, the bill would require employers to automatically enroll employees in their 401(k) plans when they become eligible (although employees may opt out). The wide-ranging measure also includes provisions that would raise the age requirement for persons to take required minimum distributions from their retirement plans and allow employers to make matching contributions to an employee’s retirement fund based, in part, on the employee’s student loan payments.
The House Education and Labor Committee also has jurisdiction over certain retirement issues and unanimously approved legislation in November, the RISE Act, that is expected to be combined with SECURE 2.0 for floor consideration. Action in the Senate committees could take place in late spring or early summer.