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Legislative Update

Senate. The Senate is in session this week and will continue consideration of nominations. On Wednesday, the Senate will vote on whether to take up the Freedom to Vote Act, legislation that would make numerous changes to U.S. election laws. While the revised bill now has the backing of all 50 Democratic Senators, it does not have enough Republican support to overcome the 60-vote filibuster hurdle.

House. The House will consider numerous bills under suspension as well as bills to provide resources to victims of domestic violence and to protect the rights of nursing mothers in the workplace.

Reconciliation. Talks continue behind the scenes among Democrats as to what should be included in a pared-down reconciliation bill. Last week Senators Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) held a conference call with House moderates and Sinema also talked with the President; today the President has been making calls to House and Senate Democrats and met at the White House with Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), the leader of the Congressional Progressive Caucus; tomorrow the President will meet separately with progressive and moderate Democrats. The progressive meeting at 2 p.m. will be led by Rep. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.). The moderate meeting at 4:30 will be led by Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.).

Clean Energy. Lacking any concrete developments on the reconciliation front, there has been considerable speculation as to which provisions will be cut back or dropped altogether. One proposal that could end up on the cutting room floor is the Clean Electricity Performance Program or CEPP. The CEPP provision, which was crafted by Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.) and included in the House Energy and Commerce portion of reconciliation, is a $150-billion initiative designed to reduce emissions. The CEPP would require electric providers to increase the amount of clean energy distributed to customers by 4% year over year. Providers that meet the goal would get grants from the Department of Energy, while those falling short would be penalized and owe money to the federal government.

For several weeks, Senator Manchin has raised concerns about details of the CEPP and questioned why the government would pay electric providers to reduce emissions if they were going to do it anyway. Then, on Oct. 15, the New York Times reported that Senator Manchin has “indicated to the administration that he was now completely opposed to a clean energy program.” As a result, White House and Congressional staffers have not only renewed their efforts to revise the CEPP to secure Manchin’s support but are also looking at other incentives to encourage the production and use of clean energy.

Manchin’s opposition has also provided an opportunity for Senate Finance Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) to tout his yet-to-be-finalized proposal to impose a carbon tax. It remains unlikely, though, that a carbon tax will have enough support to be included in the reconciliation package, even if there is an exemption for gasoline in order to honor President Biden’s commitment not to raise taxes on those making less than $400,000.

FY 2022 Appropriations. This afternoon Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) released the remaining nine FY 2022 appropriations bills that the committee has yet to consider. While the committee gave bipartisan support to the three bills it approved in August (Energy and Water, Military Construction and Veteran’s Affairs, and Agriculture and Rural Development), Republicans are not on board with this latest batch of spending proposals.

Democrats are proposing a 13% increase over FY 2021 for non-defense programs and a 5% increase for defense programs. Republicans are pressing for equal increases in both pots of money. Given the fundamental differences between the two parties, most observers believe that appropriations bills will not be enacted by Dec. 3, when the current continuing resolution expires, thereby necessitating another CR to keep the government open. In late July the House approved nine of the 12 appropriations measures. The remaining three are Commerce/Justice/Science, Defense, and Homeland Security. A topline summary of the nine Senate bills unveiled today is available here.

Committee Action of Note:

  • Tuesday, October 19:
    • Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Hearing to examine the nominations of Willie Phillips, Jr. to be a Member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Brad John Crabtree to be an Assistant Secretary of Energy (Fossil Energy and Carbon Management), and Charles F. Sams III to be Director of the National Park Service, Department of the Interior.
    • Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee Hearing to examine an international policy update, focusing on the Department of the Treasury's sanctions policy review and other issues.
  • Wednesday, October 20:
    • House Small Business Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations, and Regulations Hearing: Global Supply Chains and Small Business Trade Challenges.
    • House Judiciary Subcommittee on Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties Hearing: Oversight of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990: The Current State of Integration of People with Disabilities.
    • House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health Hearing: Enhancing Public Health: Legislation to Protect Children and Families.
    • House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis Hearing: Good For Business: Private Sector Perspectives on Climate Action.
    • Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Hearing to examine evaluating the Federal response to the persistence and impacts of PFAS chemicals on our environment.
    • Senate Finance Committee Hearing to examine health insurance coverage in America, focusing on the current and future role of Federal programs.
    • Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Policy Hearing to examine protecting companies and communities from private equity abuse.
    • Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee business meeting to consider the nominations of Victoria Marie Baecher Wassmer to be Chief Financial Officer, Mohsin Raza Syed to be an Assistant Secretary, Amitabha Bose to be Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration, and Meera Joshi to be Administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, all of the Department of Transportation, Mary T. Boyle to be a Commissioner of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, Rear Admiral Nancy A. Hann to be Director, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Corps and Director, Office of Marine and Aviation Operations, Department of Commerce, and routine lists in the Coast Guard; to be immediately followed by a hearing to examine the nominations of Max Vekich to be a Federal Maritime Commissioner, Christopher A. Coes to be an Assistant Secretary of Transportation, and Laurie E. Locascio to be Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology.
  • Thursday, October 21:
    • House Science, Space, and Technology Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight Hearing: Judicious Spending to Enable Success at the Office of Nuclear Energy.
    • House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Aviation Hearing: Three Years After Lion Air 610: FAA Implementation of the 2020 Aircraft Certification, Safety, and Accountability Act.
    • House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy Hearing: Offshore Wind, Onshore Benefits: Growing the Domestic Wind Energy Industry.
    • Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Hearing to examine legislation related to wildfires and forest management (S.1734, S.1964, S.2404, S.2436, S.2561, S.2564, S.2650, S.2806, S.2836).

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