Week of 12-4-23
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Congress continued to negotiate a $100 billion supplemental funding package to aid Ukraine, Israel, and East Asian allies, along with new border funding. Speaker Mike Johnson (R-NC) told Senators that the baseline for House demands on immigration language is H.R. 2, the House-passed border and immigration bill that quickly died in the Senate earlier this year. Senate Republicans are not entirely with him, but they did block a supplemental funding bill that included the aid in a procedural vote held Thursday because they were not satisfied with the immigration and border language.
The House also approved legislation to block an Environmental Protection Agency rule on vehicle emissions standards and an Education Department rule on student loan repayments. Neither measure is expected to clear the Senate, and President Biden stated he would veto the measure blocking the EPA rule on vehicle emissions standards if it reaches his desk.
FY 24 Appropriations Update
Congressional leaders from both parties want to approve supplemental spending for Israel, Ukraine, and East-Asian allies security; however, Republicans are also pushing to include changes to U.S. border security policies. As of this writing, talks are stalled on that issue. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) stated that Republicans are insisting on policy changes to curb the flow of migrants at the southern border as a condition for supporting additional aid to Ukraine.
Meanwhile, both chambers worked to reach a bicameral agreement on the annual defense authorization bill. Among the sticking points are social issues such as service members’ ability to travel for abortions, and gender-affirming care for transgender troops.
Council on Supply-Chain Resilience
President Biden announced a Council on Supply-Chain Resilience, charged with conducting a “quadrennial supply chain review, mirroring similar strategic documents prepared for national defense and homeland security,” with the first review due at the end of next year. The council will be co-chaired by National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and Economic Advisor Lael Brainard.
EPA Announces Water Systems Must Replace Lead Service Lines Within Next Decade
The EPA announced that it would require water systems nationwide to replace lead service lines within the next decade in efforts to protect drinking water. Relying on $15 billion from the infrastructure law passed last year, the move is aimed at eliminating 9.2 million lead lines currently in service.
Highway Rule Requires Federal Projects to Set Targets for Declining Emissions
A new federal Highway Administration rule requires any projects funded with federal money to set targets for declining emissions. The rule requires state transportation departments and local metropolitan planning organizations to measure and report the amount of heat-trapping pollution that highway projects would create. Then those agencies have to set targets for reducing their emissions over periods of two or four years. Sen. Shelley Capito (R-WV) said the rule runs contrary to the spirit of the law.
FY Fiscal Responsibility Act Provision Requiring 1% Across-the-Board Cuts
Last week the House voted 310-115 to expel the former Rep. Santos (R-NY). GOP leadership backed Santos, but that did not stop half the conference from voting to expel. Of the 18 Republicans who represent districts President Biden carried, only Santos himself voted against expulsion. New York Governor Kathy Hochul set a special election on Feb. 13 to fill Santos’ seat, which will remain vacant until then.
With Santos’ expulsion, the House is currently 221 Republicans to 213 Democrats. Former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) announced he is leaving Congress on Dec. 31 and others have announced early 2024 exits. While the Senate can fill vacancies instantly through appointments, the House can only fill vacancies through special elections. That means the House is in for months of a razor-thin majority governing.