The House and Senate are in session this week.
As the perfect storm of legislative challenges crop up in the remaining days of the fiscal year, more disagreements have arisen in the last few days. These policy conflicts are not only between Republicans and Democrats but inter-party differences between moderate and progressive Democrats. These internal issues could derail the entire Biden agenda over the next two weeks. Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) have remained steadfast in their opposition to the $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation that is awaiting a vote in the House. Unless Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) can find a way to reduce the overall spending level to appease moderates, while keeping the priorities of progressives intact, the bill is in serious jeopardy. Since progressives see $3.5 trillion as a compromise (they originally wanted $6 trillion), this will be a difficult deal to broker, especially since they cannot lose more than three House Democrats on a floor vote, while not losing a single Senate Democrat on the same bill. Progressives have indicated that half of their 95-member caucus will vote against the infrastructure bill, if the $3.5 trillion bill is reduced.
Parliamentary Action: The budget reconciliation bill received a further blow this week, as the Senate Parliamentarian ruled that the immigration portion of the legislation had to be stripped out, as it was a significant policy change. Other areas where the Parliamentarian can rule against Democrats on the bill in the next few days: prescription drugs, labor organizing protections, paid leave and forcing the adoption of clean power. The Byrd Rule, which prohibits significant policy changes or increased deficits over a ten-year period in a budget reconciliation bill, will be exercised incessantly when the bill hits the Senate floor. Watch for Republican Senators to challenge many parts of the legislation based on this long-standing rule.
Developments: While the $3.5 trillion bill is not yet ready to go, House Democrats announced that they would vote on the $1.5 trillion ‘public works’ infrastructure bill separately (a victory for the ‘Mod Squad’ in the House), still expected to take place on September 27th. This is big, since Democrats seem to be changing strategy and will try to pass the two bills individually, whereas before, they had linked them together. According to POLITICO, Sen. Sinema told President Biden that if the ‘public works’ infrastructure bill does not get a vote (or if the vote fails) by September 27th, she will vote against the budget reconciliation bill. The pressure is on.
Debt Ceiling: On Tuesday, House Democrats passed a bill (220-211) that would punt the vote on raising the debt ceiling to next year, while funding government through December 3rd and provide $28.6 billion in funding for Hurricane Ida cleanup. This bill will need 10 Republican votes, which its unlikely to receive, as Republicans introduced their own bill on Tuesday. Republicans do not want to jeopardize the federal government’s credit rating, while placing the burden on Democrats to increase the debt limit to finance their spending bills.
Fundraising: The Republican National Committee reported raising $12.2 million in August and has $74.6 million on hand, while the Democratic National Committee reported $9.9 million raised and $67.8 million on hand. In the House, the NRCC reported $6.5 million raised in August, with $58.6 million on hand, while the DCCC reported raising $10.1 million, with $53.3 million on hand. In the Senate, the NRSC raised $8 million, with $25.2 million on hand and their Democratic counterparts at the DSCC raised $6.1 million and ended the month with $53.3 million on hand. At this point, Republicans still seem to have the wind at their backs going into 2022, when it comes to fundraising – though Democrats are keeping pace.
Special Elections: The next elections for vacant House seats are — Previously Democratic-held: Ohio’s 11th (General -11/2) and Florida’s 20th (1/11/22). Previously Republican-held: Ohio’s 15th (General - 11/2). The House now has composition of 220 Democrats to 212 Republicans. The Senate is comprised of 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans — with Democrats controlling the chamber as the Vice President also serves as the President of the Senate.
OSHA vaccine mandate
ASA continues to monitor vaccine mandates for businesses. President Biden signed an executive order (EO) requiring federal executive branch employees and federal contractors to be fully vaccinated. In addition, the Department of Labor announced that OSHA was working on an emergency rule implementing a vaccine mandate for companies with over 100 employees and has sent the Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review. This draft has not been made public and President Biden’s EO directs the Department of Labor to decide on the implementing the rule by March 15th. In reaction, several Republican governors announced that they would take legal action against this rule. ASA will continue to monitor this issue and provide updates as events warrant.
Per the White House: The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is developing a rule that will require all employers with 100 or more employees to ensure their workforce is fully vaccinated or require any workers who remain unvaccinated to produce a negative test result on at least a weekly basis before coming to work. OSHA will issue an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) to implement this requirement. This requirement will impact over 80 million workers in private sector businesses with 100+ employees.
State legislation tracking
California AB 100: AB 100 was passed by the California Assembly (63-0), after passage by the Senate (37-0). It will be sent to the Governor Newsom for his signature. The Governor has until October 10th to sign or veto the bill.