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ADVOCACY & POLICY UPDATE - August 28, 2023

House Freedom Caucus Unveils Demands for Stopgap Spending Bill


Washington Update


Appropriations

Last week, the House Freedom Caucus unveiled a list of demands they want included in a stopgap spending measure, warning that, if not met, they will oppose any legislation to keep the federal government open after the September 30 deadline. A big list of Democratic non-starters, the demands include: spending levels below the top-line numbers agreed upon in the bipartisan debt ceiling deal; enactment of the GOP border legislation; action to address ‘the unprecedented weaponization’ of the Justice Department and FBI to conduct political ‘witch hunts’; and opposition of any ‘blank check for Ukraine,’ among other things. This will undoubtedly make it difficult for House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (CA), who has a slim five-vote majority in the House and will need Democratic votes, to pass a stopgap measure that can also make it through the Senate.

The Freedom Caucus’ demands are dividing not only the GOP, but also its own members. Centrist Republican Congressman Don Bacon (NE) has called the demands ‘unrealistic’ and suggested Republicans might soon need to stop trying to pass bills with Republican votes only. Meanwhile, Freedom Caucus member Congressman Ken Buck (CO) said in an interview that he didn’t support the group’s move. House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries (NY) said Democrats will help Republicans pass a continuing resolution as long as it doesn’t include any new GOP policy changes.

Congress will return to Washington after the Labor Day holiday, leaving no time to finish the twelve appropriations bills, so extra time will be needed. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (NY) has indicated Senate Democrats are open to a short-term funding measure to give lawmakers additional time to work on final appropriations. There is even talk that Senators are quietly discussing the possibility of moving first on a stopgap and supplemental appropriations package given the uncertainty in the House.

Job Corps

On Thursday, August 24, House Education and the Workforce Chair Virginia Foxx (NC) accused the Job Corps program of ‘internal rot’ after a July 2023 Government Accountability Report (GAO) found its centers could improve illegal drug-use prevention. Republicans frequently target the Job Corps program as ineffective and mismanaged with the House spending plan even completely defunding it. The GAO report found specific issues recruiting and retaining qualified drug intervention specialists, which in turn affected services to students that tested positive for drugs. The Department of Labor (DOL) Employment and Training Administration (ETA) Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Brent Parton responded to the report saying the agency agreed with the GAO’s recommendations; however, taking issue with language being ‘both inaccurate and stigmatizing to students who may suffer from substance abuse disorders or mental health conditions.’

Click here to access the full report.

National Economic Council

On Monday, August 21, President Joe Biden announced Brendan Danaher, Senior Labor Policy Advisor at the Department of Transportation and a longtime union official, as his pick for deputy director of the National Economic Council for labor and economy. Danaher will be taking over from Celeste Drake.

Department of Labor

Nicole Jackson Mansch is now Chief of Staff in the Office of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility at the U.S. Department of Labor. Prior to this role, she was Policy Advisor to the Office of the Secretary of the Labor Department.

Workforce and Mental Health

On Tuesday, August 22, the Business Group on Health’s 2024 Large Employer Health Care Survey was released and it indicated large employers are seeing a spike in their workforce’s mental health needs as the nation continues to recover from the pandemic. According to the survey, about 77 percent of large employers said the mental health needs of their workforces increased - a 33 point increase from 2022. Additionally, it found another 16 percent of employers surveyed said they expect to see the impact of increased mental health issues among their employees in the near future. The survey also found about 30 percent reported seeing the impact of medical labor shortages and turnover and burnout in the nursing workforce.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors President Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve has made mental health the cornerstone of her term. Under her leadership, USCM staff released a survey to mayors to help inform the work of the USCM Mental Health Task Force, and further develop USCM’s mental health policy and advocacy efforts in this area. The survey, which received responses from 117 cities in 36 states, provides information about the mental health needs in cities across the country, how local elected officials are addressing those needs, and will inform the work of the USCM Mayors Playbook on Mental Health.

Click here to access the Business Group on Health’s 2024 Large Employer Health Care Survey.

Click here to learn more about USCM’s work on mental health.

Initial Jobless Claims

In the week ending August 19, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 230,000, a decrease of 10,000 from the previous week's revised level. The previous week's level was revised up by 1,000 from 239,000 to 240,000. The 4-week moving average was 236,750, an increase of 2,250 from the previous week's revised average. The previous week's average was revised up by 250 from 234,250 to 234,500. The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 1.1 percent for the week ending August 12, a decrease of 0.1 percentage point from the previous week's unrevised rate.

Click here to access the report.

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