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ADVOCACY & POLICY UPDATE - December 9th, 2021

Shutdown Averted - Biden Signs Stopgap Funding Government through Mid-February


Washington Update


Build Back Better Act

On Monday, December 6, the Senate parliamentarian will meet with Congressional leaders to review health provisions, including Democrats’ drug pricing proposal and measures to expand Medicare and Medicaid in the Build Back Better Act. Already underway is the budget appeals process governing the rules of reconciliation, known as a “Byrd bath,” where lawmakers attempt to make their cases to the Senate parliamentarian over certain provisions in the spending packages - such as climate and immigration spending. The process ensures any reconciliation legislation complies with budget rules that would allow it to pass the Senate with only 50 votes, thus avoiding the need for 60 votes to break a filibuster. That includes strict guidance that the policy in question must have some direct impact on federal spending or revenues. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (NY) plans to start floor consideration of the package by December 13th.

Appropriations

On Thursday, December 2, with less than 36 hours before funding was set to lapse, Congress passed a stopgap spending bill to keep the government funded through mid-February. The House voted 221 to 212 to approve the measure and the Senate passe the bill on a 69 to 28 vote – sending it to President Biden for signature. The action came after senators voted down an amendment to bar funding to carry out President Biden’s vaccine mandates for tens of millions of American workers, including many in the private sector. Some republicans threatened to oppose the bill until they were granted a vote on defunding the vaccine mandates. The measure expends funding through February 18, 2022 – giving lawmakers plenty of time to resolve outstanding disputes and approve longer-term legislation to fund the government next year. Democrats were hoping for an earlier deadline to they could enact their own funding levels and priorities while in control of the White House and both chambers since the stopgap maintains existing funding levels that were negotiated with the Trump administration. The legislation provides $7 billion for the care and resettlement of Afghan refugees. It also includes about $4.3 billion for the Defense Department to care for evacuees on military bases, $1.3 million for the State Department and $1.3 billion for a division of the Department of Health and Human Services to provide resettlement and other services, including emergency housing and English language classes.

Attention will now turn to averting a debt default - Congress must pass legislation to raise the nation’s borrowing limit before going on recess for the year. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has estimated the Treasury could run out of funds as early as December 15 and, around the same time, the Treasury will invest an $118 billion appropriation to the Highway Trust Fund.

Click here to access the full legislation.

Click here to read the summary of the bill.

Click here to read Chairwoman DeLauro’s press release.

DOL Nominations

On Thursday, December 2, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee approved the nominations of Lisa Gomez and James Rodriguez to key roles at the Department of Labor (DOL). Gomez was approved to head the Department’s Employee Benefits Security Administration and Rodriguez was approved to lead Veterans’ Employment and Training. Gomez is currently a partner at law firm Cohen, Weiss and Simon and the chair of its management committee. Rodriguez is a veteran himself and served 21 years in the U.S. Marine Corps. He currently serves as the Department of Labor’s principal deputy assistant secretary at the Veterans’ Employment and Training Service. The nominations will now head to the Senate floor for a confirmation vote.

Unemployment Rate

On Friday, December 3, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released the November jobs report, which showed total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 210,000 and the unemployment rate fell by 0.4 percentage points to 4.2 percent. The labor force participation rate increased to 61.8% - its highest level since March 2020. The number is far fewer than expected and a sign that hiring started to slow even before the announcement of the new Covid omicron variant. Despite November’s slowdown in hiring, 6.1 million jobs have been added this year and the unemployment rate has declined 2.1 percentage points since January.

Click here to access the full report.

Click here to read the statement from Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh.

Click here to read the blog post by Chief Economist Janelle Jones.

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