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ADVOCACY & POLICY UPDATE - January 15, 2024

Congress to Vote on Short-Term Stopgap Spending Bill


Washington Update


Appropriations

On Sunday, January 14, Congressional leaders unveiled a short-term stopgap spending bill that would avert a partial government shutdown and keep federal agencies open in March. The first tranche of bills, four appropriations bills, is set to expire on Friday, January 19. The remaining bills, including Labor-HHS-Education, will expire on Friday, February 2. The new funding patch would keep federal agencies open on two different timeframes, like the current stopgap, funding for some federal agencies will go through March 1, while others would run through March 8. 

On Friday, January 12, Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (LA) announced his commitment to follow the topline spending agreement he struck with Democrats a week ago. The announcement came on the heels of speculation he was going to cave under pressure from conservative republicans for him to walk away from the deal. The agreement between both parties includes $886.3 billion in defense spending and $772.7 billion in domestic spending for FY24, although both Chambers need to work out agreements on the 12 appropriations bills. Congress will vote on the short-term stopgap funding measure this week. The measure is very likely to pass the Senate with significant bipartisan support while its fate in the House is not as clear. Speaker Johnson will most likely need to garner significant support from Democrats, which could put his speakership at risk of a challenge from far-right conservatives.

Click here to access the short-term stopgap legislation.


DOL Independent Contractor Rule

On Tuesday, January 9, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced a final rule that would make it more difficult for businesses to classify workers as independent contractors, rather than full employees. The change replaces the 2021 Trump-era policy and is intended to ensure millions of workers, including those in the service sector, construction and health care, receive labor guarantees like minimum wage, mandatory overtime and payroll tax contributions. The rule is expected to face legal challenges from businesses, although Uber has indicated the rule doesn’t go as far as some feared it would. Specifically, large tech companies whose business models are heavily reliant on the use of contractors, are expected to fight state and federal efforts to label workers as employees. The final rule is due to be published in the Federal Register shortly before taking effect March 11 and comes more than a year after its initial proposal in October 2022. 

Quickly after the Department’s announcement of the final rule, Republicans announced intentions to block it. On Tuesday, January 9, Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee ranking member Bill Cassidy (LA) announced he will introduce a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution to repeal the independent contractor rule. It is unlikely that a CRA resolution will succeed in a Democratic Senate and with the Biden Administration. 

Click here to read the press release from Senator Cassidy.


Department of Labor

On Thursday, January 11, the Senate confirmed Erika L. McEntarfer on a vote of 88-8, which follows unanimous approval from the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) committee in October, to lead the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. McEntarfer had been serving as a labor economist in the Center for Economic Studies at the U.S. Census Bureau and was nominated by President Biden in July. Previously, the position was held by William Wiatrowski in an acting capacity for most of last year, since Trump appointee William Beach’s term ran out in March.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has canceled a planned procedural vote for the nomination of Jose Javier Rodriguez as Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) Employment and Training Administration (ETA).On Monday, January 8, the White House announced that President Biden has renominated Julie Su to serve as Labor Secretary, as her confirmation has languished in the Senate for the more than 10 months. Su has been Acting Secretary since Marty Walsh vacated the position in February. 


Congressional Review Act

On Friday, January 12, the House voted 206-177 to roll back the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) new ‘joint employer’ rule, which takes effect in February. The Congressional Review Act (HJ Res 98) resolution would nullify the NLRB rule, which would make a parent corporation liable for any workplace violation at an entity with which they have a business relationship, most of which are legally separate businesses over which the corporation has no direct control. Prior, a business had to have direct control over another to be liable. The new rule would extend that liability to cases of ‘indirect control.’ The rule allows any businesses to be held liable for a violation at any other company it did business with. Unions have advocated for this rule change.

The rule replaced a Trump-era regulation requiring companies to have ‘direct and immediate’ control over workers to be considered joint employers, which was favored by business groups. The CRA allows Congress to repeal agency rules within 60 days of their adoption. President Joe Biden has vowed to veto any attempt to repeal the rule. The resolution only needs the support of a majority in the House and Senate to pass, but it would require a two-thirds majority to overcome a presidential veto. The resolution now moves to the Senate where Democrats control the majority, so it is unlikely to move.

Click here to access the legislation.


Initial Jobless Claims

In the week ending January 6, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 202,000, a decrease of 1,000 from the previous week's revised level. The previous week's level was revised up by 1,000 from 202,000 to 203,000. The 4-week moving average was 207,750, a decrease of 250 from the previous week's revised average. The previous week's average was revised up by 250 from 207,750 to 208,000. The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 1.2 percent for the week ending December 30, a decrease of 0.1 percentage point from the previous week's revised rate. 

Click here to access the report.

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