Debt Ceiling Crisis Looms
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (CA) is set to meet with President Biden at the White House on Wednesday, February 1, for initial debt ceiling talks. McCarthy has said that cuts to programs such as Medicare and Social Security are "off the table," but that his party will push for reductions in discretionary spending. Democrats have said this is a nonstarter, but Republicans could possibly seek a deal with Biden that includes things like a debt commission, a spending freeze or a 10-year spending deal with budget caps. Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (NY) and McCarthy are at an impasse over spending cuts in exchange for agreeing to raise the debt ceiling. Schumer wants the GOP to pass the debt ceiling without any ‘hostage-taking’ and ‘no brinkmanship’ and he is preparing for a long face-off with McCarthy on the issue. To secure his speakership, McCarthy made a concession to House Republicans that they would refuse to support raising the debt ceiling without a ‘budget agreement or commensurate fiscal reforms.’ Schumer and McCarthy have not yet held a one-on-one meeting. House Republican leaders are considering at least one short-term lift of the federal debt limit this summer, including an extension that would align its expiration date with the end of the fiscal year on September 30 to create pressure for a spending deal with Democrats. PELL Act On Wednesday, January 25, House GOP lawmakers unveiled the Promoting Employment and Lifelong Learning (PELL) Act (HR 496) that would expand educational and credentialing opportunities for workers looking to gain skills in high-demand fields. The bill would cover the costs of short-term training programs, an idea that has had bipartisan support for years. One point of contention has been whether to include for-profit colleges in the expansion – with Democrats’ wanting to exclude those institutions. The new GOP bill would allow all types of institutions, including for-profit colleges, to participate in the program and create a Workforce Pell Grant to expand Pell Grant eligibility to high-quality, short-term programs. It would allow all education providers to participate if they meet certain requirements, including the stipulation that students will be qualified to work following program completion. It also would require the Department of Education to publish program costs and outcomes on the College Scorecard. Click here to access the full legislation. Click here to access a section-by-section summary. House Education and Workforce Committee The House Education and Workforce Committee is expected to have its first organizing meeting on Tuesday, January 31. Committee Chair Virginia Foxx (NC) has outlined her priorities for the coming year indicating she plans to focus on WIOA reauthorization and short term Pell Grants, along with school choice, a parent’s bill of rights, and oversight of the Biden administration’s work on preserving free speech rights on campus and federal student loan forgiveness program On Wednesday, January 25, Republicans announced their new roster for the House Education and Workforce Committee, which is smaller this Congress with each side losing four seats. The committee ratio agreement calls for membership to decrease proportionally by four seats on both sides of the aisle so the GOP has 25 seats while Democrats have 20 seats on the committee. The GOP announcement included 23 members but the party plans to fill the last two vacancies soon. Returning members for the GOP include: Reps. Virginia Foxx (NC), chair; Joe Wilson (SC); G.T. Thompson (PA); Tim Walberg (MI); Glenn Grothman (WI); Elise Stefanik (NY); Rick Allen (GA); Jim Banks (IN); James Comer (KY); Burgess Owens (UT); Bob Good (VA); Lisa McClain (MI); Mary Miller (IL); and Michelle Steel (CA). The nine new GOP members of the committee are: Reps. Lloyd Smucker (PA); Kevin Kiley (CA); Aaron Bean (FL); Eric Burlison (MO); Nathaniel Moran (TX); John James (MI); Lori Chavez-DeRemer (OR); Brandon Williams (NY); and Erin Houchin (IN). Democrats are expected to announce their roster for the panel shortly. House Appropriations Committee Democratic Roster On Wednesday, January 25, House Democrats named their roster for the Appropriations Committee - securing 27 seats on the panel compared to 33 seats when they were in the majority last Congress. More than two dozen are returning to the committee, while six members have retired. Congresswoman Katherine Clark (MA) has also left the panel, serving in the party’s number 2 leadership spot, while Democratic Caucus Chair Congressman Pete Aguilar (CA) is staying on. A notable new face is Congressman Steny Hoyer (MD), who has seniority rights and is expected to lead the Financial Services subpanel. HELP Committee Senator Bernie Sanders (VT) is assembling his team as he prepares to lead the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee. His longtime aide Warren Gunnels and Senate procedure expert Bill Dauster will serve as staff director and deputy staff director, respectively, reprising the roles they held on the Sanders-led Senate Budget Committee. Jessica Cardichon will be Sanders’ education policy director. Cardichon was previously the Education Department’s deputy assistant secretary for P-12 in the Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development. Biden Nominees On Monday, January 23, the White House announced several presidential nominations that were not acted upon by the Senate last Congress, including for the Department of Labor. Among those is former Florida lawmaker Jose Javier Rodriguez to be DOL assistant secretary for the Employment and Training Administration, along with Jessica Looman to be administrator of the Department’s Wage and Hour Division. Looman has been the office’s top official since Biden took office and was nominated in place of Davie Weil after the Senate failed to confirm his nomination. Initial Jobless Claims
In the week ending January 21, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 186,000, a decrease of 6,000 from the previous week's revised level. The previous week's level was revised up by 2,000 from 190,000 to 192,000. The 4-week moving average was 197,500, a decrease of 9,250 from the previous week's revised average. The previous week's average was revised up by 750 from 206,000 to 206,750. The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 1.2 percent for the week ending January 14, an increase of 0.1 percentage point from the previous week's unrevised rate. Click here to access the report.