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ADVOCACY & POLICY UPDATE - January 3rd, 2023

A Look at the 118th Congress

Washington Update

Omnibus Spending Bill

On Thursday, December 29, President Biden signed the $1.7 trillion government funding package (HR 2617) into law, closely averting a government shutdown. The bill includes $772.5 billion for non-defense discretionary spending and $858 billion in defense funding — an increase in spending in both areas for FY23.

Division H of the bill provides $209.9 billion in base discretionary funding for Health, Education and Labor for FY23 — a $14.8 billion increase over FY22 enacted levels. The legislation provides DOL with $15.09 billion in FY23 — $680 million above FY22 enacted levels but $1.06 billion below President Biden’s budget request.

The legislation allocates $4.14 billion for training and employment services, including federal job training programs authorized primarily by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), and directs $1.76 billion to the Job Corps program. It provides $4.01 billion for state unemployment insurance and employment service operations, as well as $632 million for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and $698 million for the Bureau of Labor Statistics. A detailed USCM staff summary of the bill will be provided via separate email.

Click here to access the full bill.

Click here to access a Joint Explanatory Statement.

A Look at the 118th Congress

Tuesday, January 3, 2023, marks the start of the 118th Congress, and the House will meet to elect a speaker and swear in members. With only hours until Speaker elections, Congressman Kevin McCarthy’s chances of being elected speaker remain in doubt. The Republicans only hold a slim majority and McCarthy cannot afford to lose more than four GOP votes in his bid for speaker. As of Monday, at least 14 Republicans had still not promised their support. Even after his tireless efforts to secure votes, which included making rule changes such as allowing members to easily fire him at any time, it seems McCarthy still doesn’t have the votes. House Republicans plan to meet Tuesday morning before the afternoon floor vote(s) for speaker.

On Tuesday afternoon, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (KY) will mark his tenure as the Senate’s longest-serving party leader with a speech paying tribute to the previous record holder, former Senator Mike Mansfield who was a Democrat from Montana.

Also in Congressional leadership, it is still unclear who the Republicans will select to chair the House Education and Labor committee, but contested races are expected to be resolved after the House speaker election today. Congresswoman Virginia Foxx (NC) is hoping to nab the top spot but is being challenged by Congressman Tim Walberg (MI).

On Thursday, December 22, Congressman Bobby Scott (VA) was elected ranking member of the Education and Labor Committee, which he chaired in the 117th Congress. Scott has both chaired the panel and served as ranking member twice. In the new Congress, his focus will be on funding for HBCUs, student loan program reforms and infrastructure funds for K-12 schools.

Over in the Senate, former Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chair Senator Patty Murray (WA) is set to take control of the Appropriations Committee. Her top priority is the fate of the nation’s child care system. The massive omnibus spending package approved by Congress included significant increases for the Child Care and Development Block Grant and Head Start programs, but Democrats view that new spending as still insufficient. Senator Bernie Sanders (VT) is set to take over the HELP Committee, giving the Medicare-for-All proponent oversight authority over several of his policy priorities including workers’ rights and income inequality, student and medical debt, and drug pricing. He is also expected to push the jurisdiction of the committee to potentially include the health impacts of climate change. He has a history of working across the aisle with the committee’s incoming ranking member Senator Bill Cassidy (LA), but it’s not clear if the two will end up on the same page on many of Sanders’ priorities. Click here to watch the Senate Opening Day of the 118th Congress.

Click here to watch the House Opening Day of the 118th Congress.

Initial Jobless Claims

In the week ending December 24, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 225,000, an increase of 9,000 from the previous week's unrevised level of 216,000. The 4-week moving average was 221,000, a decrease of 250 from the previous week's revised average. The previous week's average was revised down by 500 from 221,750 to 221,250. The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 1.2 percent for the week ending December 17, unchanged from the previous week's unrevised rate.

Click here to access the report.

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