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Advocacy & Policy Update - January 4, 2021



Labor Secretary Nomination

President-elect Joe Biden’s pick for Labor Secretary is one of the last pending cabinet positions yet to be announced. Sources familiar with the deliberations have indicated Boston Mayor Marty Walsh is high on the list for consideration, although Walsh said in a press conference that he has not spoken with anyone in Biden’s administration recently about it. One of the things that might be holding up the nomination is pressure Biden is receiving from Asian American and Pacific Islander lawmakers and advocacy groups to nominate Julie Su, California’s labor secretary. It appears that the position of Labor Secretary is down to either Walsh or Su.

Education Secretary Nomination

On Tuesday, December 22, President-elect Joe Biden announced Connecticut Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona as his nominee for U.S. Secretary of Education. This adds another Latino to Biden’s cabinet and fulfills his campaign promise to name an educator with public school experience to the position. Cardona has worked as an elementary school teacher, principal, district administrator and assistant superintendent, as well as adjunct professor before being named Connecticut’s state chief last year. He has also pressed schools to remain open for in-person classes during the pandemic with about 70 percent of Connecticut’s schools reopening for in-person instruction this fall. As Education Secretary, Cardona would help lead Biden’s effort to boost federal education funding so most schools can reopen in the first 100 days of his administration. Congressional Leadership

On Sunday, January 3, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi (CA) was re-elected to a fourth, non-consecutive term as Speaker of the House in a vote of 216-209.

Also, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee will get a new chair with outgoing Chair Lamar Alexander (TN) and Mike Enzi (WY), the second-most senior Republican on the Committee, both retiring. If Republicans retain Senate control, Richard Burr (NC) would be next in line. If the Democrats flip the Senate, Senator Patty Murray (WA) would be in line for Chair of the Committee. Whomever is chair will need a broad consensus on legislation given the tightly divided Senate where most legislation will require 60 votes for passage. Higher Education Act reauthorization is one opportunity for bipartisanship, and one of Senator Murray’s priorities.

H-1B Visas

On Thursday, December 31, President Donald Trump issued a proclamation that would continue to block most people from receiving legal permanent residency - extending a freeze on green cards and barring most categories of foreign workers through the end of March, citing the coronavirus pandemic. The President also extended a temporary halt on H-1B visas for highly skilled workers, a program popular with the U.S. tech industry, and other temporary work visas, as well as seasonal H-2B visas and the J visas used by live-in child care providers.

President-elect Joe Biden has indicated he will overturn many of Trump’s actions to limit immigration but has not directly addressed the President’s coronavirus-related restrictions. Biden will take office on January 20 and likely face pressure from business groups who feel Trump’s actions are detrimental to the country’s economic recovery.

Click here to access the proclamation.

Unemployment Rate

In the week ending December 26, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 787,000, a decrease of 19,000 from the previous week's revised level. The previous week's level was revised up by 3,000 from 803,000 to 806,000. The 4-week moving average was 836,750, an increase of 17,750 from the previous week's revised average. The previous week's average was revised up by 750 from 818,250 to 819,000. The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 3.6 percent for the week ending December 19, unchanged from the previous week's unrevised rate.

Click here to read the full report.

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