Su Advances Out of Committee, Future Remains Uncertain in Full Senate Vote
On Wednesday, April 26, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee advanced Julie Su’s nomination for U.S. Department of Labor Secretary on a party line vote of 11-10. As Su’s nomination moves to the Senate floor, the votes of several moderate Democrats and Independent Kyrsten Sinema (AZ) remain unclear. Republicans have been united in opposition to Su, consistently calling into question her tenure as California’s Labor secretary and criticizing her handling of unemployment insurance fraud as well as the state’s independent contractor rule. Since President Biden’s announcement of her nomination in February, there has been a flurry of lobbying efforts, both for and against her nomination.
House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (NC) sent a follow-up letter to Acting Secretary Su on Wednesday, April 26, asking whether she will accept her invitation to testify before the Committee on May 17. An initial request was sent by Foxx on Tuesday, April 18.
A date has not yet been set for Su’s full Senate vote.
Click here to access Congresswoman Foxx’s letter.
On Wednesday, April 28, in a 217-215 vote, House Republicans passed a bill that raises the debt ceiling and slashes federal spending, particularly in key areas of President Biden’s agenda. The GOP package is not likely to pass the Democratic Senate and Biden has already indicated he would veto it — saying Congress needs to increase the debt limit with no strings attached — but Republicans are uniting behind a plan that puts pressure on the Administration and Democrats to negotiate. One thing the legislation would do is rescind funding to update state unemployment insurance systems. It would repeal unobligated funds Congress approved in a series of emergency spending packages during the pandemic — including $1.5 billion of the $2 billion the Biden administration allocated as part of the American Rescue Plan to modernize unemployment insurance systems.
Last week, the Department of Labor announced grants totaling up to $200 million to strengthen UI systems. The Department indicated that by June it expects to have made available $1.6 billion to states to modernize and improve their UI systems.
The legislation also includes new restrictions on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) that would raise the age limit for adult work requirements to receive the benefits, and would restrict states’ ability to waive some work requirements. GOP leaders agreed to preserve some of the tax credits and incentives for biofuels that the initial draft repealed - which is part of a broader GOP effort to rein in spending on SNAP. Additionally, the House GOP debt ceiling plan requires many Medicaid recipients to work 80 hours per month with the bill mandating able-bodied adults ages 19 to 55 without children to work, partake in community service or be in a work-training program for at least 80 hours per month to maintain eligibility. These bill provisions face strong opposition from the Administration and Democrats.
Senate Appropriations Chair Patty Murray (WA) and Vice Chair Susan Collins (ME) are currently negotiating government funding totals for FY24 that they hope will serve as a bipartisan framework for the spending debate that is hindering debt-limit talks.
Child Care for Working Families Act
On Thursday, April 27, Democratic lawmakers reintroduced the Child Care for Working Families Act, with Senators Patty Murray (WA) and Congressman Bobby Scott (VA) leading the bills in their respective chambers. The bill aims to address the child care crisis and assist families across the country with affordable, high-quality child care. The bill funds the creation of a universal preschool program to provide free pre-K for 3- and 4-year olds, wage support for pre-K and Head Start educators and caps costs for child care to no more than seven percent of their income.
Click here to learn more about the bill.
Initial Jobless Claims
In the week ending April 22, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial unemployment claims was 230,000, a decrease of 16,000 from the previous week's revised level. The previous week's level was revised up by 1,000 from 245,000 to 246,000. The 4-week moving average was 236,000, a decrease of 4,000 from the previous week's revised average. The previous week's average was revised up by 250 from 239,750 to 240,000. The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 1.3 percent for the week ending April 15, unchanged from the previous week's unrevised rate.
Click here to access the report.