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ADVOCACY & POLICY UPDATE - November 6, 2023

House Considers Stopgap Measure


Washington Update


Appropriations

On Sunday, November 5, Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (LA) said that Congress continues to work “in good faith” towards passing appropriations bills before the November 17 deadline to avert a government shutdown, but recognized a stopgap funding bill will likely be needed to extend the deadline. He has proposed a continuing resolution (CR) extending funding through mid-January or mid-April to give lawmakers more time to negotiate the 12 separate bills funding the government through the fiscal year that ends September 30, 2024. Johnson also has the difficult task of not only passing appropriations bills through the House, but drafting bills that could also pass the Democratic-controlled Senate. House Republicans have already had to delay voting on the Transportation-HUD measure due to rising concerns from GOP members representing districts in and around Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor about proposed cuts to the company. The House is hoping to take up the Labor-HHS-Education and Commerce-Justice-Science bills the week of November 13, but both measures are contentious and did not even make it through full committee markup. Also stuck in limbo is the Agriculture-FDA bill. House Republicans were able to pass the Legislative Branch bill, Interior-Environment bill and approved their $14.3 billion Israel aid package last week. The House Rules Committee plans to meet today on the Financial Services measure before putting it up for floor debate.

New Infrastructure Funding

On Monday, November 6, the Biden-Harris Administration announced plans to spend $16.4 billion, a fourth of the $66 billion the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) set aside for rail projects, to improve rail service on Amtrak’s Northeast corridor. The funding will support 25 projects, is expected to reduce delay and improve train speeds between Boston and Washington, and support high profile projects like the Hudson River Tunnel and Frederick Douglass Tunnel. The investment will create thousands of good-paying construction jobs and promote a strong workforce pipeline. Amtrak is investing more than $50 million in local workforce development and community investments, including pre-apprenticeships and apprenticeship programs to ensure individuals can access these jobs.

Click here to access the full fact sheet.

Executive Order on Artificial Intelligence

On Monday, October 30, President Biden signed the “Executive Order on the Safe, Secure, and Trustworthy Development and Use of Artificial Intelligence.” The executive order puts guardrails in place on the use and development of AI, including provisions that will make large upcoming AI models, such as OpenAI’s GPT-5, subject to oversight before they are released. President Biden said the executive order was designed to mitigate the risks from AI while still harnessing its full potential and benefits. As part of the executive order, any company building an AI model that could potentially pose a risk to national security must disclose it to the government and share data about what is being done to secure it in accordance with federal standards to be developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

It also aims to increase talent in this sector and accelerate hiring pathways for AI workers in the federal government with “dozens to hundreds” of AI-focused hires. The order says it will also reduce the barriers to immigration for international workers in the AI sector. A White House spokesperson said that effort does not include increasing the cap on the number of H1B visas, but that there will be an emphasis on making the overall visa process smoother for individuals working in this critical sector. It also directs the Council of Economic Advisors and the Department of Labor to examine the labor market effects of AI, outline best practices for employers, and suggest new executive actions or legislation to help workers navigate the AI landscape.

Click here to access the executive order.

Senate Artificial Intelligence

On Wednesday, November 1, Senator Chuck Schumer hosted his third closed-door artificial intelligence (AI) insight forum with a focus on AI in the workforce. The forum included labor and business leaders, such as National Nurses United Executive Director Bonnie Castillo and UNITE HERE Local 25 Washington’s Paul Schwalb. On Tuesday, October 31, Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace Safety Chair John Hickenlooper (CO) and Ranking Member Mike Braun (IN) held the hearing “AI and the Future of Work: Moving Forward Together” to discuss how AI will assist in work tasks, augment hiring tools and its positive and/or negative effects on economic inequalities.

Click here to access a video of the hearing.

Unemployment Rate

On Friday, November 3, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released the October unemployment report, which showed nonfarm payrolls increased 150,000 last month with the unemployment rate rising 0.1% to 3.9% - an almost two-year high that indicates employers’ strong demand for workers is beginning to slow. Manufacturing employment dropped 35,000, with the UAW strike at Ford Motor, General Motors and Chrysler parent Stellantis factories as well as at Mack Trucks plants subtracting 33,000 jobs. The report strengthened financial market expectations that the Federal Reserve is done raising interest rates for the current cycle, and improved the chances of the U.S. central bank engineering a "soft-landing" for the economy rather than plunging it into recession as some economists had feared.

Click here to access the report.

Click here to read Acting Secretary of Labor Su’s statement on the October jobs report.

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