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Advocacy & Policy Update - November 9, 2020



House is still in recess. Senate returns today.

There is a CR until December 11.

Coronavirus Stimulus Package/Appropriations

On Wednesday, November 4, House Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY) called on negotiators to reach a deal on another pandemic relief package before the end of the year. Both parties agree another stimulus package is needed but are still far apart on how much they are willing to spend and liability protections for schools and businesses. McConnell has said he is now willing to consider funding for state and local governments - one of the major sticking points between the two parties during negotiations. This morning, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (CA) called on Republicans to re-enter negotiations, signaling she is ready to finalize a deal, which will likely be smaller than $1.8 trillion - likely between $500 billion and $1 trillion. McConnell said the Senate’s priorities will be to fund the government, approve pandemic aid and confirm judicial nominees. McConnell said that he and Pelosi have agreed on the need for an omnibus bill, as opposed to a continuing resolution that would push the budget fight to a later date.

Department of Labor Leadership

Several names have been touted as possible Secretary of Labor choices for President-elect Joe Biden according to his transition team. It is widely expected that he will choose a more progressive candidate to balance out more moderate nominee’s he’s expected to place at other agencies. On the list of potential nominees is Congressman Andy Levin (MI), as well as California Labor Secretary Julie Su, DNC Chairman and former Obama Labor Secretary Tom Perez, AFL-CIO Chief Economist Bill Spriggs and Senator Bernie Sanders (VT).

Biden Education Plans

President-elect Joe Biden wants to eliminate tuition for all students at community college and for families earning under $125,000 at four-year public colleges and universities, according to his education plan. Other proposals include doubling funding on Pell Grants, tripling federal spending on low-income school districts and boosting the money the government spends on special education. Biden has said he will use his regulatory powers to restore a wide range of Obama-era policies that Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has eliminated, which in many cases requires the Biden administration to rewrite rules or seek to postpone DeVos’ rules. This includes the now-dead “gainful employment” regulation that cut off federal funding to low-performing college programs and the “borrower defense” rule, which governs debt relief for defrauded students.

He also wants to end DeVos’ new Title IX rules governing sexual misconduct at schools and colleges. And Biden has said he would restore Obama-era protections for transgender students that the Trump administration withdrew. Biden has called for cancelling $10,000 in debt for all borrowers as an immediate coronavirus relief measure and has a more targeted plan to forgive certain types of student loan debt for borrowers earning less than $125,000.

Congressional Leadership

Republican leadership elections are scheduled for November 17 and top House Republicans are working to secure their standing. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (CA) formally announced his candidacy for another two-year term and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (LA) confirmed he intends to stay in his role. House Education and Labor ranking member Virginia Foxx (NC) confirmed she is running unopposed to continue in her current position.

Senate Republicans are fighting for leadership of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) committee, which will be vacant following the retirement of current chair Lamar Alexander (TN). Senator Richard Burr (NC) has shown interest in the position but has not made a final decision. Burr gave up his Intelligence Committee chairmanship while under investigation for his stock trades amid the pandemic but the investigation is not expected to affect his ability to take up leadership of the HELP committee. If he passes on it, the post would go to Senator Rand Paul (KY), a libertarian-leaning senator who has clashed with infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci over the government’s coronavirus response. The Senate GOP is set to begin its fourth term in the majority and a number of Republican chairmen will be term-limited from their positions due to party rules that limit them to three two-year terms.

Unemployment Rate

On Friday, November 6, the Department of Labor (DOL) Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that nonfarm payrolls increased by 638,000 and the unemployment rate fell to 6.9%, a full percentage point lower from the September rate of 7.9%. The labor force participation rate rose 0.3 percentage points to 61.7%. An alternative measure that includes discouraged workers and those holding part-time jobs for economic reasons also fell, to 12.1% from 12.8% a month ago. Those reporting that they had been out of work because their employer had lost business or closed during the pandemic also dropped considerably, falling to 15.1 million from 19.4 million in September.

Click here to read the full report.

Click here to read the entire November 9 weekly legislative update.

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