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ADVOCACY & POLICY UPDATE - October 4th, 2021

Rodriguez Nominated for ETA Assistant Secretary


Washington Update

Budget/Appropriations

On Thursday, September 30, Congress prevented a government shutdown that would have started at midnight on Thursday after both the House and Senate passed a short-term spending bill hours before the deadline. The continuing resolution would keep spending levels the same for both military and non-defense programs, giving Congress until December 3 to either negotiate a broader deal on new funding totals or pass yet another temporary bill. The legislation would also provide $6.3 billion to help resettle Afghan allies who were evacuated during the U.S. withdrawal and nearly $29 billion in aid to communities recovering from major disasters this year, including Hurricane Ida in August.

Initially, the stopgap measure included a proposal to raise the country’s debt ceiling, but Republicans blocked the Democratic effort to include that language in the legislation. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (NY) negotiated a deal with Republicans that allowed them to vote on a series of amendments, including one that seeks to block the federal government from spending money to carry out President Biden’s pending vaccine requirements for medium and large-sized businesses. That amendment, and another targeting Afghan aid, require 60 votes to pass and failed in a chamber where Democrats hold a tie-breaking majority. The debt ceiling issue remains unresolved. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has told Congress that her agency will run out of flexibility to avoid missing payments after October 18, at which point Washington would face the unprecedented threat of default unless Congress acts.

On Wednesday, September 29, House Democrats adopted a measure to raise the debt ceiling, but Senate Republicans have refused to raise the debt ceiling saying they do not want to pay for Biden’s broader economic agenda. Led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY), the GOP has blocked multiple attempts to address the debt ceiling, arguing that Democrats should use a process known as reconciliation to address the issue. There is now a stalemate in the chamber with significant economic implications, as the Biden administration warns inaction could send the country into a recession.

Click here to access a section-by-section summary of the bill.

Click here to access the full text of the legislation.

Infrastructure Package/Budget Reconciliation

On Friday, October 1, the House delayed a vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill as President Biden urged Congress to reach consensus on a broader spending deal. The President went to the Hill Friday to meet with House Democrats and acknowledged both measures would have to be linked to pass. Progressive Democrats threatened to sink the infrastructure bill unless they get assurances the Senate will pass the broader social spending package. On Sunday, October 3, Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (WA), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said Senator Joe Manchin’s (WV) $1.5 trillion proposal for the social spending package was too small for House Progressives, who have been seeking $3.5 trillion. President Biden and top Democratic lawmakers all seem optimistic a deal will be reached and both packages will be passed with the final amount of the social spending package still to be determined.

On Monday, October 4, two dozen advocacy groups sent a letter to members of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Business Roundtable calling on individual CEOs to support the Democrats’ $3.5 trillion social spending package. Republicans and corporate America have shown support for the idea of paid leave but neither agree with the Democratic proposal that would provide all workers with 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave. Republican lawmakers have cited concerns over cost and businesses have expressed concern with whether a federal program would preempt state and local regulations. Additionally, on Monday, October 4, more than 350 professors at more than 160 business schools sent a letter calling on the White House and Congress to enact a paid family and medical leave policy as part of the social spending package.

Click here to access the letter to Business Roundtable and U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Click here to access the letter to the White House and Congress.

DOL Nominees

On Thursday, October 7, President Biden’s nominees for assistant secretaries for the Employment and Training Administration, Jose Javier Rodriguez, and the Employee Benefits Administration, Lisa Gomez, will testify before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) committee. Rodriguez is a former Florida state senator who narrowly lost reelection in 2020. As a lawmaker, Rodriguez was the primary author of a state measure that would increase Floridians’ jobless benefits, among other things. Gomez is a partner at law firm Cohen, Weiss and Simon, a role she’s held since 1994 and where she works on employee benefits. She has worked primarily with unions, which could mean she might see pushback from some of the panel’s GOP members. USCM sent a letter in support of Rodriguez’s nomination to both DOL and the Senate HELP Committee.

Click here to learn more about the hearings.

Unemployment Report

On Friday, October 8, the Department of Labor (DOL) Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) will release the September jobs report, which economists expect will reflect a slight decrease in the unemployment rate. Experts are worried this reflects a lack of job seekers. The labor force has seen 3 million fewer people overall than at the end of 2019. Economists will be watching the labor force participation rate, which has held at or below 61.7% since April - down from 63.4% in January 2020.

Initial Jobless Claims

In the week ending September 25, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 362,000, an increase of 11,000 from the previous week's unrevised level of 351,000. The 4-week moving average was 340,000, an increase of 4,250 from the previous week's unrevised average of 335,750. The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 2.0 percent for the week ending September 18, a decrease of 0.1 percentage point from the previous week's unrevised rate.

Click here to access the full report.

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