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ADVOCACY & POLICY UPDATE - September 11, 2023

Congress Has 11 Legislative Days Left Before a Government Shutdown


Washington Update


Appropriations

This week, Congress is set to begin the battle over spending bills as the Senate, for the first time in years, puts appropriations bills on the floor for debate and House GOP leaders try to work through discord within their party on spending levels. There are only three weeks remaining before the deadline of September 30, when government funding will run out, and Congress has not cleared any of its 12 annual appropriations bills. A temporary stopgap funding measure averting a shutdown is a likely solution, but it faces hurdles in the House with Freedom Caucus members saying they will oppose a temporary measure unless their list of demands is met - which includes substantially cutting funding, new border controls and restrictions on prosecuting former-President Trump.

Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (CA) only had four GOP votes to spare so needs to unite his party if he wants to pass spending bills without Democratic support. If McCarthy turns to Democrats to pass a stopgap measure, some Republicans have already threatened to challenge his leadership position by calling on the House to vacate the speaker’s seat. Last week, Freedom Caucus member Congressman Chip Roy (TX) urged Republicans to prepare for a shutdown when they return to Capitol Hill.

Unlike the contentious House, the Upper Chamber has been working in unison to advance spending bills and have kept their bills free from the policy riders that are causing issues in the House. This week, the Senate is scheduled to consider measures funding veterans, agriculture, and housing programs while the House plans to take up just one spending bill covering the Pentagon.

Last week, Senator Tim Kaine (VA) and Congressman Don Beyer (VA) introduced the End Shutdowns Act, which would automatically enact a stopgap funding patch on October 1 if Congress has not passed appropriations bills by the start of the new fiscal year in order to prevent government shutdowns. It would also prevent the Senate from moving forward with any non-emergency bills until Congress reaches an agreement on a long-term spending deal.

Click here to access more information on the End Shutdowns Act.

Acting Labor Secretary Su

On Wednesday, September 6, Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Ranking Member Bill Cassidy (LA) introduced the Advice and Consent Act to prevent the executive branch from circumventing Congress’ constitutional duty to confirm the Secretary of Labor. The bill is aimed at preventing current Acting Secretary of Labor Julie Su from continuing to serve as Labor secretary and preventing similar situations from arising again. It places a 210-day cap on how long a deputy Labor secretary can serve as acting secretary once they have been nominated - but not confirmed - to lead the department on a permanent basis.

In late July, House Committee on Education and the Workforce Chair Virginia Foxx (NC) and Workforce Protections Subcommittee Chairman Kevin Kiley (CA) introduced a similar bill in the House, titled Department of Labor Succession Act, that clarifies federal law to ensure that the tenure of an Acting Secretary of Labor aligns with the Federal Vacancies Reform Act of 1998. Cassidy’s legislation differs in that it focuses on the DOL-specific statute the administration is using to allow Su to serve indefinitely. The day before he introduced the legislation, Cassidy delivered a speech on the Senate floor calling for President Biden’s withdrawal of Su’s nomination. Su’s pending nomination has lasted a record-breaking 176 days for a floor vote when the same party controls the White House and Senate. Su is currently serving as Acting Secretary of Labor under the Department of Labor succession statute, which the Biden administration claims allows her to serve in perpetuity, even if she does not have Senate votes for confirmation.

Click here to access the Advice and Consent Act press release and legislation.

Artificial Intelligence

On Wednesday, September 6, Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Ranking Member Bill Cassidy (LA) released a white paper that explores Congress’ future role in artificial intelligence (AI) relating to education, health and labor - including whether Congress should be involved to mitigate job displacement from AI, how the job market would adapt without congressional oversight, employee concerns over AI decision making, discrimination and job displacement. The white paper outlines the lack of ‘industry-recognized credentials’ for career and technical education AI courses, the use of AI in school safety and security, the use of technology in college admissions and FERPA compliance, among others.

Last week Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer released a ‘Dear Colleague’ letter regarding bipartisan efforts around artificial intelligence and preparing the workforce for how AI will change jobs.

Click here to access Senator Cassidy’s white paper.

Child Care Cliff

On Wednesday, September 6, at the Democrats’ press conference to discuss the government funding bills, Senate Appropriations Chair Patty Murray (WA) emphasized the need for bipartisan support on child care. An impending fiscal cliff looms as $24 billion in child care Covid relief money is about to expire at the end of the month. While Murray indicated she is ready to work with her Republican colleagues to address the child care crisis, the GOP has not expressed support for additional child care stabilization money. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Ranking Member Bill Cassidy (LA) has previously hesitated about committing additional funds for child care, noting in a hearing earlier this year that the impending fiscal cliff is a “crisis of their own making” by Democrats.

Senators Urge USAID to Invest in Unionized Foreign Service Staff

On Friday, September 8, Senators Edward J. Markey (MA), Elizabeth Warren (MA), and Bernie Sanders (VT) wrote to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Samantha Power urging the Agency to immediately address longstanding workforce challenges and invest in career employees who are permanent staff by collaborating with federal unions, such as the American Foreign Service Associate (AFSA), to empower collective bargaining and union organizing while bolstering Foreign Service representation.

Click here to read the full press release.

Initial Jobless Rate

In the week ending September 2, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 216,000, a decrease of 13,000 from the previous week's revised level. The previous week's level was revised up by 1,000 from 228,000 to 229,000. The 4-week moving average was 229,250, a decrease of 8,500 from the previous week's revised average. The previous week's average was revised up by 250 from 237,500 to 237,750. The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 1.1 percent for the week ending August 26, 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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