Federal Legislative Update - February 6, 2023
Both chambers are back in Washington, D.C., this week. President Biden will address the nation and Congress will continue conversations around raising the federal debt limit.
President Biden will deliver his second State of the Union address on Tuesday evening at 9pm ET/6pm PT. The President’s primetime address will outline his vision for the country in the last half of his first term and potentially set the stage for a 2024 run for the presidency. State of the Union addresses allow the President to speak about an administration’s legislative priorities. Biden will likely speak on the following topics: a clean debt ceiling increase, police reforms, the war in Ukraine, immigration, the economy, and implementation of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act. In addition to his speech outlining the health of the nation, the Biden Administration last week announced that the release of the President’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2024 Budget Request will occur on Thursday, March 9. The release of the budget is typically the start of the congressional budget and appropriations cycle, including earmarks (i.e., Community Project Funding and Congressionally Directed Spending in the House and Senate, respectively.)
The House will consider 3 bills under suspension of the rules, including the Energy Cybersecurity University Leadership Act of 2023 (HR 302), which directs the Secretary of Energy to establish a program to provide financial assistance to graduate students and postdoctoral researchers pursuing certain courses of study related to cybersecurity and energy infrastructure. The House will also vote on three additional bills, including, H.R. 185, to terminate the requirement imposed by the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for proof of COVID–19 vaccination for foreign travelers and two House Resolutions disapproving of actions taken by the District of Columbia Council. Following this week’s votes, the House will take a two-week hiatus for District Work Weeks back home and return to legislative items in Washington on February 27. On the Senate side, the upper chamber will vote on the nomination of DeAndrea Benjamin to be a U.S. Circuit Judge for the Fourth Circuit. Both parties will then have their party retreats on Wednesday.
After the first in-person conversation on the debt limit, President Biden and Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif) were able to outline the beginnings of what will turn into a several-months long negotiation. The White House released a statement noting the conversation was “frank and straightforward,” while Speaker McCarthy pointed out that the discussion included “no agreements, no promises.” McCarthy wants a two-year spending cap deal covering FYs 2024 and 2025, while Biden hopes to preserve initiatives already passed through Congress. Implications for the parties’ inability to agree to a debt limit package could result in a first-ever U.S. default. According to Jared Bernstein, a Council of Economic Advisers member, the inevitable negotiations are still an “absolute non-starter” as the White House maintains its stance on raising the debt ceiling. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), co-chair of the House Problems Solvers Caucus, said that there are GOP members who would break with Republican leadership to raise the debt ceiling. He also added that Democrats must agree to spend cuts along the way.
This week, the House and Senate will continue organizational meetings, formally settling committees into the 118th session.
For the remainder of the week, the House will hold several committee hearings, including two Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hearings on “FAA Reauthorization: Enhancing America’s Gold Standard in Aviation Safety” and one on “Stakeholder Perspectives on the Impacts of the Biden Administration’s Waters of the United States (WOTUS) Rule.” On the Senate side, the Agriculture Committee will hold a hearing on the “Farm Bill 2023: Commodity Programs, Crop Insurance, And Credit.”