April 17, 2023
What to expect in Washington (April 17)
The House and Senate are back in session today after a two-week recess, which was preceded by some bombastic exchanges over the debt limit that left the two parties no closer to resolving that issue. It is widely thought that no legislation on any tax or other fiscal issues can move while the debt limit issue remains unresolved, and it is unclear how it can be resolved by the roughly mid-year deadline.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is delivering a speech on the debt limit at the New York Stock Exchange, which Punchbowl News said is intended to signal to Wall Street the seriousness of the debt limit impasse and Speaker McCarthy suggested harkens back to a previous NYSE spending cut speech by President Reagan. It was also reported that Rep. Garret Graves (R-LA) is taking the lead on helping craft a debt limit proposal given the recognition that the House Republican FY 2024 budget proposal, which President Biden has asked to see as a condition of debt limit negotiations, won't be ready in time for the debt limit deadline and, according to Speaker McCarthy, doesn't need to be.
The Wall Street Journal March 29 reported House Budget Committee Chairman Jodey Arrington (R-TX) as saying the House budget process could take months to play out and go beyond the debt limit deadline. An April 6 New York Times article reported on turmoil among Republicans regarding budget negotiations.
"It is now possible that when House Republicans return from the two-week Easter recess, they will first deal with proposals to raise the debt limit, trying to win conservative concessions in exchange, before they formally take up the 10-year budget proposal that would then allow them to begin processing the annual federal agency appropriations," an April 1 Washington Post analysis said. "What is called the X date, the absolute deadline at which the United States would default on its debt, remains unknown until tax season wraps up this spring and Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen can assess the balance, leading to a decision that will set in motion the first real struggle with Biden and a strict deadline for action."
Politico reported April 14 that Speaker McCarthy "plans to soon make a formal opening bid to President Joe Biden. The precise details are still under discussion, but the goal is to coalesce around legislative text soon with a vote by the end of May. More important than the specifics, according to GOP sources, is that the party can demonstrate to Democrats that it's serious about refusing a 'clean' debt limit." Speaker McCarthy tweeted on Saturday, "If you gave your child a credit card and they kept hitting the limit, you wouldn't just raise their credit limit — you'd sit down and help them figure out where they could cut back on spending. The same is true of our debt. Now is the time for a responsible debt limit increase."
An April 16 WSJ story cited conservative member Chip Roy (R-TX) as saying the debt limit impasse could get even more heated than the contested Speaker's votes in January. "He wants to see a debt-ceiling deal that is paired with immediate spending cuts that will start in the coming fiscal year, including setting the top-line number for appropriations spending to levels from two years earlier," the story said. "He is pushing for Republicans to pass a plan this month to kick-start negotiations with the White House."
Punchbowl this morning: "House Republicans are proposing to lift the debt limit until May 2024; cap non-defense discretionary spending at $584 billion; limit budget growth to 1% annually for the next 10 years; prohibit student loan forgiveness; repeal green tax credits; institute work requirements for social programs; enact H.R. 1, the large-scale energy package the House GOP pushed through the chamber last month; and pass the REINS Act, which is designed to reduce federal regulation."
Personnel — Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced he would return this week after recovering from a fall. Senator Dianne Feinstein's (D-CA) return does not appear imminent given the request to be replaced temporarily on the Judiciary Committee; some members of Congress have suggested she resign. "Democrats had hoped that the seat they gained in last year's midterms, nudging their 50-50 majority to 51-49, would make it easier to move nominations and run the Senate more efficiently," said a NYT report on Senate attendance challenges. "But it has proved very difficult to keep all 51 senators aligned with Democrats available for any stretch, with illnesses and other conditions afflicting members, even as Congress works to confirm President Biden's nominees and heads toward crucial showdowns over spending and raising the federal debt ceiling."
EVs — The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) April 12 announced new proposed federal vehicle emissions standards to accelerate the transition to clean vehicles and projected that EVs could account for 67% of new light-duty vehicle sales and 46% of new medium-duty vehicle sales in 2032. The rules said the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) in 2021 and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) in 2022 together provided further support for reducing emissions, including for electric vehicles. "These industry advancements in the production and sales of zero- and near-zero emission vehicles are already occurring both domestically and globally, due to significant investments from automakers, greatly increased acceptance by consumers, and added support from Congress, state governments, the European Union and other countries," the rules said.
A story in the April 13 Washington Post said of IRA EV credits, "To qualify for the subsidies, all vehicles must be assembled in North America. Any vehicle with batteries or critical minerals from a still unspecified 'foreign entity of concern' does not qualify. Rising percentages of batteries, battery components and critical minerals must also be sourced from North America or free-trade-agreement nations. Personal income and vehicle price limits apply." The story also noted that the IRS will release an updated list of what vehicles qualify under the incentive program on Tuesday, April 18.
Congress — The Senate will convene at 3 p.m. today, April 17, with a vote at 5:30 p.m. on the motion to invoke cloture on Radha Iyengar Plumb to be a Deputy Undersecretary of Defense. Cloture has been filed on the nomination of Amy Lefkowitz Solomon to be an Asst. Attorney General and S. 870, the Fire Grants and Safety Act. The House will meet at 2:00 p.m. today, with votes postponed until 6:30 p.m. House business this week includes consideration of the Veto Message to Accompany H.J. Res 27, on congressional disapproval of the rule relating to "Revised Definition of 'Waters of the United States;'" and H.R. 734, the Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act of 2023.
The WSJ April 15 reported on Republicans' use of the Congressional Review Act, including the Waters of the United States measure, to target rules written by administration agencies and force votes on priority issues. "With Congress coming back into session, Republicans plan additional efforts to keep their agenda in the spotlight," the report said. "A series of disapproval resolutions on environmental regulations is expected to receive votes in the coming weeks, among them a resolution introduced by Sen. Deb Fischer (R., Neb.) to overturn rules governing trucking emissions and one introduced by Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R., Wyo.) that would overturn new definitions of habitats for purposes of enforcing the Endangered Species Act."
Nominations — Axios reported April 13 that Julie Su's nomination for Labor Secretary could be in peril given reservations stated by Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), meaning, with GOP members opposed, one more Democratic defection could sink the bid. The Senate HELP Committee will hold a hearing on the nomination on Thursday, April 20 at 10 a.m.
The President's nominee to chair the White House Council of Economic Advisers, Jared Bernstein, is being backed by former Republican CEA chairs, in part for his role in drafting of the Opportunity Zones program included in the TCJA, the NYT reported. A hearing on Bernstein's nomination, to succeed Cecilia Rouse, will be held at the Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday, April 18.
Hearings — The many committee hearings and other activity scheduled this week include the following.
Tuesday, April 18
Wednesday, April 19
Thursday, April 20
Friday, April 21