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Legislative Affairs

July 7, 2023

Congress Returns Next Week from July 4th Recess

The House and Senate both return to Washington next week after an extended July 4th recess. They will be in session just 12 days before the traditional August break and in-district work period begins.

During the July session, both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees are expected to continue mark-ups of FY24 Appropriations bills at full committee, though a significant divide in overall spending remains. House Appropriators are marking up non-defense discretionary spending bills to FY22 levels or lower levels, which is estimated to result in a gap of $120b in overall spending between the House and Senate Appropriations Committee bills. Also, many Senators (and some House Members) – from both parties – have been advocating for increasing defense spending beyond the levels included in the debt limit agreement. These factors add up to a substantial gap that will need to be reconciled – with potentially great difficulty – during negotiations on any final spending package for FY24. And, as a reminder, the current fiscal year ends September 30th. Speaker McCarthy has signaled the House may pass an early-stop gap funding measure this month to pre-emptively address the potential of a government shutdown at the end of September. The Speaker continues to face pressure from hard-line conservatives for even greater spending cuts.

The House and Senate could also see floor action on the annual National Defense Authorization Act after Committee action in June, though thorny social issues and overall spending constraints could again pose challenges for Floor passage. Work is also expected toward other must pass legislation that expires this fall including the FAA Reauthorization, the Pandemic All Hazard Preparedness Reauthorization, and the Farm bill, among others. The House may also face Member- and Committee-led efforts to impeach Biden, as well as Attorney General Merrick Garland and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer will be working on his side to move a host of Biden nominees including Judicial nominees and Labor Secretary pick Julie Su, who seems stalled, as well as try to build bipartisan consensus on legislation on a framework for governing artificial intelligence. Meanwhile, the Biden Administration continues to travel the country to tout strong economic numbers on the jobs front and tying that good news to their previous legislative victories and ongoing rollout of investments from the Infrastructure Investment Act, the CHIPS Act, and the Inflation Reduction Act. We can also expect ongoing developments on the campaign trail in the lead-up to the 2024 Presidential and Congressional election cycle.

Here’s what else you may have missed this week:

Recent Supreme Court decisions on student loans and affirmative action continue to reverberate throughout Washington. In these two decisions, conservative justices sided with plaintiffs and overturned actions by the Biden Administration or former established judicial precedent. Biden’s plan to forgive between $10,000 and $20,000 of outstanding student loans for borrowers was overturned. With the official end to the emergency powers authorized during the pandemic, students will again be charged interest on outstanding student loans and payments will resume as early as this fall. In addition, college admission decisions which considered race as a factor have been ruled unconstitutional and may add momentum to those targeting corporate diversity, equity, and inclusion policies. And still a third decision by the court, also made along ideological lines, found that a business could refuse creative services to a LGBTQ couple, despite the fact that key details in the case were contested, and possibly even fabricated.

Newly on the horizon is the specter of a nationwide UPS strike that could significantly impact the economy. After eight weeks of contract negotiations, UPS and the Teamsters Union which represents its 340,000 workers have yet to reach a deal, risking the potential for a nationwide strike beginning in August. Such a strike would be the largest by a single employer in US history and could impact a significant portion of the economy, some 6% of US GDP, that depends on UPS for shipping and logistics services. Many issues have been tentatively agreed to, including providing air conditioning in delivery vans, restructuring the work week, and reclassifying some employees. Issues still on the table include raising pay for part-time workers (the majority of UPS workers). Teamsters President Sean O’Brien has also used this contract negotiation as somewhat of a marketing tool for other laborers looking to organize, such as Amazon. “This is the largest collective bargaining agreement in any private sector union,” O’Brien said at a Saturday press conference, which could “set the tone and set the standard high for labor — not just the Teamsters but the entire labor movement.”

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