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Legislative Affairs

March 3, 2023

House Republicans Issue Updated Guidance on Community Funding Projects

President’s Budget Comes Out Next Week

House Republicans announced new restrictions on Community Project funds just weeks before deadline for constituents’ submissions. Even as the new House Republican majority agreed to continue the practice of funding Community Projects through the annual appropriations process, the House Appropriations Committee issued new guidance this week that significantly limits the scope and type of projects that House Members may request, including a ban on any projects in the popular Labor, HHS, and Education bill and the Financial Services and General Government bill. These newly announced House restrictions will also inevitably increase constituent requests to Senate offices, where the guidance remains unchanged. This will set up an interesting dynamic where the Senate Labor-HHS-Ed and FSGG bills will include projects, and the House bills will not. Those differences will need to be reconciled in any final measure. WSW is working directly with clients to make the necessary adjustments in the very short window before House and Senate deadlines. You can read more here. These restrictions will add yet another complicating factor in a year where finalizing FY24 appropriations bills in a divided Congress was already going to be extremely difficult, with major disagreements on overall spending for defense and domestic programs.

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

President Biden’s budget will be released on March 9th. This will officially kick off the annual budget and appropriations process in the House and Senate with Administration officials heading to Capitol Hill for high profile budget hearings. They will be defending their budget requests for both defense and discretionary spending and setting the stage for broader battles between the Administration and Congress on topline spending, entitlement programs, and underscoring the need to raise the debt limit in the months to come. As reported, Biden’s budget will cut the federal deficit by $2 trillion over the next 10 years, but House Republicans have already signaled that they will not accept a budget that does not include more significant cuts. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy publicly agreed to take Social Security and Medicare entitlement programs off the table after Biden called out fringe Republican plans to sunset those programs. That leaves plenty of other items in the budget for Congress to negotiate over, and with a looming debt ceiling crisis, appropriators may have to pick and choose which funding is prioritized.

The newly established House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party held its first hearing on Tuesday. Led by Chairman Mike Gallagher this inaugural hearing for the bipartisan committee took place during primetime on Tuesday evening. Chairman Gallagher took particular care to focus the committee on addressing issues like human rights and strategic competition between the Chinese government and the United States. He characterized this competition as “an existential struggle over what life will look like in the 21st century.” The hearing included testimony from former National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and former Deputy National Security Adviser and China expert Matthew Pottinger who compared this strategic competition as akin to the Cold War. Democratic Ranking Member Raja Krishnamoorthi said that efforts to democratize and liberalize the Chinese government through open trade and investment had been miscalculated and had instead provided the Chinese government with a treasure trove of U.S. business and government intelligence. The hearing touched on a variety of interrelated issues, including China’s militant posture towards Taiwan, the possibility that they would support Russia’s war against Ukraine, the recent shootdown of the Chinese spy balloon, and the data concerns over the app TikTok. WSW will continue to monitor these hearings and provide periodic updates.

The Supreme Court heard arguments about Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan this week. Tuesday began oral arguments for the president’s plan which if upheld would cancel $10,000 or $20,000 for all applicants which currently have outstanding student loans. The administration’s argument to provide this unprecedented amount of student loan forgiveness is based on the 2003 HEROES Act which grants broad authority to the Secretary of Education to unilaterally “modify” or “waive” federal student aid programs in response to a national emergency. 5 of the 9 justices expressed some amount of skepticism of the administration’s authority to use the law in this way, but the outcome of this decision is still up in the air until there is a ruling in June. The immediate impacts from this program, either if it is upheld or blocked, could be to the national debt when the government is suddenly saddled with another obligation.

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