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Legislative Affairs

December 2, 2022

Rail Strike Averted

Key Dates
December 15, 2022 – Target Adjournment of 117th Congress: 13 days
December 16, 2022 – Continuing Resolution Expires: 14 days
January 3, 2023 – Swearing-in of 118th Congress: 32 days

This was the second week of freshman orientation for new Members of the House, so Washington was abuzz. Beyond this, both the House and Senate were in session. House & Senate leaders continue to meet on key legislative priorities in the end-of-year sprint. Here’s what you might have missed:

Rail Crisis Averted. With Christmas approaching, the White House asked Congress to ratify the agreement settled on by the White House, the leadership of the rail workers’ organizations, and industry. The rank-and-file of many of the rail workers’ organizations had rejected the settlement, and the White House did not want to risk a rail strike during the holiday season. The main sticking point was the number of provided sick days under the agreement. As a result, the House passed two bills: one to pass the underlying agreement, and one to provide seven additional sick days. The Senate only ratified the underlying agreement, though a handful of Republicans joined most Democrats in voting for the sick days provision. Many commentators view this as a “lose-lose” for the President: he either upset organized labor, or he risked snarled supply chains. President Biden signed the legislation this morning.

House Republicans Opt to Keep Earmarks in House Majority. This week, the House Republican Conference voted to allow earmarks by a 158-52 margin. The Bipartisan Policy Center wrote an op-ed in their defense earlier this week, which you can find here. News reports indicate that while earmarks will stay, House Republicans will likely tweak them. Your WSW team continues to track this development.

One somewhat related note: more than half of the Republicans who were in Congress in 2017 won’t be in office at the start of this upcoming Congress.

Omnibus Negotiations Ongoing. On Tuesday, the House and Senate legislative leaders met with President Biden and Vice President Harris to discuss ongoing omnibus negotiations. As a reminder, the current continuing resolution expires December 16, though many are beginning to suggest another continuing resolution through December 23. While Republicans are willing to play ball – Minority Leader McConnell agreed that an omnibus is better than a year-long continuing resolution – it will come at a cost. Republicans are seeking increased defense spending as a concession, with the logic that Democrats have spent enough on domestic spending through the Inflation Reduction Act and other measures. Roll Call has more coverage here.

NDAA Negotiations Continue. A compromise on the FY23 National Defense Appropriation Act (NDAA) emerged Wednesday. The deal would set the budget topline of the FY2023 at $847 billion for national defense, and would go as high as $858 billion when including programs that fall outside of the jurisdiction of the Senate and House Armed Services committees. This is a full $45 billion higher than President Biden’s initial proposal. There is one potential roadblock: some Republican Senators have threatened to block the bill over the Administration’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate. While they alone cannot block the bill’s passage, it can dramatically draw out the length of time it will take to pass.

House Democrats Begin to Round Out Leadership. With the “Big 3” settled, House Democrats filled out much of the rest of their leadership roster this week. Most notably, current Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC) will now serve as Assistant Democratic Leader, after Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) dropped out. Other Members who took roles in Democratic leadership include Joe Neguse (D-CO), Dean Phillips (D-MN), Veronica Escobar (D-TX), and Lauren Underwood (D-IL).

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