When Congress returns from its two-week District Work Period this week, it will begin the ‘home stretch’ prior to the 2022 elections. The House is currently scheduled to be in D.C. for roughly 10 weeks prior to the August recess followed by a relatively short September session. Democrats continue to face bleak polling numbers as the country struggles with sustained inflation and will need a few more legislative victories if they are going to improve their standing prior to November.
The following is a brief look at some of the legislative priorities that remain and their likelihood of enactment.
- Reconciliation: Democrats continue to hold out hope that some portions of Build Back Better can be passed prior to the elections. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) has expressed his willingness to work on a package during this legislative period — which would likely start with a package of energy tax incentives that are largely intended to transition the country away from traditional fossil fuels. How far this effort expands (prescription drug prices, paid family medical leave, etc.) will continue to be limited by Manchin, and the Senator’s focus on increasing domestic energy production will complicate those discussions.
- USICA/America Competes Act: Conferees have been named to reconcile the House- and Senate-passed versions of legislation aimed at bolstering domestic research and manufacturing across the electrical and high-tech space — highlighted by the ongoing shortage of semiconductors. There is a hope that this legislation can be signed into law later this summer. The House-passed version expanded the scope of the legislation by including several provisions focused on climate and other progressive issues. This legislation is a high priority and stands a good chance of being enacted given its impact on the manufacturing supply chain and bipartisan support of the underlying intent.
- COVID Funding/Relief Package: The House and Senate are working to pass COVID-19 packages that will send additional funds to address the pandemic and heavily impacted industries. A restaurant relief package is expected to be included in the next version, which will be a priority when Congress returns in May.
- Russia/Ukraine: Congress sent legislation to President Biden that would ban U.S. imports of Russian energy and strip the country of normal trade status with the U.S. More sanctions and legislation are possible, based on how the conflict progresses. The administration continues to take regular actions to limit trade that could benefit the Russian regime and its supporters.
- FY23 Appropriations: The release of President Biden’s budget has kicked off the FY23 Appropriations cycle in full force with committee hearings and activities underway. While a continuing resolution is all but a certainty in September, the House is expected to try to advance as many bills as it can and the continuation of earmarks (or congressionally directed spending) should continue to be a focal point in an election year. Deadlines for submitting those requests to legislators are approaching over the coming days, and the last two weeks have seen much activity in processing requests for funding.
- SECURE 2.0: The House is expected to consider a package of bipartisan retirement proposals, also known as SECURE 2.0 this week. The effort — which includes automatic enrollment in employer retirement plans, expands “catch-up” contributions, allowing employer matching funds to be utilized to pay for student debts, among other provisions — also has bipartisan support in the Senate and is expected to be signed into law this year.
While other activity is possible around pandemic legislation and other areas, these appear to be the primary vehicles that Congress will look to move in the coming months — and that have a chance of crossing the finish line. As such, they should be viewed closely — both for their intent and for other, related policies that can be added late in the process when things begin to shake free. For more information on any of the above issues or more insight on expectations in Congress, contact Brandon Kirkham, Josh Andrews or Patrick Konrath.
The Energy, Manufacturing and Technology team at Faegre Drinker is dedicated to providing client service and government relations representation to the makers of the products essential to modern life. We are experienced in navigating complicated regulatory regimes and the political landscape on Capitol Hill. Our clients are fueling the advancement of the American economy through the production of the components of microchips, consumer goods, food products, traditional, renewable, and nuclear energy as well as domestic rare earth elements.