March Is Here, so What’s Next in Washington?

01 March 2022 Legal News: Federal Public Affairs Publication
Author(s): Dennis A. Cardoza Jennifer F. Walsh William Ball Jared B. Rifis Kate M. Kros John R. West Scott L. Klug Michael K. Crossen Theodore H. Bornstein

The first day of spring is right around the corner and so are deadlines for congressional appropriations requests. This month, lawmakers are racing against the clock to fund the government and President Biden looks to shepherd a Supreme Court nominee through the Senate. All of this is in the background of a Russian invasion of Ukraine. Read about what to watch for this month in the Foley & Lardner Government Solutions and Public Affairs monthly newsletter.

1.  Russia has invaded Ukraine; the U.S. and its Allies enact harsh penalties

a. Following a military build-up for weeks and the pursuit of aggressive policies, Russia began its invasion of Ukraine.

1. Following the recognition of the separatist states of Donetsk and Luhansk, Russia began its invasion of Ukraine late in the night on February 23rd.

ii.  President Biden, on February 24th, issued the first of a series of economic sanctions on Russian banks and elites.

1.  Among the bipartisan support on Capitol Hill for further sanctions, Senate Foreign Relations Chair Bob Menendez (D-NJ) stated the U.S. government will “exact maximum costs” in a series of sanctions against Russia.

2.  The U.S. and its Allies agreed on February 26th to remove Russia from the SWIFT banking system, severing the country from securely communicating with banks outside of Russian borders.

3.  President Biden announced on February 28th that it would further sanction Russia’s central bank. The sanctions would bar Americans from conducting any business with the bank and freeze its assets within the United States.

iii.  In an unprecedented move due to their historic neutrality in global conflicts, Switzerland announced on February 28th that it would freeze Russian financial assets in response to their invasion of Ukraine.

1.  This would freeze the assets of President Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, and 367 other individuals.

2.  Russian assets are estimated to be worth more than $11 billion within Swiss Banks.

b.  President Biden will deliver his first State of the Union address tonight.

i.  Biden will address a wide range of topics: the Russian-Ukraine conflict is expected to take center stage. Other likely topics include COVID-19 recovery, Ketanji Brown Jackson’s nomination to the Supreme Court, and the President’s domestic agenda.

2.  Congress finalizes appropriations for FY 2022

a.  The Senate recently cleared a stopgap funding measure to extend government funding through March 11th. Congress now needs to pass another stopgap measure or, more likely, an omnibus.

i.  Appropriators have expressed confidence that they will pass the omnibus spending package by March 11th.

ii.  A full spending package would unlock billions in new spending for the bipartisan infrastructure bill and mark the return of earmarks.

1.  You can read Foley’s insight into earmark spending here.

iii.  The White House is asking for $6.4 billion in new funding to assist Ukraine. The funding is likely to be included in the final omnibus package.

1.  $2.9 billion would go towards humanitarian and security needs for Ukraine. Additionally, 3.5 billion would go towards the Defense Department.

b.  The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is asking Congress for $30 billion in new spending for pandemic response as a supplement to the budget. It remains to be seen if this will be included in the final omnibus package.

i.  This would include addressing current shortages in the Strategic National Stockpile and working to develop new technologies to fight future variants.  All current funds are, according to HHS, either spent or earmarked for needs.

ii.  The breakdown of the ask includes:

1.  $18 billion for vaccines and antivirals

2.  $5 billion for viral testing

3.  $3 billion for treating the uninsured

4.  $4 billion for preparation and future needs

iii.  USAID is requesting $5 billion to be set aside for combating the pandemic globally, which would include $2.55 billion for vaccines, $1.7 billion for treatments, and $750 for aid.  This topline number is less than anticipated.

c.  The White House has told House Budget Chair John Yarmuth (D-KY) that their goal is to release the FY2023 budget proposal within a week of the State of the Union.

3.  President Biden has nominated Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court, will look to shepherd her through the Senate

a.  The White House has announced that Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson will be the nominee to replace Justice Stephen Breyer on the Supreme Court.

i.  Jackson currently sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit and is poised to become the first black woman to sit on the Supreme Court.

ii.  Jackson’s nomination would not change the ideological balance of the court. The court currently has six conservative and three liberal justices.

b.  In June 2021, President Biden nominated Jackson to serve on the DC Court of Appeals. Her nomination won bipartisan support, with the Senate confirming her 53-44. Three Republicans Senators, Susan Collins (ME), Lindsey Graham (SC), and Lisa Murkowski (AK) joined Senate Democrats.

i.  The White House has been privately courting Senate Republicans to create a more bipartisan consensus.

c.  Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin (D-IL) has stated that he would like the nominee confirmed by April 9th.

i.  Former Alabama Senator Doug Jones (D) has been tapped as the “Sherpa” to guide Jackson through the nomination process. 

4.  The Biden Administration looks to implement its infrastructure and regulatory agenda

a.  With Build Back Better currently on hold, the Biden Administration has looked towards regulatory change and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, to implement key aspects of its agenda.

i.  You can read Foley’s insight into the Biden Administration’s regulatory push here.

b.  The Biden Administration has announced that it already pledged over $100 billion of the bipartisan infrastructure bill across the states and towards various federal agencies.

c.  While implementation of the bipartisan infrastructure bill has been delayed due to the lapse in appropriations funding, the Biden Administration has looked for ways to begin implementing key aspects of the bill’s energy agenda. These include:

i.  The Department of Energy recently announced it would begin soliciting comments for implementation of its $9.5 billion Hydrogen Hub program.

1.  The program would set up four regional hubs to accelerate progress on the use of clean hydrogen as a source of energy.

ii.  The Environmental Protection Agency announced that it will implement its $1 billion initiative to clean up and restore severely degraded sites, known as “Areas of Concern” throughout the Great Lakes region.

iii.  The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has announced $14 billion towards strengthening supply chains, waterway improvement, and bolstering climate change resiliency.

5.  The Administration’s proposed new health research agency is losing support from Republicans and causing Democrat divides over its structure

a.  Last month, the House Energy and Commerce committee held a hearing on President Biden’s proposed new entity, the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H).

b.  The Biden Administration’s top science advisor and proponent of the agency, Eric Lander, abruptly resigned, and former NIH Director Francis Collins was tapped to serve as a temporary replacement. 

c.  The proposed agency, which would cost over $6 billion, is losing support from the GOP as midterms approach. 

d.  Democrats are now divided over whether the agency would be housed in the NIH or as a standalone agency within HHS.

e.  Reps. Diana DeGette (D-CO) and Fred Upton (R-MI) included provisions in Cures 2.0 (H.R. 6000) to authorize $6.5 billion to establish ARPA-H within the NIH.

f.  While Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) introduced the ARPA-H Act (H.R. 5585) to make ARPA-H a standalone agency housed in HHS. The agency would be modeled after the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

6.  Congress will continue work on a bicameral, bipartisan mental health package.

a.  Throughout February and March, Senate Finance, Senate HELP, House Energy and Commerce, and House Ways and Means are holding hearings related to the growing mental health and substance abuse disorder crises across the country.

i.  The hearings have focused on the impact of COVID-19 on mental health and substance abuse.

b.  Each committee will begin ramping up legislative efforts to produce a bipartisan bill in the next few months. 

i.  The ultimate goal is to improve the overall mental health care system.

ii.  Various potential focus areas of legislation include workforce, access to care, telehealth, behavioral health for children, and education.

As the Russia-Ukraine war continues, so too do new business and legal implications for companies around the world. For more information on how to mitigate risk and protect your business, contact a Foley lawyer today.

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