What’s Next in Washington?

06 January 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

As Congress returns from its holiday recess, January is shaping up to be a busy month in Washington. See below on what awaits Congress and the upcoming agenda the Foley federal public affairs team will be tracking. Our team has also prepared a calendar for the 2nd session of the 117th Congress. To view and download, click here.

  1. Senate Democrats could resume negotiations on President Biden’s social spending bill, the Build Back Better Act
    • After Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) announced late in December that he would be unable to support the bill in its current format, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) stated that he anticipates bringing a revised version of the bill to the Senate floor in the near future.
      • The new version of the bill is anticipated to be significantly different than what was previously offered.
      • The Senate Parliamentarian has not yet completed her work on determining which portions of the legislation are permissible under the Senate rules on reconciliation.
    • The House passed the Build Back Better Act in November, you can read Foley’s insights on the bill here.

  2. A renewed push on voting rights legislation and Senate rules reform
    • In a speech in Georgia on January 11th, President Biden has called on Congress to pass both the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and the Freedom to Vote Act.
      • In 2021, the House passed the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. It has since stalled in the Senate.
    • Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has stated that the Senate will take up a change to Senate Rules by January 17th, Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

  3. A new round of COVID relief may be forthcoming
    • Two senators across the aisle have begun working on a new COVID relief package for restaurants in the wake of the Omicron variant.
    • Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Roger Wicker (R-MS) are leading the charge to introduce a new relief package for restaurants, noting that funding in the last round of restaurant relief passed in the American Rescue Plan ran out by October.
      • Industry groups are also ramping up the pressure to pass new relief. Most notably, gyms and fitness facilities who in a letter to the White House requested additional aid.
    • Currently, the bill is being crafted as a standalone package, but the Senators are exploring other means to pass it, such as upcoming government funding legislation.
    • Senate Appropriations Ranking Member Richard Shelby (R-AL) stated that he was skeptical of the funding and needed more information on how aid would be spent.
      • Citing the a surge in COVID cases and soaring costs due to supply chain issues, more than 20 mayors, including the mayors of New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles sent a letter to Congress requesting additional relief.

  4. Talks on government funding resume
    • On December 2nd, 2021, Congress passed a continuing resolution to fund the government through February 18th, 2022.
    • This month Congress is expected to resume negotiations to fund the government through the rest of the fiscal year.
    • Appropriations requests fiscal year 2023 are due in 4-6 weeks.
    • President Biden is scheduled to unveil his budget for fiscal year 2023 in February.

  5. Redistricting continues across the country
    1. Thus far, 33 states have adopted proposals for redistricting, while 17 states haven’t yet adopted their new maps.
      1. Five states, out of the 33 that have adopted new maps, do not redistrict for House elections due to their population.
    2. Redistricting must be completed prior to the state’s primary elections. Primaries begin in March 2022.
    3. With extensive changes across the aisle, political pundits labeled the new maps a “wash” between the two political parties.
      1. The 2022 Midterms less than a year away, the Foley Public Affairs team will be monitoring changes in House districts across the country.
      2. You can read Foley’s insight on redistricting in California here.

  6. Congress to begin crafting biannual Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) process
    • House and Senate Committees will begin deliberating on what provisions to include in the 2022 WRDA bill. WRDA typically is the legislative vehicle for Congress to authorize U.S. Army Corps of Engineers projects, however the legislation has included other water policy provisions under the Environmental Protection Agency and the Bureau of Reclamation in the past. 
    • Typically, the final WRDA bill often enjoys overwhelming bipartisan support in both chambers, however in the past it has been the arena for partisan battles over policies related to per- or polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).
    • Congress will hold its first hearings on the Biden Administration’s WRDA priorities on January 12, 2022. You can find the official notice for the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hearing here, and the official notice to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing here.

  7. Waters of the United States Rule
    • In November 2021, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of the Army announced a proposed rule to revise the definitions of Waters of the United States (WOTUS). This rule would effectively undue administrative actions taken by the Trump Administration by reinstating the pre-2015 definition of WOTUS. 
    • The official public comment period for the proposed rule is open through February 7, 2022. 
    • White it is unclear when the agencies will move to a final rulemaking on WOTUS, it is likely to attract the attention of Congress and be subject to litigation – as has been the case with previous WOTUS rulemaking.

  8. President Biden sets the date for his first State of the Union address
    • After House Speaker Nancy Pelosi formally invited the president, President Biden has accepted and set the date for his first State of the Union address for March 1st, 2022.
      • The President previously addressed a joint session of Congress in April 2021 to outline his legislative agenda after his first 100 days in office.
    • The speech will outline the next phase of the Biden Administration's legislative agenda and what it hopes to achieve prior to the 2022 midterm elections.

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