What to Know in Washington: Biden Targets Infrastructure Job Pay

  • Biden to sign executive order on labor agreements for infrastructure jobs
  • Senate negotiators feel urgency to agree on measure penalizing Russia

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President Joe Biden will require large federal infrastructure projects to use project labor agreements, a collective bargaining measure the administration says will tilt the rules toward companies with higher-paid workers, Josh Wingrove and Ian Kullgren report.

Biden, who has long touted his support for unions, will sign an executive order today implementing the rule for all federally procured construction projects above $35 million in value.

The measure would apply to projects in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that are direct federal procurement, and not to those led by other entities who’ve been awarded federal grants.

Project labor agreements guarantee a contractor will enter into a collective bargaining pact for the duration of a specific project. They’re seen as a way to bolster wages on federal construction projects, guarantee work for unions, and prevent labor unrest.

Photographer: Al Drago/Bloomberg
Biden speaks at the White House in Washington, D.C., on Thursday.

BIDEN’S SCHEDULE:

  • Biden will speak on the January employment report at 10:45 a.m. The report, which will be released at 8:30 a.m., will be influenced by the omicron variant of the coronavirus, expected revisions, and seasonal factors. Nonfarm payrolls forecasts range from a 400,000 monthly decline in January to a 250,000 advance, and the confluence of crosscurrents will likely make analyzing the report more challenging than normal, Reade Pickert and Olivia Rockeman report.
  • Biden will sign the executive order on labor agreements for infrastructure projects at the White House at 2 p.m.
  • The president will travel to Wilmington, Del., for the weekend, departing the White House at 5:30 p.m.

ALSO AROUND THE ADMINISTRATION:

The Pentagon said DOD doesn’t have enough wide-open spaces on its missile test ranges to thoroughly evaluate hypersonic weapons for the U.S. It also lacks key capabilities to adequately test the threat from incoming versions that adversaries including Beijing and Moscow are developing. The hypersonics evaluation, contained in the nonpublic version of the Pentagon test office’s annual report obtained by Bloomberg News, is a reality check on the Defense Department’s plans to boost spending and speed development of the new weapons that can travel five times the speed of sound. Tony Capaccio has more.

The Biden administration appears to have seized on a new way to clarify its economic aims, all in one little phrase. And it’s causing a small stir, in part because it borrows and seeks to subvert a hallowed conservative dogma. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen used the term “modern supply-side economics” to describe Build Back Better and Biden’s wider economic agenda. “Our new approach is far more promising than the old supply-side economics, which I see as having been a failed strategy for increasing growth,” said Yellen in a Jan. 21 speech. “Modern supply-side economics, in contrast, prioritizes labor supply, human capital, public infrastructure, R&D, and investments in a sustainable environment.” Read more from Christopher Condon.

Briefing Spurs Urgency on Russia Sanctions

Lawmakers in the House and Senate were rushing to draft a new menu of potential sanctions on Russia intended as a deterrent to any aggression against Ukraine.

The sense of urgency on the Hill mounted following briefings yesterday by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines that lasted the better part of a day. Sen. Jim Risch (Idaho), the top Republican of the Foreign Relations Committee who’s been writing legislation with the panel’s chair, Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), said that a draft would be done “very soon.”

Negotiations had been slowed as Democrats and Biden’s administration resisted Republican efforts to impose more sanctions on Russia now. Both sides agreed on the need for more punishing penalties should Russia invade Ukraine, which the Kremlin denies it plans to do. “The disputes are not large,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), another Republican on the Foreign Relations panel, referring to sanctions talks. “Some people want some ahead of time, others just want them prospective or reactive so they serve as a pure deterrent. But on the substance of it we’re not far off.” Read more from Daniel Flatley and Laura Litvan.

Biden says planned sanctions if Russia invades Ukraine would have “a devastating impact” on its economy. But after the Kremlin spent the last eight years preparing for more penalties, economists say the pain may not be as bad as some fear. The measures under consideration, which include limits on big banks’ ability to use dollars and euros, as well as restrictions on government debt and access to U.S. technology, would be the most severe since the first wave of limits slapped on Russia in 2014 following the annexation of Crimea, according to U.S. and European officials. Read more from Anya Andrianova.

THE DAY IN CONGRESS:

  • The House meets at 9 a.m. to vote on the U.S.-China competition bill.
  • The Senate returns on Monday.

ALSO HAPPENING ON THE HILL:

A proposal to revamp U.S. international ocean-shipping laws for the first time in over two decades was added to a sweeping House bill that aims to boost competition against China. The House voted 367-59 to add an update to federal maritime shipping laws as an amendment to the measure on the floor yesterday, reviving a legislative effort to address supply chain bottlenecks at U.S. ports. That effort also got a boost in the Senate, where lawmakers released two related shipping bills. The House is set to vote on the U.S-China competition package today. Read more from Lillianna Byington.

  • A companion measure was introduced in the Senate yesterday. Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) say the bill will ease the problem of agricultural exports sitting at ports while ocean carriers return to Asia with empty containers, Laura Curtis reports.

A key Democrat challenging the dominance of technology giants in the digital economy is vying to win over more moderate colleagues who don’t yet support his bipartisan antitrust bills. A Democratic aide said Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), who chairs the House Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee, met yesterday with the New Dems, a caucus of 97 centrist Democrats, some of whom are skeptical of his tech-focused legislation. The four bills, aimed at Apple, Meta, Amazon and Alphabet, were part of a bipartisan antitrust package that advanced out of committee last June. Read more from Anna Edgerton.

A sweeping pandemic preparedness bill aims to encourage CDC collaboration with the private sector, an effort to break down an agency culture one senior Republican described as so insular that it contributed to testing delays and other problems early in the coronavirus pandemic. “I think it’s cultural because there’s a fight to produce anything that’s not internally generated,” Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), the top Republican of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee as well as the architect of the 2006 Pandemic and All Hazards Preparedness Act, said during a briefing yesterday. Jeannie Baumann has more.

Republican senators asked the IRS to respond to concerns with the agency’s use of the facial recognition software provider ID.me to access online tax accounts. “The IRS has unilaterally decided to allow an outside contractor to stand as the gatekeeper between citizens and necessary government services,” Senate Finance Committee Republicans wrote in a letter yesterday. “The decision millions of Americans are forced to make is to pay the toll of giving up their most personal information, biometric data, to an outside contractor or return to the era of a paper-driven bureaucracy,” they said, Laura Davison reports.

Excess business loss deduction limits suspended during the pandemic are unlikely to get another extension, senior staffers on the Senate Finance Committee said yesterday, because they are a popular lever to pay for policy priorities from both parties. The 2017 tax law created Section 461(l) that limited deductions on excess business losses as a way to pay for tax cuts in the law. The 2020 and 2021 Covid aid laws temporarily suspended the cap as a way to help struggling business owners. That suspension is scheduled to end in March, a year after the 2021 law was signed. Read more from David Hood.

Politics & Influence

The Republican National Committee is expected to consider a resolution today to censure Reps. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), two of the most vocal GOP critics of Donald Trump, for serving on the House committee investigating the attack on the Capitol last year. The RNC’s resolutions committee unanimously approved censuring the two lawmakers last night, sending the measure to the full RNC for a vote today at its winter meeting in Utah, according to Harmeet Dhillon, a national committeewoman from California and a co-sponsor of the resolution. Read more from Mark Niquette.

At his first presidential campaign rally in 2019, Biden told workers at a Pittsburgh union hall he needed their support to win. Now, Biden is running out of time to return the favor. The self-described “most pro-union president” faces an ever-narrowing window to persuade Congress to pass a stalled measure to revamp federal labor law—legislation unions believe is essential for future organizing and membership growth. With Biden’s poll numbers in poor shape and Democrats in danger of losing the House and maybe the Senate in November’s midterm elections, the next nine months could be Biden’s last chance to pay back a constituency that will be crucial to the Democratic Party’s prospects in 2024. Read more from Ian Kullgren.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul locked in a Democratic power grab yesterday, signing bills that all but guarantee Democrats will dominate in Albany and in the congressional delegation for the next decade. The U.S. House district map maximizes the party’s prospects by building advantages into as many as 22 of the 26 new districts. The state maps were crafted to maintain the current Democratic supermajority in both the Senate and Assembly. Read more from Keshia Clukey.

A group of voters in New York are asking a court to reject the new congressional redistricting map. The lawsuit, filed in state Supreme Court in Steuben County in western New York yesterday, alleges that Democrats in the state Legislature and the Office of the Governor “brazenly enacted a congressional map that is undeniably politically gerrymandered in their party’s favor.” The lawsuit calls for the court to “invalidate the unconstitutional congressional map.” The filing is the first against the newly drawn lines. Read more from Keshia Clukey.

One of the nine Republicans running for the U.S. Senate in Ohio said he was dropping out of the race after speaking with former President Donald Trump and deciding that so many “Trump candidates” in the race could hurt the party’s chances of winning. “After talking to President Trump, we both agreed this race has too many Trump candidates and could cost the MAGA movement a conservative seat,” Bernie Moreno said in a statement last night, referring to Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan and committing to support the candidate that he eventually endorses. Read more from Mark Niquette.

To contact the reporters on this story: Zachary Sherwood in Washington at zsherwood@bgov.com; Brandon Lee in Washington at blee@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Giuseppe Macri at gmacri@bgov.com; Loren Duggan at lduggan@bgov.com; Michaela Ross at mross@bgov.com

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