What to Know in Washington: Lawmakers Seek Bills for Priorities

Lawmakers are facing a legislative sprint to the end of 2021, and are racing to tie their political and policy wish lists to a slate of must-pass measures. President Joe Biden continues to tout the benefits of the recently passed bipartisan infrastructure plan, as he travels to Michigan to discuss electric vehicles.

Here’s what Bloomberg Government is tracking for Wednesday.

Biden’s Agenda:

  • The president will visit General Motors’ Factory ZERO electric vehicle assembly plant in Detroit, Mich., to deliver remarks at 4:30 p.m. on electric vehicle provisions in the bipartisan infrastructure law.
  • Biden is scheduled to return to the White House at 7:20 p.m.

Congressional Schedule:

  • The Senate meets at 9:30 a.m. and will hold procedural votes on a Biden nominee and the annual defense policy bill.
  • The House is in at 10 a.m. with plans to vote on a resolution that would censure Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.).
  • Click here for a complete list of today’s hearings and markups.

Lawmakers Tie Priorities to Year-End Bills

A procedural vote today to expedite debate on the annual defense policy measure will kick into gear lawmakers’ push to tack their priorities onto must-pass spending bills before the end of the year.

The defense bill and a likely forthcoming spending package carrying 12 annual appropriations bills are primary targets for vehicles to complete other items, with little more than 20 scheduled workdays remaining.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) blazed the trail by telling lawmakers that with the tight schedule a $250 billion bill to spur U.S. competitiveness with China, help the semiconductor industry, and provide relief for the supply chain will be attached to the defense bill. Schumer said adding the competitiveness bill to the must-pass $740 billion defense bill is necessary to address a crisis. “Nothing will do more over the next few years to reduce supply chain problems than this bill, and especially in the semiconductor industry,” Schumer said yesterday on the Senate floor. “The chip shortage isn’t some abstract issue. It is impacting daily lives of America.”

Members of both parties are on board with the strategy as the clock ticks. Nancy Ognanovich rounds up the potential pathways for policy priorities.

  • Key House lawmakers are raising potential obstacles to Schumer’s plan to force action on the China competitions by attaching it to the defense bill. House Foreign Affairs Chair Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) said he wants the House to vote on a bill approved by his committee to counter China rather than rubber-stamp the Senate’s almost $250 billion measure, which includes $52 billion in grants and incentives for the domestic semiconductor industry. “The House has to have a voice in this and not just what the Senate sends over.” Meeks said in an interview. Read more from Daniel Flatley.
Photographer: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg
Schumer speakers to reporters at the Capitol on Tuesday.

ALSO HAPPENING ON THE HILL

  • The House will vote today on a measure aimed at formally censuring Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) for posting an altered animated video depicting violence against Biden and fellow Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). Gosar removed the video from Twitter but only after it garnered millions of views and spurred widespread condemnation from Democrats. “That is simply unacceptable and demeaning and dangerous to the environment of the House,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told reporters. Erik Wasson and Jarrell Dillard have more.
  • Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.) says he’s unperturbed by an effort to push him out of a minority leadership post on the House Homeland Security Committee as punishment for bucking his party to support the bipartisan infrastructure bill earlier this month. “It would be nice if people spent more time worrying about the issues instead of trying to take out their colleagues,” Katko told Bloomberg Government yesterday. His Democratic counterpart, Chair Bennie Thompson (Miss.), also said he hopes “cooler heads will prevail.” Read more from Ellen M. Gilmer.
  • Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen indicated lawmakers risk a government default if they fail to lift the legal debt ceiling by Dec. 15. “While I have a high degree of confidence that Treasury will be able to finance the U.S. government through Dec. 15,” Yellen wrote yesterday in a letter to congressional leaders, “there are scenarios in which Treasury would be left with insufficient remaining resources to continue to finance the operations of the U.S. government beyond this date.” Congressional leaders have yet to specify a plan for how they will address the ceiling in coming weeks. Read more from Christopher Condon.

Around the Administration

The Biden administration is taking steps to have the U.S. join at least 124 other nations in pledging to scale down the use of super-polluting greenhouse gases widely found in refrigerators and air conditioners, according to two people familiar with the move. Biden sent the Senate the Kigali amendment to the Montreal Protocol yesterday, clearing the way for the chamber’s review of that international pact to phase down the production and consumption of hydrofluorocarbons. Read more from Jennifer A. Dlouhy and Ari Natter.

Biden is still deciding whether to reappoint Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell or replace him with Fed governor Lael Brainard, as key senators wade in with their views on the choice. Biden told reporters yesterday to expect the announcement of a nominee for Fed chair in “the next four days.” The president has ruled out other possible contenders for the job, said a person familiar with the matter, cautioning that the announcement may slip until next week. Biden considers them both strong options and respects them both, the person said. Read more from Jennifer Epstein, Laura Litvan, Steven T. Dennis and Jennifer Jacobs.

The Senate confirmed Jonathan Kanter to run the Justice Department’s antitrust division, finalizing the Biden administration’s slate of leaders to police competition and combat rising concentration across the economy. Senators last night approved Kanter as an assistant attorney general on a 68-29 vote. Biden nominated Kanter in July at the urging of advocates for a more aggressive antitrust agenda, particularly against U.S. technology giants. David McLaughlin has more.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has placed holds on the nominations of Nicholas Burns and Julissa Reynoso Pantaleón to serve as U.S. ambassadors to China and Spain, a release says. Burns has failed “to understand the threat posed by the Chinese Communist Party,” said Rubio, the ranking Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee. Rubio said Reynoso Pantaleón is a “Castro sympathizer” and wouldn’t pressure Spain to increase pressure on authoritarian regimes in Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, Daniela Sirtori-Cortina reports.

MORE HEADLINES:

  • A federal appeals court in Cincinnati has won the lottery to handle the consolidated case challenging the Biden administration’s emergency regulation forcing larger employers to mandate that their workers either get vaccinated against Covid-19 or test regularly. Read more from Robert Iafolla.
  • Biden said Taiwan “makes its own decisions,” backing the island nation’s leaders anew after a summit with China’s Xi Jinping aimed to stabilize the tense relationship between the world’s two biggest economies. Jenny Leonard and Jennifer Epstein have more.
  • China, meanwhile, is accelerating plans to replace American and foreign tech, quietly empowering a secretive government-backed organization to vet and approve local supplers in sensitive sectors, from cloud computing to semiconductors, people familiar with the matter said. Read more.
  • The Taliban’s top diplomat warned of an Afghan refugee exodus if the U.S. continues to block the release of some $9 billion of the country’s assets. Read more from Eltaf Najafizada.
  • The U.S. Air Force’s next-generation B-21 stealth bomber program will likely cost taxpayers at least $203 billion to develop, purchase and operate 100 aircraft over 30 years, according to new service estimates. Read more from Tony Capaccio.

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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