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BY JOHN BRESNAHAN, ANNA PALMER, JAKE SHERMAN AND HEATHER CAYGLE
WITH MAX COHEN AND CHRISTIAN HALL
Happy Tuesday morning.
President Joe Biden will sign the $1.5 trillion omnibus spending bill at the White House this afternoon. So many Senate Democrats are going to the event at 2:15 p.m. that they’ve canceled their caucus lunch and the traditional Tuesday news availability.
Now that the omnibus is out of the way, one of the congressional leadership’s top priorities is to pass legislation countering the rise of China’s high-tech research and manufacturing industries.
The bill has taken on so many names that it’s turned into a running joke. It’s been called Endless Frontiers, USICA, Make it in America, Chips and the Bipartisan Innovation Act. We’re sure we’re missing a few.
In short, this legislation is designed to boost the U.S. semiconductor industry. It also dramatically bulks up American research and development capacity.
The Senate passed its version of the bill last summer by a large bipartisan majority. The House passed two different iterations of the proposal – a bipartisan version last year, and a partisan Democratic version this year. The issue has been hung up for months as Congress dealt with other, more pressing matters.
Anyway, we have some news for you: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have been discussing the contours for a formal conference negotiation to work out a final agreement on the legislation. Several Senate aides tell us that their aim is to begin a formal conference negotiation this work period, which means by mid-April.
Remember: This discussion between Schumer and McConnell is to put together the process by which a final agreement will be hashed out. This is the first step. The conference committee still has to find a final agreement that can pass both chambers.
OK, let’s break this down:
There are lots of dynamics that have to be worked out in setting up a conference committee. The power-sharing arrangement for the 50-50 Senate worked out between Schumer and McConnell at the start of the 117th Congress didn’t cover conference committees and how they’d be designed.
There is no Schumer-McConnell meeting on the books at the moment. But the two sides are speaking.
This work period is scheduled to end on April 8, so there’s just a few weeks to get this together.
A conference committee could take some time to produce an agreement, possibly weeks, so this would set up potential floor action sometime in May or June.
The Biden administration is very engaged here and see this as a top priority.
These House-Senate negotiations – if they occur at all – will be the target of lots of lobbying over the next few months. Everyone from tech companies to chip manufacturers to automakers to appliance manufacturers has a stake in this package. So buckle up.
Some history on the Senate floor today: Shalanda Young is expected to be confirmed as OMB director after the Senate invoked cloture on her nomination last night. Young, a highly respected former House aide, will be the first Black woman to hold that post. Nine Republicans voted for a procedural motion on her nomination last night. She’ll appear with President Joe Biden at the signing of the omnibus spending bill today.
Also: We covered this in the PM edition, but Sarah Bloom Raskin’s nomination to be vice chair of the Federal Reserve is all but officially done. Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) have all signaled they will not vote for her. Raskin doesn’t have a path to confirmation that we can see.
Although Senate Banking Chair Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) has signaled he won’t give up on her nomination, we have to imagine the White House will pull her in the days ahead or Raskin will withdraw on her own. Republicans have been blocking the confirmation of a slate of other Federal Reserve nominees – including Jay Powell for another term as chair – because of their opposition to Raskin.
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White House to warn Hill on Covid prep money
News: This is what happens when Congress falls on its face.
The White House will send a letter to congressional leaders today warning them about the fallout from Congress’ failure to include new Covid preparedness funding in the omnibus bill.
The House last week stripped $15 billion in Covid money from the massive $1.5 trillion omnibus spending package due to concerns among Democrats about the offsets used to cover the boost. The chances of getting additional Covid funding via a standalone bill seems really low right now.
The White House letter will detail “the steps” the Biden administration must now take to “stop critical COVID response efforts because Congress has not yet provided the funding requested by mid-March.”
Here’s more, from a source familiar with the letter:
“The steps outlined in the letter will be consistent with conversations the Administration has held with lawmakers over the past several months about the urgent need for funds, as detailed below. This follows the Administration’s ongoing push for the need for urgent funding to continue its COVID response and implement its Preparedness Plan. Just today during remarks before the AHIP national conference, White House COVID-19 Coordinator Jeff Zients warned of the harms that would result if Congress does not promptly provide the needed funds.”
OK, let’s dwell on this for a minute. Congress is going to have a very tough time passing additional Covid funding. Republicans are strongly opposed to it, and there’s more than enough Senate GOP opposition to block it. The omnibus was the place for Congress to do it.
“Once we lost it in the House, it was tough to get back,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said Monday night. “I don’t know if those House members deluded themselves into believing that there was some other path but, I think it’s hard to find an alternative path than the budget.”
The failure to get this money in the omni is the subject of much chatter this week on Capitol Hill. In short, a bunch of Hill Democrats are upset at how the White House handled this process.
The criticism goes a little something like this: The White House dropped a $22.5 billion Covid funding request in their lap late in the omnibus negotiation process. And when Democratic governors and lawmakers were in a full uproar over how the $15 billion Covid money was offset, the White House was nowhere to be found.
In other words, all of the fingers in Democratic leadership are pointing at the White House.
The White House takes issue with the idea that they were disengaged on the issue or failed to lobby lawmakers for the new funding.
Here’s their case:
President Joe Biden mentioned the need for Covid funding in his State of the Union address.
Since Jan. 13, administration officials have “held more than three dozen calls and meetings with members of Congress – Democrats and Republicans alike – to warn that funds for COVID response were running out.” And since that date, the Biden administration has written Congress more than a dozen letters asking for more money and telling lawmakers what would happen if they didn’t come through.
Since Jan. 11, administration officials have held at least 10 briefings for committees on the need for funds.
Yet Sen. Richard Shelby (Ala.), the top Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee, raised his eyebrows and replied “No” on Monday night when asked if he’d had meaningful contact with the White House on this issue.
“If there’s a need for it and they can show there’s a need, you’d get — I think — overwhelming votes up here. But there’s a doubt there that they need this money, with a lot of us. I’m open minded on it. But I think we’re entitled to a real accounting and the American people are too.”
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Amazon Web Services, the cloud computing giant, has hired Cozen O’Connor Public Strategies to lobby. AWS has had a bunch of lobbyists on contract including Miller Strategies, Jeff Miller’s firm, and Franklin Square Group.
eMed, a Covid testing company, has hired Clyburn Consulting LLC, to lobby for “[i]n-home testing and proctoring services for COVID-19 and other infectious diseases.” William Clyburn Jr. is the principal of this firm. He is House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn’s cousin.
Did you have Larry the Cable Guy being in a Nebraska governors ad on your bingo card this year? If so, you won. The comedian has cut an ad for Jim Pillen, who is running for the GOP nomination for governor of Nebraska.
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9:30 am: Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) will meet with Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson in Russell 172.
10:15 a.m.: President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will get their daily intelligence briefing.
11:45 a.m.: Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) will meet with Jackson in Russell 274. … Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic Women’s Caucus and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh will hold an Equal Pay Day event.
Noon: Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) will speak about mask mandates on public transportation. Wicker is the top Republican on the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.
1 p.m.: Jen Psaki will brief.
2:15 p.m.: Biden will sign the omnibus into law. Harris and Acting OMB Director Shalanda Young will also attend.
4:30 p.m.: Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) will meet with Jackson in Hart 509.
5:30 p.m.: Biden, Harris and First Lady Jill Biden will speak at an Equal Pay Day event. Members of the U.S. women’s soccer team will attend.
“Inside the High-Stakes Race to Test the Covid Tests,” by Emily Anthes in Atlanta
“Russia Deploys a Mystery Munition in Ukraine,” by John Ismay
“U.S. warns China not to assist Russia,” by Ashley Parker, Dan Lamothe, Chico Harlan and Cate Cadell
“How Kyiv’s outgunned defenders have kept Russian forces from capturing the capital,” by Sudarsan Raghavan in Irpin, Ukraine
“Ukraine’s Zelensky to Press Congress for More Military Gear,” by Andrew Restuccia and Siobhan Hughes
“Russia Is Spiraling Toward a $150 Billion Default Nightmare,” by Sydney Maki, Eliza Ronalds-Hannon, and Selcuk Gokoluk
“Ukraine’s capital under fire; NATO nation leaders to visit,” by Andrea Rosa in Kyiv
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Editorial photos provided by Getty Images
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