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The Latest: A Weekly Federal Update (02/28/22)



Upcoming Events & Activities

February 28th, 2021 - March 4th, 2022

All events in Eastern Standard Time


Monday, February 28th

No meetings to report.


Tuesday, March 1st

Beginning of Women's History Month


10:00 AM - Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee: Hearing to consider S. 2302, S. 3699,

H.R. 3119, and other energy bills


10:00 AM - House Oversight & Reform Committee: Hearing on "From Recovery to Recession: Examining the Impact of the American Rescue Plan's State & Local Fiscal Recovery Funds"


10:15 AM - House Education & Labor Committee: Hearing on "Improving Retirement Security & Access to Mental Health Benefits"


Wednesday, March 2nd

10:00 AM - Senate Environment & Public Works Committee: Hearing on "Examining the Implementation of the Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act by the DOT"


10:00 AM - House Financial Services Committee: Hearing on "Monetary Policy and the State of the Economy"


10:00 AM - House Science, Space, & Technology Committee: Hearing on "From Gray to Green: Advancing the Science of Nature-Based Infrastructure"


10:30 AM - House Energy & Commerce Committee: Hearing on "Lessons from the Frontline: COVID-19's Impact on American Healthcare"


2:00 PM - House Homeland Security Committee: Hearing on "Examining the Court-Ordered Reimplementation of the Remain in Mexico Policy"


Thursday, March 3rd

10:00 AM - Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee: Hearing on "A Review of FERC's Recent Guidance on Natural Gas Pipelines"


10:00 AM - Senate Banking, Housing, & Urban Affairs Committee: Hearing on "The Semiannual Monetary Policy Report to the Congress"


Friday, March 4th

No meetings to report.

 

Energy, Water & Environment

The latest from the House and Senate Committees on energy (infrastructure), WIFIA, wastewater management, environmental issues, interior, or environmental justice.

Legislation

H.R. 6772, To amend the Natural Gas Act to authorize expedited approval of applications to export natural gas to certain allies of the United States

Sponsor: Rep. Tony Gonzalez (R-TX-23) referred to Energy & Commerce Committee

Date Introduced: February 18, 2022


H.R. 6779, To establish a program to reduce the vulnerability of the electric grid to physical attack, cyber attack, and other events, including by ensuring that large power transformers and other critical electric grid equipment are strategically located to ensure timely replacement of such equipment as may be necessary

Sponsor: Rep. Conor Lamb (D-PA-17) referred to Energy & Commerce Committee

Date Introduced: February 18, 2022


H.R. 6787, To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide a gasoline tax holiday

Sponsor: Rep. Tom O'Halleran (D-AZ-01) referred to Ways & Means Committee

Date Introduced: February 18, 2022


News

FERC: FERC Seeks Comment on Oil Pipeline Capacity Allocation Practices

FERC is exploring the issue of oil pipeline capacity allocation problems that can arise when irregular events or factors, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, affect demand for oil pipeline capacity. Specifically, the Commission is responding to concerns regarding the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on jet fuel shippers’ ability to access pipeline capacity for supplying airports. The Commission is seeking comments on what, if anything, the Commission should consider in addressing those issues. In the Notice of Inquiry (NOI), the Commission is asking the public to comment on whether to consider changes to existing policies, such as relying on historical use when allocating pro-rationed oil pipeline capacity, given the impact anomalous conditions can have on previous pipeline capacity demand. The Commission is also seeking comment on how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the availability of pipeline capacity for transporting jet fuel. Anomalous conditions can significantly and suddenly increase shipper nominations that exceed available pipeline capacity. Likewise, anomalous conditions can temporarily reduce some shippers’ usage of the pipeline system, which in turn could affect their future allocations of pipeline capacity.


Axios: FERC Adds More Federal Emissions Scrutiny to Gas Pipelines

Last week, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued tow new policies: One addresses emission from pipelines and liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects and the other is about they evaluate pipeline economic and environmental benefits and harms more broadly, including effects on disadvantaged communities. FERC voted 3-2 on the plans, with its GOP members in opposition. Chairman Richard Glick said the measures will improve the "legal durability" of FERC decisions, which have faced increasing setbacks and challenges from federal courts, and ensure evaluations reflect a broader range of stakeholder interests.


NewsWeek: Europe Buys More Natural Gas From Russia Since Ukraine Invasion Started

Energy Voice reported on Friday that utility firms are ordering more fuel under long-term contracts with Gazprom PJSC (Russian parastatal company), the largest extractor of natural gas in the world, after European prices rose by 62% on Thursday, February 24th. International benchmark Brent crude oil surged above $100 for the first time since 2014. Many gas analysts argue this is done for strategic reason as to prevent any disruptions from Russia as this unprovoked assault continues. At least 137 Ukrainians have died so far, including civilians, and hundreds more have been injured as Russia presses ahead with the invasion. At least 1,000 Russian soldiers have also reportedly been killed, Ukraine's Defense Ministry said.

 

Transportation & Infrastructure

The latest from the House and Senate Committees on industrial and commercial mechanical insulation, cybersecurity, supply chains, port authority, metropolitan transit, or airport.

Legislation

H.R. 6798, To require the Director of National Intelligence to submit a report on CHinese investment in global port infrastructure

Sponsor: Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-OH-02) referred to Intelligence Committee

Date Introduced: February 18, 2022


H.R. 6801, To amend the National Highway System Designation Act of 1995 to permit the construction of certain noise barriers with funds from the Highway Trust Fund

Sponsor: Rep. Nikema Williams (D-GA-05) referred to Transportation & Infrastructure Committee

Date Introduced: February 22, 2022


H.R. 6809, To exempt commercial truck drivers from Canada or Mexico who are seeking to temporarily enter the United States for business through a land port of entry from any COVID-19 vaccination requirement

Sponsor: Rep. Carlos Gimenez (R-FL-26) referred to Homeland Security Committee

Date Introduced: February 22, 2022

News

Forbes: The Cybersecurity Implications of the Current Russo-Ukrainian Conflict

Immediately after the conflict broke out, suspected Russian-sourced cyber-attacks were observed over a 48-hour period at an increase of over 800%. Hostile cyber warfare is one of the primary tools of the modern global military today, and there is little doubt that this series of global events have been planned for some time. U.S. cybersecurity agencies, the FBI, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security have warned American companies and government units to watch out for Advanced Persistent Threats (or APTs), malware, ransomware, DDoS, network attacks, Zero-Day vulnerabilities, code flaw vulnerabilities, privilege escalation, data anomalies, network anomalies, or any combination of any of the aforementioned. The U.S. government has advised companies and government units to patch Internet-facing and business critical software; prepare for ransomware and/or data destruction; be prepared to respond quickly to any threats or cyber-attacks; and lock down networks.

 

Immigration & Detention

The latest from the House and Senate Committee on immigration, detention, homeland security, border security, asylum seekers, criminal justice reform, Intensive Supervision Appearance Program (ISAP), U.S. Marshal Service (USMS), alternatives to detention programming, reentry programming, or Bureau of Prisons.

Legislation

H.R. 6793, To include a Federal Public of Community Defender as a non-voting member of the United States Sentencing Commission

Sponsor: Rep. Robert "Bobby" Scott (D-VA-03) referred to Judiciary Committee

Date Introduced: February 18, 2022


H.R. 6795, To ensure access to appropriate temporary shelter, food, and water for individuals apprehended by U.S. Customs & Border Protection

Sponsor: Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI-08) referred to Homeland Security Committee; Judiciary Committee

Date Introduced: February 18, 2022


H.R. 6797, To require U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services to facilitate naturalization services for noncitizen veterans who have been removed from the United States or are inadmissible

Sponsor: Rep. Juan Vargas (D-CA-51) referred to Judiciary Committee

Date Introduced: February 18, 2022


H.R. 6815, To limit the ability to assess a fee for healthcare services for prisoners

Sponsor: Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) referred to Judiciary Committee

Date Introduced: February 22, 2022


H.R. 6820, To amend the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act to ensure that an alien unlawfully present in the United States is not eligible for any service through the Federal Emergency Management Food & Shelter Program

Sponsor: Rep. Jefferson Van Drew (R-NJ-02) referred to Financial Services Committee

Date Introduced: February 22, 2022

News


ABC: President Biden Nominates Judge Jackson to SCOTUS

On Friday, February 25th, President Joe Biden announced he is nominating U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to serve as an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court to replace retiring Justice Stephen Beyer. Judge Jackson, 51, did receive some Republican support when she was confirmed to the D.C. Circuit Court last year. All but four justice appointed in the last 50 years have come from a federal appeals court. Born in D.C. but raised in Miami, Jackson comes from an elite legal pedigree as a graduate of Harvard Law School but also has experience representing everyday Americans in the legal system as a federal public defender. She would be the first federal public defender to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court and the first justice since the Honorable Thurgood Marshall to have criminal defense experience.

 

Public Health & Safety

The latest from House and Senate committees on health insurance, COVID-19 and testing, gun safety, Medicare & Medicaid, telehealth, Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), CDC, FDA, or rural hospitals.

Legislation

H.R. 6807, To direct the Secretary of Health & Human Services, for the purpose of addressing public health crises, to require the manufacturers of covered products to develop, maintain, and update a plan to mitigate the effects of of such products on public health

Sponsor: Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA-11) referred to Energy & Commerce Committee

Date Introduced: February 22, 2022


H.R. 6811, To permit civil actions against the United States or any State or local government entity for COVID-19 vaccination mandates

Sponsor: Rep. Diana Harshbarger (R-TN-01) referred to Judiciary Committee

Date Introduced: February 22, 2022


H.R. 6813, To conduct a study on the neurological impacts of COVID-19 on individuals with a neurological disease

Sponsor: Rep. William Keating (D-MA-09) referred to Energy & Commerce Committee

Date Introduced: February 22, 2022


H.R. 6817, To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to remove certain weapons from the definition of firearms for the purposes of the National Firearms Act

Sponsor: Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX-21) referred to Ways & Means Committee; Judiciary Committee

Date Introduced: February 22, 2022

News

Washington Post: Moderna Faces New Lawsuit Over Its COVID-19 Vaccine Patent

Moderna faces yet another patent challenge over its coronavirus vaccine after Arbutus Biopharma and Genevant Sciences, both small biotechnology companies, filed a lawsuit on Monday, February 28th, alleging Moderna hijacked its technology to develop the multibillion-dollar vaccine. Arbutus and Genevant said in their lawsuit that Moderna infringed on their patent for so-called lipid nanoparticle technology, which they say was key in the development of Moderna’s mRNA vaccine and took scientists from Arbutus and Genevant “years of painstaking work to develop and refine.” The suit had been expected after Moderna lost a U.S. Court of Appeals ruling last year in the protracted patent battle. Moderna, a 10-year-old Cambridge-based biotechnology firm that had not marketed any product before the pandemic, has said it expects coronavirus vaccine sales to top $19 billion in 2022.


The key invention in the case is the arrangement of four lipids that make up the shell of the vaccine’s nanoparticle. The lipids form a sphere around the mRNA payload. The mRNA is released inside a human cell and instructs the cell to produce the SARS-CoV-2 unique spike protein, which in turn triggers production of antibodies and enables the body to fight the virus if confronted with it. The ratio of the four lipids in the spherical bubble is the telltale key to the Arbutus invention, the company maintains. When the first scientific preprint emerged of how Moderna, with help from National Institute of Health, made its coronavirus vaccine at the beginning of the public health emergency, the authors listed a lipid ratio that matched the Arbutus patents, the lawsuit says.

 

Finance & Federal Partnerships


The latest from House and Senate committees on taxation, retirement, small business, federal contracting, or monetary policy.

Legislation

H.R. 6802, To prohibit Federal agencies from requiring lenders to estimate a borrower's race or ethnicity via visual observation or surname

Sponsor: Rep. Roger Williams (R-TX-25) referred to Financial Services Committee

Date Introduced: February 18, 2022


H.R. 6812, To authorize appropriations for the Cybersecurity Assitance Pilot Program of the Small Business Administration for FY2023 through FY2025

Sponsor: Rep. David Joyce (R-OH-14) referred to Small Business Committee

Date Introduced: February 22, 2022


H.R. 6814, To apply the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act to small business debt to the same extent as such Act applies to consumers

Sponsor: Rep. Al Lawson, Jr. (D-FL-05) referred to Financial Services Committee

Date Introduced: February 22, 2022

News

Yahoo: Social Security Part of Largest Proposed Tax Cut in Minnesota History

Minnesota Republicans have proposed the largest tax cut in the state’s history—including eliminating taxes on all Social Security benefits—in a move that could trim nearly half of the state’s current budget surplus. In addition to getting rid of taxes on Social Security income, the proposal would reduce the lowest-tier income tax rate from 5.35% to 2.8%. The tax cut would wipe out about $3.5 billion of the state’s $7.7 billion projected surplus in the current year and also cut into the next two-year budget. The total cost is estimated at more than $8.5 billion over the next 3 years.


Minnesota Democrats wasted little time pushing back at the Republican proposal. Democratic House Tax Committee Chairman Paul Marquart said in a statement that the proposal would mostly benefit Minnesota’s wealthiest taxpayers and also hamstring lawmakers’ ability to spend money elsewhere. Democrats have proposed distributing $1,500 bonus checks to frontline workers, while Democratic Governor Tim Walz has proposed sending relief checks of $175 or $350 to more than 2.7 million Minnesota households.


Yahoo: When Social Security Runs Out: What the Program Will Look Like in 2035

According to the 2020 annual report from the board of trustees of the Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund and Federal Disability Insurance Trust Fund, Social Security's income is expected to exceed its expenses this year. The report projects that reserves will be fully depleted by 2035 and annual taxes are expected to cover only about three-quarters of the benefits each year after that. That doesn't mean the program will run out of money entirely, though. Payroll taxes are expected to cover about 76% of scheduled benefits. But, if the 21% funding gap isn't filled, retirees could get lower Social Security payments or workers might need to pay more into the system.


If no changes are made to deal with the trust fund shortfall, benefits will have to be reduced by 23%, according to the 2020 annual report from the trust funds' board of trustees. For many retired adults, that kind of cut in benefits would represent a big financial hit. Social Security provides at least half of the income for 50% of elderly married couples and 70% of elderly single people, according to the Social Security Administration. Even though Social Security isn't expected to run out of money for 15 years, several options for changes have already been floated to deal with the budget shortfall, such as raising the payroll tax rate; increasing the wages subject to Social Security taxes; raising the full retirement age; reducing the annual cost-of-living adjustments (also known as COLAs); and/or cutting overall benefits.

 

Special Reports


The latest from reports issued from the Office of Government Accountability, the Congressional Research Service, and others.
  • GAO: February 23, 2022 - Child Welfare: HHS Should Facilitate Information Sharing Between States to Help Prevent & Address Maltreatment in Residential Facilities

  • CRS: February 24, 2022 - Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act (IIJA) and Airport Funding

  • CRS: February 25, 2022 - The Federal Reserve & Inflation

  • CRS: February 25, 2022 - Russia's Invasion of Ukraine: Overview of U.S. & Allied Responses

  • CRS: February 25, 2022 - Biden Administration Plans for an Indo-Pacific Economic Framework

  • CRS: February 25, 2022 - An Overview of Small Business Contracting