Washington Update – April 13, 2021


Congress returned to Washington this week after a two-week recess – with action on President Biden’s broadly defined “infrastructure” proposal at the top of the agenda for the Democratic majority.  While the President continues to talk publicly about working on a bipartisan basis, at this point it appears he and his party will seek to move the legislation with only Democratic votes, using a legislative procedure known as “reconciliation.”  The proposal offered by the President will be translated into legislative language by several committees in Congress over the next several weeks.  House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calf.) has said she expects that the full bill will be completed in the House by July 4th.  Senate action, as usual, is expected to be slower, but most believe that some version of this proposal will be enacted before the end of the year.

Even though the President’s proposal is wide-ranging – covering many policies he highlighted during his campaign – one of the key areas will be traditional surface transportation programs.  We expect funds to be directed toward the building and repair of roads, bridges, rail lines, ports and other elements of the supply chain important to the movement of cargo and consumer goods.  The specifics of these programs will be considered primarily in the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, though other committees and lawmakers will have input too.

Key committee lawmakers are already focused on how infrastructure deficiencies are hurting U.S. competitiveness.  In a March 24th hearing, Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Chairwoman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, noted that the U.S. invests only 0.7% of its GDP on transportation infrastructure while other countries spend eight times that amount.  Meanwhile, during a March 25th hearing, Representative Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, cited a report by the American Society of Civil Engineers that identified a ten year “investment gap” of $2.6 trillion in U.S. infrastructure.

Other aspects of the “infrastructure” legislation could address cybersecurity threats that target U.S. commercial and military interests, so IPSCO members will want to watch for developments in this area as well.

President Biden’s “Skinny” Budget

Last week, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released a so-called “skinny” budget – the President’s plan for the annual spending bills passed by Congress each year, i.e., “discretionary” spending.  Later this Spring, OMB will release a larger budget that reflects Biden’s full priorities across all of government.

The plan includes $25.6 billion for the Department of Transportation, a $317 million increase over this year’s funding – which is considered a “down payment” for the larger infrastructure package currently wending its way through Congress (and referenced in the previous story.)

The budget also supports efforts to detect, deter, and recover from malicious cyber-attacks in both the public and private sectors, through initiatives at the Department of Homeland Security    and other Departments and agencies.

The Appropriations Committees in Congress will be responsible for taking up these spending bills.  Since the committees are run by the Democratic majority, the budget will be favorably received.  But, since any of the appropriations bills could be slowed down by a Republican filibuster in the Senate (under current rules), we expect the appropriations bills to reflect plenty of input from Democrats and Republicans alike.  Therefore, while this is a useful document for understanding the Administration’s priorities, it probably won’t be enacted in its current form.

Biden Appoints Key Cybersecurity Officials

President Biden is moving to fill key cybersecurity roles in his government.  On April 12th, he nominated Jen Easterly to be Director of the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency, Chris Inglis to be White House National Cyber Director, and Robert Silvers to be Homeland Security Under Secretary for Strategy, Policy, & Plans.  Each of these nominees are expected to face smooth confirmations.

White House Calls for Strengthened Supply Chains

The White House Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) has declared April “National Supply Chain Integrity Month,” initiating a call to action for public and private sector organizations to “strengthen their supply chains against foreign adversaries and other potential risks.”  The announcement comes from the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, an office within ODNI, which focuses on protecting America against foreign and other adversarial threats.  The call to action follows an Executive Order by President Biden on February 24th designed to create more resilient and secure supply chains for essential goods.

For more information, contact Paul T. Kelly, President, Capitol Advocacy & Government Affairs pkelly@capital-advocacy.com.

Paul T. Kelly