Washington Update – May 2021

Despite Slow Pace, Infrastructure Still A High Priority in Washington

The Biden Administration continues its outreach to Republican lawmakers in the hopes of brokering a bipartisan agreement on a massive infrastructure bill.  Biden’s $2.3 trillion proposal — which he outlined in a speech to a joint session of Congress on April 29th — has been panned by GOP lawmakers, who argue it includes a huge array of items unrelated to the “hard” infrastructure that they say needs immediate attention.  Republicans also argue the President’s plan is entirely too expensive – especially on the heels of a $1.9 Trillion COVID-19 response bill recently signed into law.  In addition, they object to Biden’s ideas for funding the bill by increasing tax rates on corporations and high-income individuals.  The Biden Administration and Democratic leaders in Congress counter that such a large-scale plan is needed not only to help rebuild crumbling transportation and infrastructure, but also to address economic equity and fairness issues that are in urgent need of action.  So far, Republican Senators are proposing between $700 to $800 billion to address “hard” infrastructure issues, while Democrats are largely sticking to a “big and bold” plan.  So, it remains to be seen if a bipartisan agreement will come together.

Meanwhile, the Senate Parliamentarian has ruled that at least two more “reconciliation” bills can be considered this year – meaning that infrastructure legislation could be passed through the expedited reconciliation process with only 51 votes, not the super-majority of 60 votes that is normally needed in the Senate.   (With the Senate being evenly split 50-50, Vice President Kamala Harris, in her role as “president of the Senate,” would get the tie-breaking vote to pass the measure.)  So, despite the apparent impasse in Washington, it remains possible – perhaps even likely – that a major infrastructure bill will pass Congress this year.  But, much water must pass under the bridge before a final bill is approved, so ISCPO will be keeping a close eye on these developments.

Cybersecurity Gets Renewed Attention In Washington

Obviously, the supply chain security industry can be hugely impacted by cyber threats to normal business operations, as well as energy disruptions that increase the cost and availability of fuel.  The recent “hack” of the Colonial Pipeline has increased action on cyber security issues in Washington – with more likely to come.  Two days after the ransomware attack on the pipeline, the White House announced actions that the Administration is taking to address cyber threats and fuel disruptions.

Congress has also responded, with the Senate Homeland Security Committee touting its passage of bipartisan legislation last month to create a federal fund to provide support to public or private entities responding to cyber-attacks and breaches.   In addition, bipartisan leadership of two important committees in the House of Representatives sent a letter to the White House seeking a briefing on the issue and urging strong interagency coordination on the issue of cyber threats.  And, the House Energy and Commerce Committee moved to reintroduce several bills to address cyber threats to the energy supply chain.

According to critics, aggressive cyber-security prevention policies are one area that is currently missing from President Biden’s infrastructure proposal.  So, we won’t be surprised to see a strong bipartisan push to include new cyber-security provisions in the infrastructure legislation.

White House Executive Order on Software Security

On May 12, President Biden signed an Executive Order directing the Department of Commerce to create cybersecurity standards for companies that sell software services to the federal government.  While this doesn’t have a direct impact on private industry, it is thought the move will ripple across the private sector to improve cybersecurity for critical systems.  The order also calls for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to issue final guidelines for software supply-chain security within a year.

For more information, contact Paul T. Kelly, President, Capitol Advocacy & Government Affairs, LLC