December 7, 2023

Washington Wire: Congress Returns to Washington Amid Deadline to Fund Government



Congress Returns to Washington Amid Deadline to Fund Government
Congress is returning to Washington from its summer recess facing a hard deadline to fund the government. Senators are back on Capitol Hill while the House of Representatives’ post-Labor Day session begins on September 13. 
Congress has until October 1 to pass appropriations legislation to prevent a government shutdown. While the House has passed six out of the twelve fiscal year 2023 appropriations bills, the Senate has yet to pass any. With such a short calendar, lawmakers are likely to be forced to use a short-term continuing resolution (CR), funding the government at current funding levels until they can agree on full-year bills to keep the government funded. The House of Representatives is expected to take a vote on a CR as soon as next week, funding the government until after the midterm elections, punting the fight over the full FY23 funding bills, including those funding critical job training and technical education programs, to the lame-duck session, likely in mid-December.
The House FY23 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education appropriations bill proposes a $45 million increase to the Perkins Basic State Grant program while the Senate bill proposes a $60 million increase. This program is a critical part of providing high-quality CTE for learners across America.
While the President’s budget request for FY23 included a significant increase in funding for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) Program, up 74% to $275 million, both the House and Senate FY23 Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies appropriations bills provide less funding at $212 million and $200 million, respectively.
Job recruitment, training, and placement as well as advanced technical education are critical to the future of manufacturing in America. The final spending bills for the last several years have included increases to workforce training programs, such as the Perkins Basic State Grants, among others, thanks to the efforts of One Voice and our members.
We need you to contact your members of Congress to call on them to increase resources for training programs and raise awareness of manufacturing careers available.



Climate Reconciliation Bill Signed into Law
Following a party-line 50-50 vote in the Senate, with Vice President Harris casting the tiebreaking vote, and a 220-207 vote in the House, with only Democrats voting in favor, President Biden signed into law on August 16, 2022, a bill titled, the “Inflation Reduction Act.” 
The package, which focuses on climate change investments, reducing health care prices, and raising taxes on a select group of corporations, is a slimmed-down version of the Democrats’ Build Back Better budget reconciliation bill. The law provides $370 billion over 10 years in energy and climate-related spending, with $60 billion earmarked for domestic manufacturing to bolster the clean energy supply chain, which includes but is not limited to, batteries, electric vehicles, solar modules, and wind energy components. This includes $2 billion to retool existing automotive manufacturing plants so that they can supply future electric vehicles and up to $20 billion in loans to build new clean vehicle manufacturing facilities.
The law also includes an extension of the Alternative Fuel Refueling Property Credit (Section 30C), which expired in December. The tax credit for alternative fuel refueling property (i.e., electric vehicle chargers) provides a 30% tax credit for alternative fuel refueling property up to $100,000. The package includes $5.8 billion for the Advanced Industrial Facilities Deployment Program for grants, rebates, direct loans, or cooperative agreements for firms installing and implementing advanced industrial technology at energy-intensive industrial and manufacturing facilities.



EPA to Soon Release Updated PM NAAQS Limits
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has sent a draft proposal for limits of the National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for fine particulate matter (PM2.5) to the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) for review in one of the final steps before it can officially be published. 
EPA's Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC) recommended strengthening the standard with the majority of the committee recommending the annual limit be set somewhere in the range of 8-10 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m3), a minority calling for a range of 10-11 µg/m3. EPA staff agreed in their final policy assessment (PA), suggesting EPA could tighten it to a stricter value between 8 ug/m3 and 12 ug/m3. 
While EPA career staff has long supported the tightening of the annual limits, in the PA document, EPA staff found the current daily limit to be adequate. The CASAC’s recommendation, issued in March, recommended the 24-hour fine particulate matter (PM2.5) standard be lowered to somewhere in the range of 25-30 µg/m3.
EPA’s current annual primary exposure standard was set in 2012 at 12 µg/m3; the daily primary threshold, dating back to 2006, is 35 µg/m3.
The review process typically takes up to 90 days. The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) formally received the rule on August 16.



USTR to Continue Tariffs on China, Seeking Input on WTO Compliance
The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) announced this week that it will formally keep the 25 percent and 7.5 percent tariffs in place on over 10,000 imports from China but will launch a full review of the impact of the tariff action. This comes in response to a mandatory four-year review of the Section 301 tariffs initiated over the summer. USTR said it will issue a notice calling for comment from stakeholders both opposing and supporting the tariffs on China but will keep the tariffs during this review. 
In addition, USTR issued a formal request for public comments on China's compliance with its World Trade Organization obligations as part of its annual report to Congress. China became a member of the WTO on Dec. 11, 2001. Since then, USTR has been required to send a yearly report to Congress on China's compliance with commitments made to the WTO.
The USTR-led Trade Policy Staff Committee (TPSC) is asking for written comments on China's compliance with the WTO on a variety of issues: "Trading rights"; "Import regulation"; "Export regulation"; "Internal policies affecting trade"; "Intellectual property rights"; "Services"; "Rule of law issues"; and "Other WTO commitments."
Comments are due to the TPSC by September 28. While the USTR will not hold an in-person public hearing on China’s compliance with the WTO, USTR will pose written questions on the submitted comments with a chance for submitters to respond. The TPSC will pose questions on the comments by October 12; the deadline for submitting responses to written questions is October 26.



NLRB Issues Joint Employer Rule
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has issued a proposed rule regarding who is a joint employer under the National Labor Relations Act. The rule would replace the Trump-issued standard that shielded companies from shared liability for unfair labor practices and responsibility for bargaining with a union, which took effect in April 2020. 
The proposed rule would expand the factors that can establish a joint employment relationship to include indirect and unexercised control over the terms and conditions of a job. Employers would be considered joint employers if they co-determine “essential terms and conditions of employment,” such as scheduling, wages, and benefits.
The U.S. Department of Labor is considering a similar rule under the Fair Labor Standards Act, which regulates wages, overtime, and other aspects of employment. In July 2021, the Department issued a final rule withdrawing the standard that shielded companies from shared liability for wage violations which the Trump Administration issued in its final days. However, a federal judge in March reinstated a Trump-era joint employer regulation, finding that the Biden administration didn’t give the public a meaningful opportunity to comment.
NLRB is accepting comments on its proposed rule through November 7, 2022.