Congress is completing the front end of a two week Congressional recess. Before leaving town late last week, the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) adopted an amendment authorizing a mass timber pilot program while marking up the Fiscal Year (FY) 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The term “mass timber” includes the suite of innovative wood building products that includes cross laminated timber—a product that architects and building designers are finding more attractive given wood’s superior carbon sequestering properties and ease of use on the job site.
On Thursday, Representatives Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-PA-15) and Derek Kilmer (D-WA-6) introduced legislation to help increase awareness of existing workforce development programs now available to job seekers. The legislation, titled the Creating Opportunities to Thrive and Advance Act, would modify the existing Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), which is the central statute governing workforce programs in the U.S. Specifically, the bill seeks to provide guidance to job seekers on career options in high-skill, high-wage, or in-demand industry sectors including the skilled trades.
The House and Senate have both passed so-called China Competition bills to help situate the U.S. on better footing as it relates to our largest economic competitor. The Senate’s version is the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (USICA) and the House-passed version is called the America Competes Act—America Creating Opportunities for Manufacturing, Preeminence in Technology, and Economic Strength Act. The latter includes provisions of the bipartisan, bicameral JOBS Act—Jumpstarting Our Businesses by Supporting Students Act. The lubricant for legislative action on Capitol Hill is acronyms, evidently.
Rep. Pete Stauber (R-MN-08) is expected to roll out legislation next week that would allow forest management in the Northern Longeared Bat’s (NLEB) 38 state range to continue once the bat is listed as “endangered” as expected. More information will be provided later this month on this bill, but it is being raised now with the hope that industry lobbying efforts will be bipartisan. The lumber sector worked hard in 2014-15 to secure a workable solution for both protecting the bat and preserving the ability for forest landowners to sustainably manage their forest landholdings in the bat’s habitat range.
Last week, the House passed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) by a vote of 220-196. Only 4 Republicans voted in favor of the legislation. There have been no updates to this law since it was enacted in 2014. WIOA is the bedrock federal statute governing workforce development programs in the U.S. Its goal is to not only train and provide workers and potential workers support services to succeed in the labor market, but also to match employers with the skilled workers they need.
ABMA continues to make the rounds on Capitol Hill talking with Senate offices on prospects for a modified Build Back Better package. National media are reporting on conversations between Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) about a deal that could pass the Senate. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm had this to say this week at a conference in Washington on renewable energy tax credits, which will be at the heart of any package that comes together– “I am feeling actually pretty bullish about it at this very moment. We’re not going to see the whole Build Back Better agenda; we’ve got to be realistic about that. But I do think that at least some version of those tax credits is still possible.”
In an effort to address the truck driver shortage, U.S. Representatives Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) and Mike Gallagher (R-WI) introduced bipartisan legislation that would establish a refundable income tax credit for qualified commercial truck drivers. The bill, titled the Strengthening Supply Chains Through Truck Driver Incentives Act (H.R. 7348), authorizes a tax incentive to attract and retain new drivers. Specifically, the measure would create a two-year refundable tax credit of up to $7,500 for truck drivers holding a valid Class A commercial driver’s license who drive at least 1,900 hours in the year.
Last week, the House Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies held its first hearing of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2023 funding cycle to examine the Department of Education’s FY 23 budget request. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona was the featured panelist. During the hearing, several Members of Congress emphasized the need for strong workforce investments. Two in particular—Representatives Andy Harris (R-MD) and Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) —each mentioned the stigma of pursuing trade skills education and training instead of attending a four-year institution.
This week, ABMA participated in meetings with staff from the House Ways & Means and Senate Finance Committees to explore the concept of a new tax credit that would incentivize low carbon building material construction in residential and commercial applications. Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-AR-04) has legislation pending known as the Trillion Trees Act that, among many other things, authorizes a “Low Carbon Building and Residence Credit.” The tax credit, which maxes out at 25 percent of a building’s purchase price, would be based on a carbon score to be developed by the Department of Energy.
From April 4-8, 2022 the American Building Materials Alliance (ABMA) virtually held its inaugural Advocacy Week to discuss our three priority issues of workforce development, supply chain delays, and inflation. On the last day of the event, success was struck with New York Representative Andrew Garbarino, who chose to co-sponsor all three of our bills. ABMA will continue to update its members as event-related news forms.
On April 5, the House Education and Labor Committee advanced the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity (WIOA) Act of 2022, which reauthorizes the federal workforce development system. The bill passed out of committee without a single Republican vote. Republican opposition stems from a perception that the bill was pulled together largely without their input and that its many provisions represent a federal government overreach into employer workforce decisions.
Members of the House and Senate are leaving town for the next two weeks for the Congressional Easter recess. As ABMA concludes our 2022 virtual fly-in, the recess presents an opportune time to reinforce our policy priorities with your House Member or Senator when they are back in your state. If you happen to get an opportunity for some face time with your Member of Congress when they are back home for most of the rest of April, please press upon them the importance of supporting the legislation ABMA highlighted during our meetings this week.
The Biden Administration unveiled its proposed Fiscal Year 2023 budget to Congress on March 28. As we mentioned last week, the document is lengthy, but ABMA will be analyzing this proposal to highlight areas that address our policy priorities like workforce development and supply chain. One item that caught our attention on preliminary review is a substantial proposed increase in funding for the Department of Labor (DOL). The Biden Administration is proposing a boost for DOL of 18 percent, or $2.2 billion to advance its mission. In total, this would provide DOL with $14.6 billion in discretionary funds.
The ink on the obituary for the House-passed, $1.7 trillion Build Back Better legislation is about dry. There is little, if any, discussion on Capitol Hill about that proposal currently and we do not expect that to change. However, discussions are picking up on a modified proposal that would embody some of the climate change aspects of that legislation with some key differences. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) is once again at the center of negotiations and he remains supportive of including the forestry and renewable energy tax credits that were part of the original bill.
The focus this week in Washington has been on the deteriorating situation in Ukraine and steps the United States can take to help the besieged and fortify Ukrainian defenses. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed a joint session of Congress on Wednesday to plea for help from the U.S. Following that address, President Biden signaled that the Administration would provide $800 million in security assistance on top of the $200 million in arms and military equipment that was enacted as part of a short term stop-gap funding bill signed earlier in March.
On Wednesday, the House passed a $1.5 trillion Fiscal Year 2022 omnibus spending measure (H.R. 2471) that will fund operations of the federal government through September 30. The House also passed by voice vote a stopgap measure to fund the government through March 15, in case the Senate is unable to clear H.R. 2471 by midnight Friday, when current government funding expires.
Just before Congress left town for the Presidents Day recess, Rep. Annie Kuster (D-NH-02) reintroduced her legislation that seeks to use the tax code to promote employee development. The Workforce Development Investment Act would create tax incentives to encourage companies to partner with education providers to develop workforce training programs for skills that are in demand within their community or region. It would also create a separate credit for employers to help defray the cost of direct training conducted as part of an educational partnership or licensed apprenticeship.
The U.S. Senate passed a resolution earlier this month designating February as Career and Technical Education (CTE) Month. The resolution may be found here. Among other things, the resolution recognizes the importance of career and technical education in preparing a well-educated and skilled workforce in the United States and encourages educators, school counselors, guidance and career development professionals, administrators, and parents to promote career and technical education as a respected option for students.
With the House in recess this week, the Senate was in session processing Biden Administration nominations and working to close the deal on a government funding measure. The federal government is funded through today, February 18, but the short term Continuing Resolution, or CR, that has kept the doors to federal departments and agencies open expires at midnight tonight. Another short term CR—funding the government through March 11—is under consideration and is expected to be enacted later today.
Last Friday, Representatives Andy Levin (D-MI), Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH), Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), and Bryan Steil (R-WI) introduced an amendment to the America COMPETES Act of 2022 (H.R. 4521) being debated by the House containing language similar to the JOBS Act and College Transparency Act (CTA). These two proposals have been a priority for national organizations promoting career and technical education (CTE) and alternative career pathways to the traditional 4 year college degree. The House approved the amendment by a vote of 238-193, and the entire America COMPETES Act then passed on a largely party-line 222-210 vote.
ABMA met this week with Senator Joe Manchin’s (D-WV) office to discuss the status of the House-passed Build Back Better legislation and our concerns with the tax provisions in the bill. The Senator’s staff confirmed that the legislation is dead in the Senate in its current form. We walked through ABMA’s concerns with the manner in which the legislation relies on tax revenue from small and medium sized businesses by increasing the tax rates on S-Corporations and other pass through tax structures.
Both the House and Senate were in recess this week, but negotiations continue on forging a deal on a more targeted Build Back Better bill that can pass the Senate. On Tuesday, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR)—Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee—announced that Senate Democrats would soon unveil a compromise measure built around green energy tax credits and a number of health care and prescription drug pricing provisions.
On Wednesday, President Biden acknowledged that his signature $1.75 trillion tax and social spending plan may need to be broken up in order to move forward in the U.S. Senate. In recent weeks, Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) has signaled that he is supportive of the provisions in the package related to climate change and greenhouse gas mitigation and it appears that there is interest, at least in the Administration, in cleaving this piece of the Build Back Better Act and moving it as a standalone measure. It remains unclear at this point what specific provisions would be included in such a bill, but the House-passed BBB contained a number of positive forestry provisions and considerable funding for deploying innovative wood products in construction projects.
President Biden’s signature legislation remains stalled in the U.S. Senate with no clear path forward in the foreseeable future. The House-passed measure lacks the 50 votes necessary to clear the upper chamber under budget reconciliation rules. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) has been the most outspoken Democrat opposing the comprehensive bill, asserting that spending in the package would further drive up inflation, among other things. Those concerns were amplified this week when the Bureau of Labor Statistics released inflation data Wednesday showing that the consumer price index hit a four decade high of 7 percent in December compared to a year ago.
It was a relatively slow week in Washington, with the House of Representatives still on holiday recess and the Senate focused on processing nominations for administration positions. The most notable development was Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) acknowledging earlier this week upon the Senate’s return from the holiday break that there are no negotiations occurring between him, the White House, and Senate leadership over the Build Back Better Act. The House-passed bill appears to have no path forward in the Senate at this point.
Act. Despite the fact that votes are still not there in the Senate on the legislation, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) pledged before the holidays that the Senate would hold a vote on the measure in early January. Senator Schumer made that commitment shortly after Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) publicly stated that he could not support the bill, which drew strong rebukes from both the White House and Congressional Democrat leadership.
Over the weekend, Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) dealt what could be a fatal blow to President Biden’s comprehensive social spending plan—the Build Back Better Act. The Senator had been signaling for months that he has concerns with the legislation, namely that spending in the bill would threaten to further drive inflation. Although the legislation is being pursued through the budget reconciliation process that requires a mere simple majority instead of the normal 60 votes to clear the upper chamber, every single Democrat must be on board as all Senate Republicans have vowed to oppose the bill.
Congress confronted and addressed two of their outstanding deliverables for December, having passed a Continuing Resolution (CR) to keep the federal government running past December 3 when funding was slated to expire. The CR sent to the President on December 3, funds federal government operations through February 18. The other was the debt ceiling. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen had predicted that the U.S. would exhaust its borrowing authority on December 15.
The House and Senate returned to Washington this week facing a number of looming “must pass” items. The first is funding the government past December 3, when the current Continuing Resolution expires. On Thursday, the Senate approved a stopgap spending bill that will keep the government funded until Feb. 18. The vote was strong 69 to 28, with 19 Republicans joining with the Democrats to prevent a shutdown. The Senate also rejected a Republican amendment that would have barred private-sector vaccine mandates.
As we detailed on last Friday’s Advocate, the House of Representatives passed the Build Back Better Act and it proceeds now to the Senate. The House and Senate are in recess this week but will return to Washington next week. There are a couple of other items in the comprehensive bill to which we wanted to draw your attention. One of these is included in the green energy tax portion of the bill that was crafted by the House Ways and Means Committee and folded into the amended product that is on its way to the Senate.
The House of Representatives passed the Build Back Better Act this morning by a vote of 220-213. The bill now proceeds to the Senate for consideration. We remain concerned with revenue raisers in the package and have communicated opposition to them with Members of Congress. Our focus has been on provisions raising tax rates on small and medium sized business that are organized as S-Corporations or other pass through structures.
Last Friday, the House of Representatives approved a comprehensive infrastructure package titled the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (H.R. 3684) that passed the U.S. Senate on a bipartisan vote in August. The measure, which passed the House on a vote of 228-206 (13 Republicans voted for the bill, 6 Democrats voted against) includes over a half trillion dollars in spending on roads, ports, bridges, and rail, among other priorities.
Negotiations to move a Senate-passed bipartisan infrastructure spending package and larger budget reconciliation bill through the House are in overdrive, but a deal as of Friday morning has not been reached. Speaker Pelosi had hoped to have floor votes on Thursday and her whip team was working aggressively to secure commitments, but the 218 votes are not currently there for these two proposals moving together.
On Thursday morning, President Biden released a compromise framework for his Build Back Better plan. Although the $1.75 trillion framework does not delve into all the details and a considerable number of significant items still need to be worked out, the framework has been agreed to by holdout Democrat moderates in the Senate.
On October the 12th, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) sent its proposed COVID vaccination and testing Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for interagency review. Recall that this proposal will require employers with 100 or more employees to ensure employees are COVID vaccinated or are tested weekly.
In the October 8 edition of the Federal Register, a notice was published by the Department of Commerce seeking comment on existing softwood lumber subsidies in competing countries. Under the Softwood Lumber Act of 2008, the Secretary of Commerce is required to submit a report to Congress every six months on any subsidy–including stumpage subsidies–provided by countries exporting softwood lumber or softwood lumber products to the United States. Commerce submitted its last subsidy report to Congress on June 30, 2021.
The House missed its self imposed deadline last week to vote on a $1 trillion, Senate-passed, bipartisan infrastructure bill known as the BIF—or Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework. Although nearly 20 House Republicans signaled that they would vote for the measure, the House Democrat Progressive Caucus stood firm in its opposition to moving forward on BIF without a firm commitment to vote on the much larger social spending provisions being pursued through the budget reconciliation process.
This week, ABMA sent a letter to all Members of Congress urging inclusion of meaningful workforce development investments in any infrastructure and/or budget reconciliation package that is ultimately enacted. In their efforts to trim down the overall cost of the budget reconciliation bill, Senate leaders are considering slashing funding for workforce development by almost 90 percent.
On Tuesday, the full House voted 220-211 to pass H.R. 5305, a measure that would keep the government funded at current levels until December 3. The current fiscal year runs out September 30. The bill also waives the federal debt cap limit until December 2022 and includes almost $30 billion in disaster aid for states that have suffered from hurricane damage and other natural disasters. As part of this disaster aid, $5 billion is allotted for housing and economic development projects and $2.6 billion for highway repairs.
The House Ways & Means Committee wrapped up a few marathon sessions this week marking up its piece of the $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package. As anticipated, a number of tax increase proposals totaling $2.2 trillion on businesses and individuals advanced.
On September 9th, the House Education and Labor Committee began marking up its piece of the $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package to deliver on the Administration’s Build Back Better plan.
In mid-August, the U.S. Senate passed a comprehensive infrastructure package titled the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The bipartisan measure includes over a half trillion dollars in spending on roads, ports, bridges, and rail, among other priorities.
Earlier this week, the U.S. Senate passed a comprehensive infrastructure package titled the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act…
For the last several weeks, the Senate has been on the verge of finalizing an infrastructure spending package…