Congress Refocuses to Address Freight Rail Crisis

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The focus in Congress and the Administration this week has been trying to head off a work stoppage by members of unions representing workers employed by the Class 1 railroad companies. This issue has been percolating for several weeks as a “cooling off” period that kicked in mid-August was slated to end today. A Presidential Emergency Board (PEB)—which was put in place to serve as an intermediary and forge a consensus among the two sides—had proposed significant wage increases for rail workers that would be applied retroactively.

Presidential Budget Wishlist

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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.

A Scaled Back BBB?

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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.

Workforce Development and Budget Updates

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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.

Congress Facing a Must Pass List

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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.

Elusive Congressional Deals & the Vaccine Mandate

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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.

Take Action Now: Support Workforce Development/CTE

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As the budget reconciliation negotiations continue and legislators look for ways to make the overall package more affordable, we need to ask the Members of Congress to protect critical workforce and CTE funding.

Take Action Now: Oppose Federal Tax Hikes

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As Congress continues its deliberations on both the infrastructure and budget reconciliation packages, please tell your legislator to not raise revenue to pay for the packages on the backs of America’s small businesses.

Infrastructure and Reconciliation Debates Continue

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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.

Tax Update, Vaccine Mandate, and More

Legislative Update

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.