Beltway Buzz, January 11, 2019
Shutdown Stalemate. Today marks day 21 of the partial federal government shutdown. Assuming that no deal is struck today, by tomorrow the shutdown will be the longest in our nation’s history. Unfortunately, it is unlikely that the political public relations gambits from earlier this week have done much to bring the opposing sides any closer to agreement. Members of the business community are now weighing in, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is urging legislators to reopen the government, and even use the current crisis as an opportunity to strike a deal on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and temporary protected status programs.
Joint Employer. Comments are due Monday, January 14, 2019, regarding the National Labor Relations Board’s proposed joint-employer rule. Last week, the Buzz discussed the surprise decision of the appeal in the Browning-Ferris Industries case that was issued by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. While the Buzz is of the opinion that the decision further muddies the joint-employer waters and underscores the need for a clear rule, some top Democratic lawmakers are asking the Board to withdraw the proposal in light of the decision. This is unlikely to happen, however, and we suspect that the Board will treat this letter as a comment on its proposal.
OSHA Oversight. Since the November 2018 elections, the Buzz has been forecasting that U.S. House of Representatives Democrats would be eager to flex their newfound oversight authority over executive branch agencies. Wasting no time, earlier this week, Democratic lawmakers sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General urging an investigation into the department’s ongoing rulemaking concerning child labor standards and patient lifts. The Buzz expects similar Democratic inquiries into other rulemakings in the future. Further, we anticipate that such inquiries may have a chilling effect on a regulatory agenda that some in the business community feel is already moving too slowly.
Not-So-Big Gig. The Buzz has previously discussed how a recent U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report—however flawed it may be—concluded that gig economy workers comprise only 1 percent of total employment in the country. Well, Harvard economists released a study this week that further questions the size and scope of the gig economy. All of this probably means that members of Congress and other policymakers are going to forget about this issue and move on to other pressing matters; right? Fat chance. The gig economy is still viewed as a shiny new object in Washington, D.C., and just like fish gotta swim and birds gotta fly, regulators gotta regulate, so the Buzz will be watching this issue area closely.
Well That Didn’t Take Long. The new, Democratic-controlled House Committee on Education and Labor has its website up already. Unfortunately, the website could use some updating. Not only is the committee roster out of date (for example, it lists Jared Polis—now governor of Colorado—as a member), but its list of issues refers to items dating back to the Obama administration. The Buzz refers to this as a double-doink mistake.