Beltway Buzz, September 17, 2021
Congressional Update. Various committees in the U.S. House of Representatives continued to work this week on their respective portions of the Democrats’ $3.5 trillion “human infrastructure” reconciliation bill—proposed legislation that would include significant spending on programs related to education, childcare, healthcare, and paid leave, among other things. Here is the latest.
Timing. The House would like to vote on the $1 trillion “hard infrastructure” bill (legislation that includes investments in traditional public works projects as well as broadband expansion) that the U.S. Senate passed by September 27, 2021. It is unlikely that the reconciliation package will be done by that time, and it is not yet clear how this state of play might affect each bill’s prospects. Moreover, the clock is ticking on two other massive matters for the federal government. Funding for the federal government expires on September 30, 2021, and the maximum amount of money that the government may borrow (sometimes referred to as the “debt limit” or “debt ceiling”) will likely reach its limit sometime in October 2021. Keeping these four legislative plates spinning will be a tough task for Congress, and funding and debt issues could influence the timing and outcome of both the “hard infrastructure” and “human infrastructure” bills.
Immigration included? This week, the House Committee on the Judiciary completed the markup of its portion of the reconciliation legislative package. The bill includes language that would provide a pathway to lawful permanent residency for certain undocumented immigrants who were 18 years of age or younger when they entered the United States, certain essential critical infrastructure workers, and recipients of temporary protected status. The draft legislation also provides for the recapture of unused family-sponsored visas and employment-based visas. As with the Protecting the Right to Organize Act provisions contained in the House Committee on Education and Labor’s portion of the reconciliation package, these immigration proposals’ legislative viability in the current session—specifically, whether they will be included in any final piece of reconciliation legislation—will largely depend upon decisions of the Senate parliamentarian.
Union member tax breaks. The House Committee on Ways and Means released its draft of the tax provisions of the reconciliation bill. Included is a provision (section 138514 of subtitle I) that would allow union members to take an above-the-line deduction for dues paid to labor unions up to $250 (but the text does not appear to allow non-members a similar deduction when paying compulsory fees as a condition of employment). By reducing the costs of union membership, the provision is likely intended to make it easier for unions to organize.
NLRB GC Makes Recommendations for Settlement Agreements. As promised in her memorandum of remedies that regional attorneys should seek from the Board, on September 15, 2021, National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo issued a follow-up memorandum setting forth the “types of remedies that Regions should seek in their informal and formal settlement agreements.” Examples include “award[s] of consequential damages to make employees whole for economic losses,” beyond the remedies of back pay and benefits, such as compensation to reimburse interest or late fees incurred on credit cards, penalties resulting from early withdrawals from retirement accounts, costs associated with moving, medical expenses, the costs of obtaining new health insurance, and legal expenses. The memo encourages the inclusion of language in settlement agreements that provides for front pay, “expedited issuance of Board Orders,” letters of apology, sponsorship of work authorizations for affected immigrant workers, or expanded distribution of the notice to employees.
USCIS to Require COVID-19 Vaccination for Green Card Applicants. On September 14, 2021, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that, effective October 1, 2021, applicants for lawful permanent residence (i.e., green card applicants) “subject to the immigration medical examination must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19” prior to their required medical examinations. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has added COVID-19 to a list of diseases including the measles, mumps, rubella, and polio against which vaccination is required for green card applicants. USCIS may grant a blanket waiver if an applicant is not age appropriate (e.g., less than 12 years of age) or has contraindications that increase the risk of a serious adverse reaction, or if the vaccine is not routinely available where the civil surgeon practices. The policy change at USCIS follows updated guidance from the CDC.
“A Republic, if You Can Keep It.” Today, September 17, 2021, is Constitution Day and Citizenship Day. The date celebrates the anniversary of the day in 1787 when 39 founding fathers signed their names to the U.S. Constitution. A few tidbits about the signing:
Forty-two delegates attended most of the meetings during the Constitutional Convention, but three delegates—Edmund Randolph and George Mason of Virginia and Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts (namesake of the often-mispronounced “gerrymander”)—did not sign the document due to its initial lack of a bill of rights.
Six signatories had also signed the Declaration of Independence: George Clymer (Pennsylvania), Benjamin Franklin (Pennsylvania), Robert Morris (Pennsylvania), George Read (Delaware), Roger Sherman (Connecticut), and James Wilson (Pennsylvania).
George Washington and James Madison were the only signatories to become president. (Thomas Jefferson was in France and John Adams was in Great Britain during the Convention.)
The U.S. Constitution is 234 years old.