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Stephen Boyd: THE MONDAY BRIEF | Monday, May 8, 2023

Stephen Boyd’s weekly Capitol Hill briefing for Alabama’s business, financial, defense and government affairs executives.

The Clock is Ticking on the Debt Limit… Immigration Problem Demands Attention from both parties… Britt focuses on the ills of social media… Bad poll for Biden… A Daylight Savings Time update?

The Schedule…

The Senate is back tomorrow afternoon, taking up consideration of President Joe Biden’s nominee to the truly obscure position of United States Alternate Executive Director of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. 

Also on Tuesday, the House of Representatives returns from last week’s recess period. The House Rules Committee is scheduled to tee up three bills for consideration, including H.R. 2, the Secure the Border Act of 2023, a package of several immigration and border security bills—a timely move given the immigration issues that will dominate the news later this week.


Programming Note… 

Check back here tomorrow for a closer look into the status of the looming SPACECOM HQ basing decision… 

For Your Situational Awareness…

  • The debt limit… Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen jolted the political world with a letter last Monday notifying Congress that the U.S. could default on its debt by June 1, weeks earlier than most expected. “We have learned from past debt limit impasses that waiting until the last minute to suspend or increase the debt limit can cause serious harm to business and consumer confidence, raise short-term borrowing costs for taxpayers, and negatively impact the credit rating of the United States,” she wrote. The statutory debt limit was technically breached in January, but the Treasury Department has used “extradentary measures” to buy Congress and the president more time to act. The pressure to raise the debt ceiling is due to prior government spending, but the ritual of raising the limit brings the nation’s fiscal woes into clarity and serves as a leverage point to reign in future budgets. Last month, House Republicans passed legislation that would increase the debt limit in exchange for a broad set of future spending cuts. That bill won’t become law, but it puts additional pressure on Biden Administration officials to negotiate, something they have been loath to do. (In the Senate, 43 Republicans signed a letter over the weekend also calling for spending cuts and budget reform as a starting point for debt talks.) President Biden, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, Senate Majority Leader Schumer, and Senate Minority Leader McConnell are scheduled to meet tomorrow. Those big White House meetings rarely produce agreement, but sometimes do nudge the process forward. Looking ahead, the Senate is scheduled to recess the week of May 22; the House is scheduled to be out the week of May 29. The legislative schedules rarely change, but they might for something like a final vote on the debt limit.
  • Immigration realities… As difficult as the situation at the Southwest border is now, it will be worse by the end of the week… In fiscal year 2022, U.S. authorities conducted 2.378 million enforcement encounters; Fiscal Year 2023 is on pace to exceed that number considerably.  Now, an important enforcement tool—Covid era-authority under Title 42 that allowed law enforcement to turn back immigrants without an asylum hearing—is set to expire on Thursday, potentially creating a crushing wave of thousands trying to get across the border during the days that follow. The Biden Administration is moving 1,500 troops to the border to prepare. On May 4, U.S. Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ) introduced bipartisan legislation resembling the operations of Title 42, giving the “Biden Administration a two-year temporary expulsion authority for migrants attempting to illegally enter the U.S. without inspection or proper documents. The Senators’ legislation is cosponsored by Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and John Cornyn (R-TX).” That legislation would help, but it is unlikely to be approved by Thursday. 
  • “Mark up” of the defense bill… The House and Senate Armed Services committees are ramping up work ahead of their consideration of the annual National Defense Authorization Act, an important bill that authorizes programs and policies at the Department of Defense. For now, the big question: What will be the top line authorization level? The Biden Administration’s budget called for $842 billion in Pentagon spending and $44 billion on defense activities in other departments, which together represents a $28 billion increase over last year… But some Republicans want to see the federal government tighten its belt moving forward, identifying a return to Fiscal Year 2022 spending levels as a suitable baseline. However, in a time of inflationary pressure and growing concerns about China and North Korea in the Indo Pacific region, others believe the defense budget—which represents about half of all discretionary spending—should be immune to those cuts. Carving out that much of the budget from cuts would then require very significant reductions elsewhere… The House committee, with Chairman Mike Rogers at the helm, will move first. Most of the House subcommittees will mark up their respective parts of the bill on Thursday, and the full committee will consider the legislation during a lengthy meeting on May 23. The Senate will be a few weeks behind. This process will be closely watched by Pentagon officials, military installation commanders, and defense industry executives… The NDAA represents a rare example of enduring bipartisanship on Capitol Hill; Congress has approved the bill for 62 consecutive years. 
  • China & A Second CHIPS Act… Last year, after many twists and turns, Congress passed a massive $52 billion bill aimed at making the U.S. economy more competitive with China. The legislation, called the CHIPS act, pumped money into semiconductor research and manufacturing, an attempt to level the playing field in an industry where the vast majority of advanced semiconductors are fabricated in Taiwan… There appears to be a growing appetite for a follow up effort aimed more specifically at deterring a Chinese invasion of Taiwan by laying out possible sanctions for any aggression, limiting technology transfers to China, and restricting American business activities in the country. It will be a tough sell, but the issue is top of mind for Democrats in the Senate and Republicans in the House, so that’s a strong start. 
  • Sen. Britt focuses on social media… As Alabama Daily News covered this weekend, Alabama Senator Katie Britt has joined forces with a bipartisan group of Senators to tackle the difficult issue of social media’s impact on younger Americans. Specifically, the group’s legislation would prohibit individuals under the age of 13 from using social media, require social media companies to use more rigorous age verification technology, limit the use of algorithms to direct content to teenagers, and require a guardian’s approval before teenagers create new accounts… Though other proposals exist, this evolving policy area deserves more attention, and it makes sense for Britt to engage where a real difference can be made—especially in an area that her generation inherently understands better than many of her colleagues. (The median age in the Senate is 65.3 years.) The ills of social media, which are increasingly tied to depression and anxiety in teens and young adults, is fertile policy ground for someone eager to dig into
    a hard issue. The social media companies will push back against any threat to their lucrative platforms, but constituents—especially parents—will appreciate the bipartisan effort.

Latest polling paints an unsettling picture for Biden…

  • Two weeks after announcing his presidential re-election bid, President Biden’s job favorability rating has slipped to an all-time low, falling to 36 percent today from 42 percent in February, according to a new Washington Post/ABC News poll. In the survey, most Democratic leaning voters want the Democratic Party to nominate someone other than Biden. Respondents rated Biden as more trustworthy than Trump, but believe Trump to be in better health and to be more mentally sharp.  The head-to-head polling shows both Trump (45 to 38) and DeSantis (42 to 37) beating Biden next fall. A lot will happen between now and then, but that poll is not good news for the White House. 

Daylight Savings Time Update…

Loyal THE MONDAY BRIEF reader “EP” has requested regular updates on congressional efforts to “reform” Daylight Savings Time. We’re happy to oblige. 

The leading legislative effort is spearheaded by Sen. Marco Rubio, with Sen. Tommy Tuberville proving vocal support for the idea. According to Rubio, his bill “would eliminate the changing of clocks to standard time for those four months. In sum, if enacted, we would not “fall back” in November and would enjoy a full year of DST, instead of only eight months.”  As Rubio said, “This ritual of changing time twice a year is stupid.” (Opponents to the change have raised various objections, including safety concerns regarding kids at early morning bus stops)… The bill passed the Senate last year, but frankly that was a bit of procedural fluke. Rubio reintroduced similar legislation this year. This time, the bill in the Senate is S. 258, which was referred to the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee. The House companion is H.R. 1279, which was referred to the House Energy and Commerce Committee.  So… here begins a semi-regular segment tracking the progress, or lack thereof, of the Sunshine Protection Act. 

EP’s Weekly Update on the Sunshine Protect Act… 

No action this week. (Sorry.)


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