The Weekly Hill Update

Washington D.C. The capitol, the seat of the government of the United States.Below is this week’s congressional update by BakerHostetler’s Federal Policy team. We’ll continue to post in weeks when both chambers of Congress hold floor votes.

HEADLINES

•  President Joe Biden will host top congressional leaders at the White House on Wednesday seeking bipartisan common ground on large-scale infrastructure legislation.

•  The House and Senate reconvene with a full agenda of hot-button issues beyond the infrastructure package that leaders wish to address in the near term: police reform, China competition, election reform, and hate crimes legislation all could see action before Memorial Day.

•  House Republicans plan to hold a conference vote to replace Conference Chair Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., with Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., because of Cheney’s vocal criticism of former President Donald Trump. Continue Reading

House Democrats Urge Funding Boost for Wall Street’s ‘Cop on the Beat’

House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters is calling on Congress to increase funding for Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) oversight of Wall Street’s “regulatory and market structure weak points.”

With SEC Chairman Gary Gensler signaling stepped-up enforcement of public companies and other SEC registrants, Democrats on Capitol Hill are leveraging their majority status to ensure the agency has the resources to meet its new chairman’s aggressive oversight mandate. Continue Reading

The Future of SEC Enforcement Under the Biden Administration

With Gary Gensler confirmed as the new chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Democratic-run regulatory agency will prioritize policies that focus on investor and consumer protections. The Federal Policy team’s Kevin Edgar, in a post co-authored with other BakerHostetler attorneys, examines the new enforcement landscape and how it will affect capital formation.

Read more.

Democrats Face Key Test Vote on COVID-19 Relief Bill

House Democrats plan to vote as soon as Friday on their $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill, a key initial hurdle as they race to renew federal unemployment benefits, provide stimulus checks to millions of Americans and inject billions of dollars to speed the administration of COVID-19 vaccinations.

The bill is expected to win narrow House approval this week, then go to the Senate, where its fate is less certain. The legislation faces a complicated procedural gauntlet in the Senate that threatens key provisions, such as increasing the minimum wage nationally to $15 per hour.

Democrats are using a procedural tool called budget reconciliation to pass their COVID-19 package. That process prevents any Republican senator from filibustering the bill and allows Democrats to approve it without GOP votes. But Democrats’ Senate majority is razor thin, as both Democrats and Republicans each have 50 seats – only Vice President Harris’ tie-breaking vote gives Democrats the majority. Continue Reading

Daunting Deadlines: Congress’ To-Do List on Expiring Laws

While Washington is rushing to enact COVID-19 funding before the mid-March expiration of enhanced federal unemployment benefits, lawmakers face a host of upcoming policy deadlines that will require congressional action.

House and Senate Democrats hope to address some of these deadlines in the next coronavirus relief bill, but other provisions will be addressed in other legislation later this year.

The most impactful upcoming deadline could be the summertime expiration of the government’s borrowing authority. If Congress doesn’t approve a higher borrowing limit – the federal debt is nearly $28 trillion today – Washington could face a significant credit crisis that could wallop an economy already struggling to rebound from the pandemic. Continue Reading

Reconciliation Primer: Democrats March Toward COVID-19 Relief Bill

The Senate on Friday took the first step toward advancing filibuster-proof legislation that congressional Democrats hope to enact by mid-March that would include $1.9 trillion in COVID-19 relief and other policy priorities.

Democrats are using a procedural tool called reconciliation to advance their COVID-19 package. Here’s an overview of the process and Democrats’ plans.

Process

  • The Senate early Friday approved a fiscal year 2021 budget resolution 51-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris voting to break a tie. Democrats and Republicans each hold 50 seats in the Senate.
  • In an all-night voting session, the Senate adopted 22 amendments in a process known as a “vote-a-rama.”
  • The budget resolution doesn’t become law – it’s an internal congressional mandate and isn’t sent to the president for his signature. Instead, the budget resolution establishes topline spending numbers in the federal government’s annual budget.
  • But the real purpose of the budget resolution is that it also authorizes a separate budget reconciliation bill, which is unlike typical legislation. What makes a reconciliation bill special is that it cannot be filibustered in the Senate – that means it can pass with a simple majority vote, instead of the 60 votes required to overcome a filibuster.
  • This is critical for Democrats and their one-vote Senate majority thanks to Harris’ tie-breaking role. Because of the reconciliation process, Democrats can enact their policy priorities without negotiating or compromising with Republicans.
  • Republicans similarly used the reconciliation process for the 2017 tax reform law.

Continue Reading

Congress Grants SEC New Authority in Securities Fraud Cases

Congress voted to give the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) sweeping new authority to prosecute violations by creating a 10-year statute of limitations for the agency to seek disgorgement of ill-gotten gains from securities fraud.

A 1934 law had limited the SEC to seek disgorgement as a civil remedy only in administrative proceedings. But the new law allows the SEC to pursue ill-gotten gains in federal court.

The SEC provision is buried in an unrelated $740 billion defense reauthorization bill that Congress approved in December. President Donald Trump vetoed that underlying bill, but lawmakers overrode that veto, paving the way for the legislation – and its SEC language – to become law Jan. 1.

Click here for an in-depth BakerHostetler analysis of the new law and SEC’s new authority.

2021 BakerHostetler Congressional Calendar

Congressional leaders finalized the 2021 legislative calendar, which lists the days during the year when the House and Senate are scheduled to be in session, as well as days when House committees are scheduled to hold hearings but with no floor votes scheduled.

Click here to download your ready-to-print, one-page combination House and Senate calendar for 2021. Suitable for hanging on your wall all year long!

Congress Targets $2.3 Trillion COVID-19 Relief, Government Funding Package

Congress is scheduled to wrap up legislative business only days before Christmas by voting on a $2.3 trillion package of COVID-19 relief and government spending amid reports that coronavirus infections are spiking nationwide and as the first vaccines are being distributed.

The legislation – the product of furious last-minute negotiations that stalled passage for days – includes a mix of tax credits and direct cash payments, with nearly $1 trillion in COVID-related spending to address the still-wobbly economy and aid frontline healthcare workers.

In classic Washington fashion, the legislation mushroomed to more than 5,000 pages and included a host of non-COVID provisions –most notably, avoiding a government shutdown by including $1.3 trillion to fund federal programs until next fall. Continue Reading

What Happens If… Potential Election Outcomes and What They Could Mean

Election Day could produce massive changes in Washington and in the policies that would affect every American and every company. Even a status quo election could produce lasting regulatory consequences for key stakeholders. Just days before the 2020 election ends (maybe!), BakerHostetler’s Federal Policy team offers quick takes on the most likely scenarios and what they could mean for you.

Read more.

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