The House is ‘it’ this week, when it comes to agency authorizations

The Senate managed to pass an important bill last week, authorizing the Federal Aviation Administration. That makes the House "it," so to speak.

The Senate managed to pass an important bill last week, authorizing the Federal Aviation Administration. That makes the House “it,” so to speak. The Senate will move onto some federal bread-and-butter issues, though: Telework and technology procurement. For an update, the Federal Drive with Tom Temin spoke with Bloomberg Government Deputy News Director Loren Duggan.

Interview Transcript: 

Tom Temin And Loren, let’s start with those Senate bills that are looking at some teleworking. And as we said it procurement matters for the government. What’s going on with the telework. Let’s start there.

Loren Duggan Sure. This is in the Senate Homeland Security Committee, which oversees government wide operations. And they have a markup coming up this week where they’re looking at, as you said, it’s and telework bills. One of them is a bill by Jim Lankford and Kyrsten Sinema that’s looking to put a little bit more structure around telework and also to try and help military spouses and, and others, and maybe even set aside jobs that are better for off-site work if they’re, you know, if you’re a veteran or you’re following your spouse overseas or at a remote location to potentially do one of those jobs. So that’s one of the bills. There’s another one by Joni Ernst that’s looking for, I think, just some more information about telework. But continuing with this theme of Congress looking at how agencies are staffing downtown or not, and maybe even talking about some things they’d like to see differently with that. And then the other bill that they’re doing is about, federal technology procurement. Part of, you know, larger pushes there to just, change how the government buys and sells important things and the workforce that’s doing that. That’s the kind of legislation that you could see moving potentially on its own. But I could also see it brought up later this year in the context of the defense policy bill, because acquisition is such a big part of that. And sometimes when they think about those broader issues, that they, they look to that bill to perhaps advance that. So, you know, important federal worker bills moving through a committee this week.

Tom Temin Yes. The industry is often disappointed when the 800 series of provisions in the NDAA don’t have lots of items because there’s not much to chew on. You know, for the coming year, although often those things come out and it takes the government five years to implement them too. So maybe they need a breather there. With respect to the FAA. That was a little bit of contention, because it looks like Reagan Airport is going to get stuck with more flights that the Virginia and Maryland senators did not want. Could that get amended in some way to reduce that flight addition in the House version?

Loren Duggan Well, nothing’s over until it’s over, but this is a pretty baked cake at this point. What the Senate passed last week, at the heart of it was a compromise that the House and Senate negotiators had reached and handed to the Senate to sort of process first and send over to the House to clear for the president. That Senate, as you said, got that done pretty late on Thursday night, sent it over to the house. There was an expiration on Friday night, but there was a one-week extension also process at the same time to prevent the agency from having to furlough staff so it could continue to collect the taxes it uses to pay for its operations. That Reagan issue was the sort of last mile concern. Virginia senators in particular, were opposed to adding these five additional long-haul flights because of the broader safety concerns they have at the airport. But at this point, given that it wasn’t in what the Senate passed, and the House is trying to take it up is to take it or leave it proposition for members, it’s unlikely that change will be made. But, you know, as I said, it’s not over till it’s over. But I think the chances are pretty slim.

Tom Temin But as it stands now, then the flights are coming to the airport.

Loren Duggan They will be coming to the airport. Right. And there’s some big backers like Ted Cruz, who I think is getting one of those to Texas eventually. And he was the ranking member in the Senate. He was trying to fight to keep it in there. So, there was a that dynamic at play.

Tom Temin If you look at those ramps at Reagan National, and sometimes it looks like the planes are going to back into each other. There’s so much traffic in that, and it’s not a real big airport. As a frequent user of that, I would say not such a good idea to add flights there anyhow, but not up to us. We’re speaking with Lauren Dugan, deputy news director at Bloomberg Government. The FAA is not the only authorization that still has to happen, right?

Loren Duggan There’s a couple of others coming up in the house this week. They were looking at one for the Coast Guard, which moves separately from the broader defense authorization bill because of its location in the Homeland Security Department. But that’s kind of a perennial or every other year type of issue. And then we’re also potentially seeing one on the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, which plays important roles in the Commerce Department and, tech regulation, things like that. So, you know, these are things that committees work on. Behind the scenes turnout in the House was looking to act on both of those this week with, you know, another bunch of hodgepodge bills, kind of as the major things are not ready to go quite yet.

Tom Temin I guess academically, someday we’ll try to figure out why NTIA doesn’t go with the rest of Commerce Department, and FAA doesn’t go with the rest of transportation.

Loren Duggan Well, I think these the some of these committees have such wide jurisdiction that biting off a little bit here and there makes it easier. Certainly, we have a five-year highway bill usually, or six years, and then this five-year FAA bill. So, it gives them a little bit of time to work on different issues.

Tom Temin And getting back to the National Defense Authorization Act, that kind of goes hand in hand with budget appropriations for 20. 25, whether they get the appropriations done by the end of the calendar, we don’t know. But NDAA, is it going to be? It came down to the wire to the end of 2023 this past year for 2024. Does it look like they’ll make it in time once again for 2025 by the end of this calendar year?

Loren Duggan I’ve always said that no one wants to be the Armed Services chairman who doesn’t get that bill done. They’ve done it for like six decades plus now. So, I do think that’s one of the issues that they’ll try to resolve before the end of the year, making it a big target for other issues like the ones we discussed. It’s likely that final action would slip till after the election. I would think just looking at the calendar, but you could see both Armed Services Committee marking up and then trying to get those across the floor sometime this year. But just a reminder, they’re off for a week in July for one convention, off all of August for another and to campaign. And then they won’t be here in October. So given that kind of chunky schedule, I think they’ll try to make progress on that bill where they can. But that’s likely an end of the year proposition.

Tom Temin And I wonder if there will be action other than just resolutions and discussions in either the House or the Senate with respect to the Biden administration’s claim to withhold weapons from Israel, when the bill that funded all of that was such an enormous lift on the Congress’s part to get done in the first place.

Loren Duggan I mean, for now, it probably will be more on the rhetorical aspect with people pushing back on that decision. We’ll see if there’s legislation around that. To your point, that the Israel aid did have bipartisan support in both chambers, also had some bipartisan criticism, but certainly, the decision having to send all this money over not to send weapons, as it were, was criticized pretty widely by members of Congress.

Tom Temin And what about the campuses? Again, a lot of discussion in Congress, a lot of condemnation, a lot of lack of condemnation of what’s going on the campuses. Anything legislatively can do or would consider.

Loren Duggan I think we’ll see more hearings. First. There’s at least one this week in the Judiciary Committee, more presidents being called to the Hill next week by the education and the Workforce Committee. One area where we could see something is just education. Institutions get a lot of federal research dollars, and there could be some discussion about that or to withhold it if there’s found to be some wave of anti-Semitism on campus and an inability to deal with it by administrators. So, I haven’t heard what that exact legislative proposal is, other than the one that the House passed about investigating anti-Semitism claims. But, you know, if there is a need, I’m sure they’ll look into it as the weeks go on here.

Tom Temin Yeah. So that could really devolve down to the many, many, many, many grantmaking agencies where lots of the grants go to academia, potentially.

Loren Duggan And I think that’s where the wide reach of academia into different programs. That might be one of the topics of discussion. And as we wrote last week, educational institutions pay a lot for lobbyists to help them navigate all that and navigate in particular the situation where they’re under the gun from committees.

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