House Passes Republican Debt Ceiling Bill
The House of Representatives recently passed legislation to raise the U.S. debt ceiling on a party-line vote of 217-215. Congress must lift the debt ceiling by this summer to avoid the federal government defaulting on its debt obligations. The Republican plan would suspend the debt ceiling through either March 31, 2024 or provide for a $1.5 trillion increase from the current $31.4 trillion ceiling - whichever comes first. Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has estimated the bill would save $4.5 trillion over a decade. The bill now moves to the U.S. Senate for consideration.
The proposed legislation would return total discretionary spending to the Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 level in FY 2024 and cap annual spending growth at 1% for the following ten years. To achieve budget savings, the bill would rescind unspent COVID-19 relief funds and repeal most of the Inflation Reduction Act's (IRA) energy and climate tax credit expansions. It would also prohibit President Biden's student debt cancellation, rescind the IRA's increased Internal Revenue Service (IRS) funding, and impose work requirements for several federal safety net programs. In addition, the bill would require Congress to approve any federal rule or regulation that has an estimated economic impact of $100 million or more.
While President Biden has threatened to veto the bill, it marks the first major step by Congress in negotiations between the president and Republicans to raise the debt ceiling. Any final agreement will need the bipartisan support of Republicans in the House and Democrats in the Senate to reach President Biden’s desk.
U.S. Government Could Hit Debt Ceiling on June 1
The U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen recently sent a letter to Congress announcing that the federal government could hit its debt ceiling by June 1, 2023. According to Secretary Yellen, this estimate is based on currently available data, as federal receipts and outlays are inherently variable, and the actual date that Treasury exhausts extraordinary measures could be a number of weeks later than these estimates. Congress must pass legislation in the coming weeks to increase the debt ceiling to avoid defaulting on its debt obligations.
House Passes Immigration Enforcement Bill
The House of Representatives recently passed legislation on a party-line vote of 219-213 that would increase border security and immigration enforcement in the United States. The bill would require all employers to use E-Verify, a federal web-based system that allows public- and private-sector employers to confirm that employees are eligible to work in the United States. Currently, 22 states mandate some form of the E-Verify program. The bill would phase in the E-Verify requirement over several years, with deadlines depending on the size of an employer’s workforce. In addition, the bill would modify existing civil and criminal penalties for hiring people without work authorization.
The legislation now moves to the Senate where it faces significant opposition from Democrats who control the chamber. House Republicans are hoping passage of the legislations sparks bipartisan negotiations on a broader immigration package. BSCAI will be monitoring negotiations on immigration legislation and will keep members updated on the latest developments.
OSHA Announces National Emphasis Program on Workplace Falls
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently announced the agency has begun a National Emphasis Program to identify and reduce hazards which are causing or likely to cause serious injuries and fatalities from falls while working at heights. The emphasis program will focus on reducing fall-related injuries and fatalities for people working at heights in all industries.
The program establishes guidance for locating and inspecting fall hazards and allows OSHA compliance safety and health officers to open inspections whenever they observe someone working at heights. An outreach component of the program will focus on educating employers about effective ways to keep their workers safe. If a compliance officer determines an inspection is not necessary after entering a worksite and observing work activities, they will provide outreach on fall protection and leave the site.
EPA Proposes Rule to Ban Methylene Chloride
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced a proposed rule to ban most consumer and industrial uses of methylene chloride under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The EPA’s proposed rule would rapidly phase down manufacturing, processing and distribution of methylene chloride for all consumer uses and most industrial and commercial uses, most of which would be fully implemented in 15 months.