Welcome to the November edition of A Capitol View. We provide you with the latest on the passage of the infrastructure bill, federal vaccination mandate guidance, FY 2022 NDAA, and Senator Leahy’s retirement after a historically long career of public service.
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act Passage and Content
On Monday, November 15th, President Biden signed the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act into law that appropriates nearly $550 billion in new spending for transportation, broadband, and utilities. The legislation had originally passed the Senate in August by a margin of 69-30, however, struggled to pass in the House due to political obstacles until November 5th, when it passed by a margin of 228-206.
Below is a bulleted breakdown of how the funds are allocated:
- $55 billion to invest in and expand access to clean drinking water.
- $65 billion to ensure internet access for every American through investments in broadband infrastructure deployment.
- $110 billion in additional funding for surface transportation programs that this legislation reauthorizes for another five years. These funds go towards the maintenance and repair of roads, bridges, and highways while also supporting major surface transportation projects.
- $39 billion to modernize transit in addition to continuing current programs for five years as part of the previously mentioned surface transportation program reauthorization.
- $42 billion in new spending to revitalize our nation’s port and airport infrastructure to combat supply chain deficiencies.
- $66 billion in additional rail spending to improve Amtrak, modernize the Northeast corridor, and upgrade domestic rail service.
- $7.5 billion for the construction of nearly 500,000 more electric vehicle chargers to establish a national network.
- $65 billion to upgrade power grid infrastructure, build thousands of new transmission lines, and expand upon the usage of renewable and clean energy.
- $50 billion to protect against extreme weather events, increase infrastructure resilience against all threats, and assess the impact of climate change.
- $21 billion to clean up Superfund and brownfield sites, reclaim abandoned mine land, and cap orphaned oil and gas wells.
Here are some additional resources and links to further information on the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
Senate National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) Status
The Senate version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is scheduled to be voted on this week, with final negotiations focusing on several amendments that are being considered separately from the bill. A package of 58 bipartisan amendments is currently included, with notable provisions including Sen. Duckworth’s addition that would establish an independent commission to study U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, and Sen. Gillibrand’s that would amend the way that sexual assault is handled within the military chain of command. There are still many more amendments that have yet to be considered, but with the end of the year swiftly approaching, the Senate’s version of the NDAA for this fiscal year may have to be passed in its current state to leave time for conferencing between the two chambers.
The annual defense bill is considered must-pass legislation by Congress, as a result, lawmakers from both parties have a history of attaching amendments to it.
Update: Federal Vaccination Mandate
President Biden’s Executive Order 14043, requiring all federal employees, executive branch staff, and federal contractors to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, deadline passed on November 22nd. According to White House Press Secretary, Jen Psaki, 95% of federal workers have complied with the mandate by receiving their first dose of the vaccine, a majority of whom are fully vaccinated in accordance with the CDC’s classifications or have submitted a medical or religious exemption. An individual is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after they receive their second dose of Moderna or Pfizer or two weeks after they receive their single dose of Johnson & Johnson. Booster shots are not required to be considered fully vaccinated.
Government contractors originally had until January 4th to comply with the Biden Administration’s mandate, or undergo weekly COVID-19 testing. However, since the announcement of Biden’s Executive Order in September, dozens of lawsuits have been filed against the federal government. Additionally, a federal circuit court has banned Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) from enforcing the mandate, presenting further challenges to the legality of the vaccine mandate.
Senator Leahy’s Retirement
Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the President Pro Tempore of the Senate and longest-serving sitting member in the chamber, announced on November 15th that he will not seek reelection next year, concluding his nearly five decades in the Senate. Leahy stated, “It is time to put down the gavel. It is time to pass the torch to the next Vermonter, who will carry on this work for our great state.” Once his term ends in January 2023, he will be the third longest-serving Senator in the chamber’s history.
During Leahy’s tenure, he served as Chairman of the Senate Agriculture, Appropriations, and Judiciary committees, questioned every sitting Supreme Court Justice during their confirmation hearings, and cast nearly 17,000 votes. Some of Leahy’s most notable accomplishments were advocating for an independent judiciary, reinstating earmarks after a 10-year hiatus, championing the ban on the exportation of landmines, and protecting the environment. His commitment to the people of Vermont in conjunction with his position on the Appropriations committee has brought billions of federal dollars to the state.