This Week in Washington

Latest news from Washington, D.C. produced by Total Spectrum/SGA exclusively for members of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry

More Info: Michael DiMaria | Partner and Vice President of Business Development | 602-717-3891 | [email protected]

Thanks for your interest in Washington, D.C., and thanks for reading This Week in Washington.

Senator John Thune’s announcement that he was staying in the Senate was music to the ears of those who believe that Republicans can pick up a couple of seats in November’s election and regain the majority. Congressman Erik Paulsen recently interviewed Senator Thune, and we featured it in a special edition of This Week. Some people missed this important interview, so we have been asked to include it in this week’s edition.

Heard on the Hill covers subjects as diverse as a postal reform bill, a continuing resolution to keep the government open for another month while appropriators work to reach an agreement on a new budget, Supreme Court Associate Justice Breyer’s retirement, what it’s like to try to run a legislative agenda in a 50-50 Senate, and what Washington, D.C. is like two years after the start of the pandemic.

Ramona Lessen monitored the February 8th hearing of the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee on protecting youth mental health. We’ve also included Infographs on a few hot topics of the day and the week’s legislative calendar.

We’ll be back on February 23rd for the next edition of This Week. Stay well.

Steve Gordon

Total Spectrum Managing Director

In case you missed it: Total Spectrum Spotlight — Sen. John Thune (R-SD)

Total Spectrum Spotlight brings you an exclusive interview with Sen. John Thune, the Republican Whip in the U.S. Senate and #2 in Senate Republican leadership. With so much going on – Russia threatening Ukraine, rising prices and inflation in the U.S., health mandates being imposed on businesses, worker shortages, and President Biden’s legislative agenda stalling out – Congressman Erik Paulsen hears Senator Thune’s perspectives and insights on these topics and more, plus the legislative agenda for this mid-term election year.

Heard on the Hill

By Steve Gordon, Total Spectrum Managing Partner

Senator John Thune

There is little question that Senator John Thune’s decision to remain in the U.S. Senate will be seen as one of the key political events of 2021-2022. That will be especially true should Republicans regain the Senate this November.

I have known John Thune for a very long time. He served six years in Congress, but he exploded on the national political scene when he defeated Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle in 2004. Many people around the country started immediately mentioning him as a potential presidential candidate, but he preferred to percolate up in the Senate, first as Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, and then as the Whip – the second ranking Republican – in the Senate.

Senator Thune cares about the Senate and public policy, and he also cares about his family back in South Dakota. It was clear to many of us that he was truly conflicted. But Senator Thune announced last month that he and his family had concluded that he should continue his work in the Senate.

My colleague Congressman Erik Paulsen interviewed Senator Thune last week for Total Spectrum Spotlight, and we distributed it as a special edition of Heard on the Hill.  We have been asked to circulate the interview again in this edition, and we’re pleased to do so.

Senator John Thune joins Senator John Barrasso (WY) and Senator John Cornyn (TX) as the three most likely candidates for Republican Leader or Senate Majority Leader when Senator McConnell decides it’s time.

Justice Breyer Announces his Retirement

After 27 years on the U.S. Supreme Court, Associate Justice Stephen Breyer recently announced his intention to retire. Progressive and liberal groups have been urging Justice Breyer to retire this year – prior to this November’s elections when Republicans might take back the Senate.

President Biden hopes to announce his choice to succeed Justice Breyer by the end of February. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senator Richard Durbin, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, had hoped to have the confirmation process completed by Easter. But Senator Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM) announced this week that he had suffered a stroke – and in a 50-50 Senate, any absence puts the legislative schedule on a tightrope and a lifeline.

Justice Breyer’s retirement will not change the majority on the Supreme Court, so there’s the possibility that one or two Republican Senators will at least consider voting for a reasonable candidate. Candidate Biden promised to nominate an African American woman to the Supreme Court, and President Biden reaffirmed that commitment.

Congress is set to FINALLY reform the USPS

The House of Representatives on Tuesday passed the most significant reform of the U.S. Postal Service in two decades, and it passed with bipartisan support. A similar bill is working its way through the Senate, and it also has bipartisan support. President Biden has signaled that he will sign the bill.

The Postal Service has been in the red for twenty years, hobbled by problems of almost every possible nature. Their back was against the wall, so Congress acted by removing two financial burdens that will save the USPS over $50 billion in 10 years. The House Committee on Oversight and Reform, the committee that wrote the bill, put out this fact sheet.

Congress Passes a Continuing Resolution

A clear majority of legislators from both sides of the aisle have figured out that no one wins and everybody loses when the federal government is closed for lack of funding. As they often say in Missouri, there’s no education in the second kick of the mule, and even less in the third or fourth.

The current continuing resolution expires on February 18.  Tuesday the House passed a new continuing resolution by a vote of 272 to 162 that will keep the doors open and the lights on until March 11.  Majority Leader Schumer has promised to pass a similar bill in the Senate before the current funding authority expires.

One overlooked but critical point is that Congress has been extending all year through the continuing resolution process budgets left over from the Trump Administration. The last omnibus appropriations bill that was passed by Congress was in December 2020, so the Biden Administration and the Democratic majorities in both the Senate and the House have yet to appropriate to their priorities.

Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), Ranking Member on the Senate Appropriations committee, announced Wednesday that top appropriators have crafted an agreement on the structure for a full year budget agreement. 

When Will Washington Return to Normal?

Senator John McCain used to start his remarks to groups by saying, “It’s hard to do the Lord’s work in the middle of Sodom and Gomorrah.” He was kidding, but Washington, D.C. had grown from the sleepy southern town I first saw in 1978 into a constantly building and trendy city with traffic jams rivaling those found in Los Angeles.

The coronavirus pandemic changed Washington, D.C. Senate and House staffs, except for essential employees, were asked to work from home and the same was true for most private companies and associations. Restaurants and small retail stores held on as long as they could mostly through take-out orders, or they closed until their customers came back. They survived because of the Paycheck Protection Program and other pandemic relief programs Congress passed to support small businesses.

It has been two years since the first outbreak of COVID-19 and I was struck last week how very little has changed. There is still minimal traffic because most government employees are still working from home. I was in five restaurants last week for lunch and dinner, and of these, four had plenty of room and only a few tables full.

I was asked last fall to meet a Senate Chief of Staff at his office.  The procedure at that time was that I had to text the Chief and ask him to meet me at the front door of the Senate building. I’m told that it has eased off a little this year in the Senate, but it has yet to on the House side.

A Republican Member of the House told me last week that he recently went to a hearing of his assigned Committee. He was stopped at the Committee room door and prevented from entering by Capitol Hill Police because it was designated as a ‘virtual’ hearing.

Republican Members do not expect any change in the status of the House through the November election.

Hearing Report

By Ramona Lessen, Executive Director, Total Spectrum

Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee hearing on Protecting Youth Mental Health: Part I – An Advisory and Call to Action

Tuesday, February 8, 2022; 10:00 a.m. 

To view a livestream of the hearing please click here

Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), Chairman

Majority Statement

Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID), Ranking Member

Minority Statement


The Honorable Vivek H. Murthy, M.D., M.B.A.

Surgeon General, Office of The Secretary

US Department of Health and Human Services

Washington, DC


Congressional Calendar

Monday, February 7

  • 2 p.m. House Rules Committee virtual business meeting on H.R. 3076, a bill to reform the postal service.

Tuesday, February 8

  • 9:30 a.m. Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the nomination of Lieutenant General Michael Kurilla to be general and Commander of U.S. Central Command.
  • 10 a.m. House Financial Services Committee virtual hearing on stablecoin reports.
  • 10 a.m. House Intelligence Defense Subcommittee closed hearing on the Defense Department’s Aug. 29, 2021 strike in Kabul.
  • 10 a.m. Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on four ambassador nominations.
  • 10 a.m. House Agriculture Farm Commodities Subcommittee virtual hearing to review farm policy with Agriculture Undersecretary Robert Bonnie.
  • 10 a.m. Senate Finance Committee hearingon youth mental health.
  • 10 a.m. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on the Log4Shell vulnerability.
  • 10 a.m. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on three land and energy management nominations.
  • 10 a.m. Senate HELP Committee hearing on the effect Covid-19 had on those working with disabilities.
  • 10 a.m. House Foreign Affairs Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations Subcommittee virtual hearing on public education in Africa.
  • 10 a.m. House Homeland Security Emergency Preparedness Subcommittee virtual hearing on a grant program protecting houses of worship.
  • 10 a.m. House Natural Resources Committee virtual hearing on equity in environmental policy.
  • 10 a.m. House Science Committee virtual hearing on challenges to human trafficking research.
  • 10 a.m. House Oversight Committee hearing on Big Oil’s climate pledges.
  • 10:30 a.m. House Energy and Commerce Committee virtual hearing on biomedical research.
  • 11 a.m. House Transportation Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee hearing on Water Resources Development Act of 2022 proposals.
  • 1 p.m. House Foreign Affairs Committee virtual markup of six bills, including a bill, H.R. 6552 , that would reauthorize the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000.
  • 2 p.m. House Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee hearing on military talent management and policy.
  • 2 p.m. House Veterans’ Affairs Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs Subcommittee virtual hearing on disability services.
  • 2 p.m. House Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee virtual hearing on challenges facing taxpayers.
  • 3 p.m. Senate Judiciary Oversight Subcommittee hearing on corporate accountability.

Wednesday, February 9

  • 9 a.m. House Oversight Government Operations Subcommittee virtual hearing on revitalizing WMATA.
  • 10 a.m. House Veterans’ Affairs Technology Modernization Subcommittee virtual hearing on challenges to infrastructure modernization.
  • 10 a.m. Senate Agriculture Committee hearing on examining digital assets.
  • 10 a.m. Senate Finance Committee hearing on two Human and Health Services nominations.
  • 10 a.m. Senate Energy and Natural Resources National Parks Subcommittee hearing reviewing the Great American Outdoors Act.
  • 10 a.m. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on two bills, including S. 2373, a bill to establish U.S. leadership in nuclear energy.
  • 10 a.m. Senate Judiciary Committee hearing reviewing U.S. drone strikes.
  • 10 a.m. Senate Commerce Committee hearing to consider Gigi Sohn’s nomination to be an FCC Commissioner.
  • 10 a.m. Senate Foreign Relations Committee closed briefing on Iran.
  • 10:30 a.m. House Economic Disparity Select Committee virtual hearing on infrastructure and economic growth.
  • 2:30 p.m. Joint Economic Committee virtual hearing on older workers.
  • 2:30 p.m. . Senate Foreign Relations Near East, South Asia, Central Asia, and Counterterrorism Subcommittee hearing on the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.
  • 2:30 p.m. Senate Banking Financial Institutions and Consumer Protection Subcommittee hearing on community development institutions.
  • 3 p.m. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee business meeting on three OMB and Homeland Security nominations.
  • TBD. Senate HELP Committee business meeting on various nominations.

Thursday, February 10

  • 9 a.m. Senate Judiciary Committee business meeting on nine judicial nominees and two bills, including S. 3538 , which would establish a National Commission on Online Child Sexual Exploitation Prevention
  • 9:30 a.m. Senate Aging Committee hearing on improving care for people on Medicare and Medicaid.
  • 10 a.m. Senate ENR Committee hearing on clean hydrogen.
  • 10 a.m. Senate HELP Committee hearing on the health

Covid-19 tracker: Hospitalizations continue to fall from January spike

Click image for full report.

Omicron drove Covid cases up an average of 36% across states

Click image for full report.

Changes ahead for the Federal Reserve Board

Click image for full report.

What you need to know about the state of U.S. supply chains

Click image for full report.

What to expect out of Breyer’s Supreme Court vacancy

Click image for full report.

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