Biden: Enough Covid-19 Vaccines for All American Adults by End of May

Posted on 03/03/2021 8:01 AM

Gensler comments | Senate begins aid bill debate | Tanden out as OMB nominee

 


In Today’s Digital Newspaper


 

Market Focus:
• Fed starts commenting more about volatile bond market
• Sharp rise in European government-bond yields getting traders’ attention
• SEC nominee Gensler would look into climate change & GameStop trading frenzy
• Trading volume on the Nasdaq on Tuesday was lowest of 2021

• U.K.’s government to unveil set of proposals to loosen stock-listing rules
• Services readings in China and Japan show lingering pandemic impacts
• What happens in Vegas apparently doesn’t stay in Vegas but goes to Asia
• Ag demand update

Attaché lowers Argentine bean crop projection
• ASF reported in illegally transported piglets

Policy Focus:
• Senate today begins long floor process on latest coronavirus/stimulus aid bill
• Democrats already eyeing next stimulus

 

Biden Administration Personnel

• White House withdraws Neera Tanden’s nomination
• Senate votes 84-15 to confirm Raimondo as Commerce secretary
• Senate Finance voting today on Tai, Becerra nominations

 

China Update:
• Chinese soybean futures hit another record

 

Trade Policy:
• U.S. senators frustrated with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador
• Vilsack meets with Mexican, Canada ag leaders

 

Energy & Climate Change:

• House Democrats unveiled their first expansive climate bill this Congress
• Volvo goes ahead in race to go electric


Food & Beverage Industry Update:
• DeLauro wants to beef up meatpacker safety inspections
• Vilsack signals he backs Food Box program, but with adjustments


Coronavirus Update:
• Biden expects U.S. to have vaccines for all adults by end of May
• Texas lifts pandemic restrictions
• Calif. shifts vaccine distribution to nonprofit insurance company
• Church opposition to J&J vaccine
• Japan mulls extension of state of emergency in Tokyo area
• China aiming for getting 40% of population vaccinated by June

 

Politics & Elections:
• Keystone pipeline builder taps lobbyist brother of Biden adviser
• Growing hurdle to Biden’s agenda is court system wary of executive orders


Other Items of Note:
• Congressional Democrats pressuring for tougher consequences for Saudi officials
• U.S. engineers grade infrastructure ‘C-’
• Biggest firms want permanent path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants
• IRS paid $3 billion in interest on late taxpayer refunds last year
• CBO asks for a nearly $4 million raise

 


MARKET FOCUS


 

Equities today: Global stock markets were mostly up overnight. U.S. stock indexes are pointed toward higher openings. The Nikkei rose 150.93 points, 0.51%, at 29,559.10. The Hang Seng index rose 748.56 points, 2.70%, at 29,880.42. European equities are seeing gains in early trading but have moved off their initial highs. The Stoxx 600 was recently up 0.4% with regional markets gaining 0.5% to 0.9%.
 

     U.S. equities yesterday: The Dow fell 143.99 points, 0.46%, at 31,391.52. The Nasdaq declined 230.04 points, 1.69%, at 13,358.79. The S&P 500 was down 31.53 points, 0.81%, at 3,870.29.

 

     Trading volume on the Nasdaq on Tuesday was the lowest of 2021 so far, when 4,915,363,778 changed hands. That's less than half the number of shares that traded on Jan. 27, the highest volume day.

 

     U.K.’s government plans to unveil today a set of proposals to loosen stock-listing rules, to attract tech companies and SPACs to the London Stock Exchange.

 

     SEC Chairman nominee Gary Gensler testified before the Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday. He was mainly grilled on tactics used by some online brokerages, given the recent GameStop (GME) trading frenzy and its fallout. At the hearing, the SEC nominee pledged to analyze the rise of stock trading "gamification" and intervene if necessary. He'll also "look at market structure in the equity markets around payment for order flow when frankly just a couple — a handful — of financial firms are buying most of the retail flow in America." Gensler further indicated the agency could soon move to force companies to disclose more about their political spending, climate risks and board diversity. Regarding cryptos, Gensler said: "To the extent that somebody is offering an investment contract or security that's under the SEC's remit, and they have exchanges that operate there, then we have to make sure there's investor protection. If it's not that, and it's a commodity, as Bitcoin has been deemed to be, then it's either a question for Congress or it's possibly a question for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission." (He's a former Goldman Sachs partner and ex-chief of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (under the Obama administration). Gensler also spent time at the U.S. Treasury in the 1990s and served as the CFO for Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign.)

 

On tap today:

 

     • ADP's employment report for February is expected to show a gain of 225,000 private-sector jobs. (8:15 a.m. ET)
     • IHS Markit's U.S. services index for February is expected to hold at 58.9, unchanged from a preliminary reading for the month. (9:45 a.m. ET)
     • Institute for Supply Management's services index for February is expected to hold at 58.7, unchanged from a month earlier. (10 a.m. ET)
     • USDA Sec. Tom Vilsack speaks on the American Hunger in a National Press Foundation webcast, noon ET
     • Federal Reserve: Philadelphia Fed President Patrick Harker speaks on the workforce at 10 a.m. ET, Atlanta Fed President Raphael Bostic speaks on inclusion and the economy at 12 p.m. ET, and Chicago Fed President Charles Evans speaks on the economy and monetary policy at 1 p.m. ET.
     • Federal Reserve's beige book is out at 2 p.m. ET.

 

Services readings in China and Japan show lingering pandemic impacts. China’s services sector reading from Caixin/Markit came in at 51.5 in February, the lowest since April and down from 52.0 in January. A composite services/manufacturing index released by Caixin/Markit also declined to 51.7 in February from a mark of 52.2 in January. The final au Jibun Bank Japan Services PMI was at 46.3 in February, marking a 13th straight month below 50, the level separating contraction from expansion. But the index did edge up from January when it was 46.1 and from a preliminary mark of 45.8. The figures continue to indicate the services sector is still struggling as the Covid pandemic continues.

 

Fed is starting to worry about the bond markets. As bond yields spiked amid fears of inflation, Lael Brainard, one of the central bank’s governors, said in a speech that “the speed of those moves caught my eye,” noting the Fed is closely monitoring the situation. It was the first acknowledgment of bond anxieties among Fed officials, though no action is likely soon. However, she emphasized that the Fed is still far from either raising interest rates or reducing the asset purchases. She also reiterated comments from Fed Chairman Jerome Powell that the economy is still down some 10 million jobs from the pre-pandemic levels and the Fed is not going to move on rates until there is a full recovery in the jobs market. “We’ve got some distance to go to meet our goals,” Brainard said of moving inflation higher and unemployment lower. The Fed will also release its Beige Book report today, the anecdotal recap of economic conditions in the 12 Fed districts.

 

Sharp rise in European government-bond yields last week is prompting investors to bet on the region’s central bank intervening to keep financing costs low.

 

     European yields

 

What happens in Vegas apparently doesn’t stay in Vegas but goes to Asia. Casino operator Las Vegas Sands said today it would sell its Vegas real estate and operations to private equity giant Apollo Global Management for about $6.25 billion, as it looks to reinvest in its core Asia operations. The properties include the Venetian Resort Las Vegas and the Sands Expo and Convention Center. Shares of Las Vegas Sands were up almost 3% in the premarket. Apollo fell nearly 1%.

 

Market perspectives:

 

     • Outside markets: The U.S. dollar index is slightly firmer early today. Gold and silver futures are under pressure ahead of US trading, with gold under $1,724 per troy ounce and silver under $26.67 per troy ounce. Oil rose after a three-day fall with the OPEC+ alliance said to be poised to agree on an output increase at its meeting this week, but…

 

     • Crude oil is being supported by reports OPEC+ countries may rollover output targets as opposed to raising them. US crude is trading around $60.65 per barrel and Brent around $63.55 per barrel. Crude oil prices were firmer in Asian action, with US crude up 20 cents at $59.95 per barrel and Brent up 27 cents at $62.97 per barrel.

 

     • Ag demand: Algeria issued an international tender to buy around 30,000 MT of corn from optional origins. Japan purchased 54,960 MT of food-quality wheat from the U.S. as well as 27,977 MT of the grain from Canada. Jordan purchased around 120,000 MT of feed barley in an international tender. The country has also tendered to buy 120,000 MT of wheat.

 

Items in Pro Farmer's First Thing Today include (Link to subscribe to FTT):

     • Attaché lowers Argentine bean crop projection
     • ASF reported in illegally transported piglets in China

 


POLICY FOCUS


 

— Senate today begins long floor process on the latest coronavirus/stimulus aid bill. The chamber will have another late-night “vote-a-rama,” potentially on Thursday, on amendments to the bill (HR 1319). Senate Democrats hope to pass the bill by the end of the week.

 

     The Senate is expected to make changes to the bill, including scrapping an increase to a $15 minimum wage and shifting $350 billion for states and localities. Another issue is the size and duration of expanded unemployment benefits. The House-passed bill calls for weekly benefits of $400 that would expire at the end of August. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) has pushed to lower the benefit to $300, saying he didn’t want to discourage people from returning to work. But most Democrats appeared to favor holding the line at $400.

 

     Two infrastructure projects in the House version of the stimulus package were removed yesterday. The Senate Parliamentarian ruled that funding for a Bay Area Rapid Transit extension didn’t meet budget reconciliation requirements, according to a statement from Drew Hammill, a spokesman for Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). The roughly $140 million in funding was a part of the $30 billion dedicated to transit relief. Hammill said it will be removed from the package as well as $1.5 million in funding for the Seaway International Bridge in New York.

 

     Timeline. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said the House could then take up the Senate's revised bill as soon as Monday. Lawmakers face a March 14 deadline when expanded unemployment benefits are set to expire. The underlying bill would provide $25 billion in grants for hard-hit restaurants, which is a priority of Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), who like Manchin is an important swing vote.

 

— Democrats already eyeing next stimulus. A group of 10 Senate Democrats, including the chairs of three major committees, are already planning ahead for the next major stimulus measure, seeking automatic extensions of unemployment benefits and more direct payments, this time tied to financial conditions. “We urge you to include recurring direct payments and automatic unemployment insurance extensions tied to economic conditions” in the long-term economic plan, the senators told Biden in a letter.
 


BIDEN ADMINISTRATION PERSONNEL


 

—  Neera Tanden withdraws as Biden's nominee as nation's chief budget official in first Cabinet defeat for Biden. Tanden recently led the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, and faced opposition from Republicans and Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) over her now-deleted social media posts criticizing Republicans. The White House pulled the nomination, raising the question of who will take her place. Shalanda Young, currently nominated for deputy director at OMB, has the support of Democrats and some Republicans in Congress for the director job. Tanden noted in a letter released by the White House that she had “no path forward” for confirmation. “I do not want continued consideration of my nomination to be a distraction from your other priorities,” she wrote.

 

     Tanden's withdrawal came after Sen. LIsa Murkowski (R-Alaska) "conveyed to the White House that she was going to be a no," according to CNN.

 

— Senate voted 84-15 to confirm former Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo as Commerce secretary, giving her a key role in Biden’s trade policy team.

 

— Senate Finance Committee is voting today on the nominations of Xavier Becerra to be Health and Human Services secretary, Katherine Tai to be U.S. trade representative and Adewale Adeyemo to be deputy Treasury secretary.

 

     Nominees testifying in hearings today:

  • Brenda Mallory, nominated to be a member of the Council on Environmental Quality, and Janet Garvin McCabe, nominated for deputy administrator of the EPA (Senate Environment and Public Works, 10 a.m., ET).
  • Polly Ellen Trottenberg, nominated to be deputy Transportation secretary (Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, 10 a.m. ET).
  • Wendy Sherman, the nominee for deputy secretary of State, and Brian McKeon, nominated to be deputy secretary of State for management and resources (Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 10 a.m. ET).
     

CHINA UPDATE


 

Chinese soybean futures hit another record. Chinese soybean futures on the Dalian Commodity Exchange shot more than 3% higher to another record-high on Wednesday, the second record-breaking move this week. Rising prices for edible oil and expectations for delayed arrivals of Brazilian soybeans have lifted the market. Also, producers in the country are expected to favor corn acres over soybeans.

 

 — U.S./China Phase 1 tracker: China’s purchases of U.S. goods. Link

 


TRADE POLICY


 

— Senate Finance Committee members are frustrated with the administration of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador as seen in a set of written questions for USTR nominee Katherine Tai (link to Tai’s responses). At least nine members of the committee raised concerns about recent Mexican government actions that threaten U.S. farm exports and energy trade. “Mexico is maintaining or enacting new restrictions on U.S. agriculture that lack any scientific justification, including on potatoes, biotech crops, and glyphosate,” ranking member Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) wrote. In her written responses, Tai, a former House Ways and Means lawyer, vowed that she would “not hesitate to use the tools agreed upon in the USMCA to enforce the agreement with respect to agricultural products.”

 

— Vilsack meets with Mexican, Canada ag leaders. USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack held virtual discussions Tuesday with Mexican Secretary of Agriculture Victor Villalobos and with Canadian Minister of Agriculture Marie-Claude Bibeau.

 

     Vilsack said on Twitter that Mexico is “not only a key trading partner, but also an important collaborator as we address climate change and food security.” The two committed to boosting scientific and technological cooperation at all levels on agriculture. Villalobos said that the objective “is to achieve better production and guarantee food security.” Vilsack said that the relationship between the U.S. and Mexico was “strengthened with the Treaty between Mexico, the United States and Canada (T-MEC), which gained relevance in the context of the pandemic.” Vilsack also said that the two sides will “work to increase the productivity, with sustainable practices of all farmers, and in reaching being self-sufficient in the North America region.”

 

     Relative to his discussion with his Canadian counterpart, Vilsack said he expected to work with her on “climate smart food and forest practices and delivering science-based solutions to help mitigate and reduce climate change.” From the Canadian side, Bibeau said they agreed on a mutual interest in championing rules- and science-based international trade, with both sides agreeing that working on those issues is key for agriculture, according to the Canada Newswire. “Secretary Vilsack and I share many priorities and we committed to supporting each other's efforts to build a sustainable agricultural sector that strengthens our rural economies, and feeds our people at home and abroad,” Bibeau said in a statement.

 

     There was little mention on either side relative to trade issues between the parties such as dairy and Canada and products like potatoes with Mexico. However, Villalobos will be visiting Washington to discuss issues like biotechnology, fertilizer management, and trade issues such as U.S. access to the Mexico market for fresh potatoes and Mexican access to the U.S. market for avocados from Jalisco, according to a report from marketresearchtelecast.com.

 


ENERGY & CLIMATE CHANGE


 

— House Democrats unveiled their first expansive climate bill this Congress, which would zero out domestic greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The 981-page draft bill would set a U.S. goal to reduce greenhouse emissions by at least 50%, from 2005 levels, by 2030 — it calls for a federal clean energy standard that sets an interim goal of 80% clean electricity by 2030 and 100% by 2035. House Energy and Commerce Committee leaders said they plan to move the bill through the committee process, but they didn’t rule out using budget reconciliation to advance it, which avoids the threat of a Republican filibuster.

 

     Link to Committee press release
    
Link to bill text
     
Link to section-by-section
     
Link to fact sheet, including highlights of new provisions from the draft legislation released last year
     
Link to a one-pager on the topic

 

     Chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) acknowledged that the bill did not call for imposing a price on carbon emissions, since that type of measure lacked political support. “We don’t have a carbon tax … I think it’s time to try something new," he said. “The votes are just not there for a price on carbon.”

 

     The Democratic bill also would direct the Securities and Exchange Commission to require disclosure from public companies about their climate-related risks. And it seeks to aid communities affected by the transition to cleaner energy through a host of new programs, including one providing federal grants to communities suffering significant losses of revenue as fossil fuel production drops.

 

— Volvo goes ahead in the race to go electric. The Swedish carmaker said it would make its entire lineup battery-only by 2030, one-upping General Motors, which plans to stop selling fossil-fuel cars by 2035.

 


FOOD & BEVERAGE INDUSTRY


 

— DeLauro wants to beef up meatpacker safety inspections. House Appropriations Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (D-Ct.) will push for more funding via the pending Covid aid/stimulus measure to rebuild the inspection workforce of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) with a goal of cracking down on meatpacking and poultry facilities with inadequate Covid-19 protections for workers. DeLauro said additional funding is needed to increase OSHA inspections and its work to protect employees from retaliation at meatpacking and poultry plants when they publicly question their companies’ adherence to Covid-19 guidelines. “The pandemic exacerbated the occupational hazards that are disproportionately felt by workers of color. During the previous administration OSHA was asleep at the wheel,” DeLauro said during a Labor-Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on worker safety at meatpacking and poultry plants.

 

     DeLauro wants to end a 1977 policy rider that has kept OSHA inspectors off farms that employ fewer than 11 workers. She said the provision unnecessarily limits worker safety. She said she would continue her opposition to efforts by USDA to allow plants to increase the speed at which carcasses move on conveyor belts because of concerns that it will lead to more injuries among workers as they try to keep up.

 

     Industry officials said the meatpacking industry is taking the necessary steps to control Covid-19 infections. The industry noted that plants now do temperature checks, carry out social distancing where possible, provide masks and have erected plastic sheets along processing lines to reduce Covid-19 transmission. “After spending an estimated $1.5 billion on comprehensive mitigation and control measures, we see the success of the meat and poultry industry’s Covid-19 response when we look at the reduction in illness in meatpacking plants over time,” said Carmen Rottenberg, founder of the consulting firm Groundswell Strategy. Rottenberg oversaw USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service until she left the department in March 2020. Rottenberg cited statistics by the nonprofit Food and Environment Reporting Network. As of Feb. 21, the nonprofit reported that infection rates are down 95% from the peak in May 2020 and that Covid-19 case rates in the general population are more than four times higher than among meatpacking and poultry workers. The emphasis should now be on making it a priority for plant workers to receive Covid-19 vaccinations, industry officials believe. Rottenberg said the federal government should back the industry “by ensuring immediate vaccinations for these front-line workers who show up every single day so we can eat.” 

 

— Vilsack signals he backs Food Box program, but with adjustments. USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack has come out in favor of the Farmers to Families Food Box program, albeit with some tweaks. “I think that I have been convinced that there are a number of areas—remote areas in particular — that have been served by this program where people have received fresh fruits, vegetables and other products that they might not otherwise have gotten but for the program,” Vilsack told Politico in an interview this week. “I like that aspect of what’s happened with this program. I am a little concerned about the fact that there seems to be quite a significant difference between the level of reimbursement for people who are administering the program and implementing the program. That is a concern. At the end of the day, you want as many dollars going into the boxes, as opposed to into the pockets of the people filling the boxes. I think there needs to be an examination of that.”

 

     Bottom line: The endorsement of the effort by Vilsack and key lawmakers like Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) signals the effort will be a part of the food/nutrition programs ahead. Meanwhile, Vilsack is giving so many interviews this week that one veteran Washingtonian said, “Who does he think he is, Dr. Fauci?!”

 


CORONAVIRUS UPDATE


 

 Summary: Global cases of Covid-19 are at 114,832,691 with 2,551,075 deaths, according to data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. case count is at 28,719,660 with 516,616 deaths. The Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center said that there have been 78,631,601 doses administered, 216,162,122 have been fully vaccinated, or 8.00% of the U.S. population.
      

       Link to Covid Case Tracker
       Link to Our World in Data

 

— Biden: U.S. will have enough Covid vaccines for every adult by the ‘end of May.’ President Biden on Tuesday said that the U.S. will now have enough Covid-19 vaccines for every adult “by the end of May” — and that the gov’t will start a new program aimed at vaccinating all teachers by the end of March. The White House announced that it will use the Defense Production Act to help finance a partnership between pharma companies Merck and Johnson & Johnson to more quickly produce the latter’s vaccine. “We’re now on track to have enough vaccine supply for every adult in America by the end of May,” Biden said at the White House, noting that he had previously said the end of July.  Meanwhile, Biden announced the new teacher vaccination initiative, which will see the federal pharmacy vaccination program prioritize educators and childcare workers. “We want every educator, school staff member [and] childcare worker to receive at least one shot by the end of the month of March,” Biden said.

 

     Does

 

— California’s decision to shift its vaccine distribution to a nonprofit insurance company at the beginning of harvest season has community organizers and health officials worried they won’t be able to inoculate enough farmworkers. Link for details via the Los Angeles Times.

 

— Texas businesses will be able to operate at full capacity and state residents will no longer be required to wear masks to visit them, Gov. Greg Abbott said Tuesday. “It is now the time to open Texas 100%,” Abbott, a Republican, said. “State mandates are no longer needed.” The easing of restrictions will take effect on March 10.

 

— Church opposition to J&J vaccine. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops are advising Catholics to seek out alternatives to Johnson & Johnson’s newly approved one-shot Covid-19 vaccine, saying it was “developed, tested and is produced with abortion-derived cell lines.” Johnson & Johnson did not dispute an abortion-derived cell line is used in the production of its vaccine, but it did issue a statement stressing there is no fetal tissue in its vaccine. The Vatican issued a statement in December saying it’s “morally acceptable” to receive such vaccines in cases where “ethically irreproachable Covid-19 vaccines are not available.” Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines relied on an abortion-derived cell line for testing them, but not in their production, and therefore are a should be chosen over J&J’s vaccine if one has a choice, according to the U.S. Conference of Bishops.

 

— Japan mulls extension of state of emergency in Tokyo area. A two-week extension of the state of emergency in the Tokyo area over Covid is being considered by Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. "I think that about two weeks will be necessary, so I would like to make a final decision after hearing the opinions of the experts and people concerned," Suga told reporters. The country put 11 of 47 prefectures under emergency restrictions that were to run through March 7 but lifted them early for all but the greater Tokyo area. While new cases have slowed in the Tokyo area, the pace of the decline has slowed, and pressure has continued on the medical system.

 

— China aiming for getting 40% of population vaccinated by June. China delivered 52.52 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines as of Feb. 28, according to Zhong Nanshan, leader of a group of experts with the National Health Commission. But the country has for the first time said it has set a goal of vaccinating 40% of its population by June. 

 


POLITICS & ELECTIONS


 

— Keystone pipeline builder taps lobbyist brother of Biden adviser. A lobbying firm run by the brother of White House counselor Steve Ricchetti has signed the Canadian-based company behind the Keystone XL pipeline project, which Biden effectively halted upon taking office. Jeff Ricchetti, who runs Ricchetti Inc., will be lobbying on behalf of TC Energy, regarding “legislative issues affecting energy infrastructure, the safe and efficient transportation of natural gas,” according to a disclosure form recently filed with the Senate.

 

— Growing hurdle to President Biden’s agenda is a court system wary of executive orders. And former President Donald Trump put a lot of conservatives on the courts during his four years as president. Link to WSJ article for more.
 


OTHER ITEMS OF NOTE     


 

— Congressional Democrats are pressuring the Biden administration to enact tougher consequences for Saudi officials over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) called for “personal consequences” for Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whom intelligence officials found had "approved an operation ... to capture or kill" Khashoggi. “We’re talking here about financial, travel and legal [repercussions],” Wyden said.

 

— U.S. engineers grade infrastructure ‘C-’. U.S. infrastructure including roads, bridges and sewers received a mediocre grade from the American Society of Civil Engineers, an assessment that many say should help buttress President Joe Biden’s coming plan for a major infrastructure-spending package. Across the country, crucial systems from public transit to wastewater treatment and the energy grid remain badly underfunded despite modest improvements over the past four years, according to ASCE. The group’s overall grade rose to “C-” from a “D+” in 2017, the last time it issued its quadrennial report card on infrastructure. The report estimated that by 2039, continuing to invest at current rates could cost $10 trillion in GDP, more than 3 million jobs and $2.4 trillion in exports. Additional funding is needed for an estimated $2.6 trillion in projects through 2029. Link to summary of report.

 

— America's biggest companies are urging Congress to establish a permanent path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children. In a letter Wednesday, a coalition of more than 100 companies and trade associations asked Senate leaders to pass the bipartisan Dream Act of 2021.

 

— IRS paid $3 billion in interest on late taxpayer refunds last year. You read that correctly. The reason is because it didn’t get the payments out in time, according to a report released by the Government Accountability Office this week. That’s almost a 50% increase compared with the $2.06 billion paid in interest on refunds in fiscal 2019. Link for details via the Washington Post.

 

— CBO asks for a nearly $4 million raise. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) asked lawmakers for a 6.4% funding increase in fiscal 2022, partly to hire new staffers to help analyze infrastructure, energy, and climate change legislation. The office asked for $61 million, up from $57.3 million in fiscal 2021, a $3.7 million increase. The budget request “reflects the expectation of continued intense interest in our analysis,” CBO Director Phillip Swagel said at a House Appropriations Legislative Branch Subcommittee hearing yesterday. About $400,000 of the increase would hire four new staffers to analyze infrastructure, energy, and climate legislation, while the rest would cover increased costs for current staff and improve technology at CBO, Swagel said. “I know that’s where the Congress is going, and members have told me, and that’s where we’re building expertise,” Swagel said of the three policy areas. CBO also got a funding boost for the current fiscal year after a demanding prior year of analyzing legislation and making economic and budgetary projections, Swagel said. “It was routine to have conference calls after midnight,” he said, when lawmakers were working on the CARES Act, which became law in April. Besides providing estimates for new pieces of legislation, CBO plans to produce retrospective reports on the effects of the coronavirus relief bill signed into law in December and for the $1.9 trillion stimulus currently under consideration, if it becomes law, Swagel said. Burnout is an issue for CBO employees, Swagel said.

 


 

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