Update From Washington, D.C.
Senate Confirms Marty Walsh to Top Labor Post, Votes to Extend PPP Deadline; Biden Administration Set to Unveil $3 Trillion Infrastructure Proposal; Lawmakers Reintroduce Cannabis Banking Legislation
March 25, 2021
Senate Confirms Marty Walsh to Top Labor Post, Votes to Extend PPP Deadline
This week, the Senate voted to confirm Marty Walsh to lead the Department of Labor, bringing President Biden’s cabinet a step closer to being filled. The two remaining vacant cabinet-level positions are the top roles at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Office of Management and Budget. However, there are still a number of vacant posts that will require Senate confirmation. In addition the Walsh, the Senate also voted this week to confirm the president’s picks for several deputy level positions, including Shalanda Young to be Deputy Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget; Vivek Murthy to be Surgeon General of the United States; Rachel Levine to be Assistant Secretary of Health; and, David Turk to be Deputy Secretary of Energy. Wally Adeyemo is expected to be confirmed later today for the position of Deputy Treasury Secretary.
On the legislative front, the Senate is set to approve a bill (HR 1799) that would provide small businesses with two additional months to seek loans through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The Small Business Administration (SBA) currently has until March 31 to approve funding for PPP loans, which can be forgiven for borrowers that keep employees on the payroll during the public health emergency. HR 1799 would extend the program’s funding authorization through June 30 and require the SBA to spend the final 30 days closing out applications that were submitted before June 1.
Biden Administration Set to Unveil $3 Trillion Infrastructure Proposal
President Biden is putting the final touches on a sweeping infrastructure and domestic spending package that he intends to unveil next week. The measure, part of the president’s Build Back Better plan, is expected to approach $3 trillion in spending and would constitute the White House’s follow-up to the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act.
The new package will likely be split into two separate bills. The first would focus on infrastructure, including upgrades to roads, bridges, rail, etc. and will include a significant investment in climate change initiatives. The second component would include many of the administration’s other domestic priorities, including universal pre-Kindergarten, free community college tuition, and paid family leave. The package also would dramatically expand spending on childcare, and extend for several years the expansion of the child tax credit recently signed into law. In addition, and among other things, the measure is expected to extend subsidies for the Affordable Care Act.
Unlike the American Rescue Plan Act, the longer-term proposals included in this package will feature a major revenue-raising effort. Biden is expected to be presented with a menu of tax options, though it’s likely that increasing corporate taxes and rates for the wealthy will be central components of the proposal.
Lawmakers Reintroduce Cannabis Banking Legislation
This week, Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Steve Daines (R-MT) reintroduced cannabis banking legislation (S 910) that would help improve access to financial services for state-legal businesses, as well as the ancillary businesses that provide them with goods and services. The CSAC-endorsed legislation – known as the SAFE Banking Act – would exempt depository institutions and their employees from federal prosecution or investigation solely for providing banking services to a state-legal cannabis-related business. This so-called “safe harbor” is intended to provide certainty for financial institutions to offer their products and services without fear of retribution from the federal government. The measure also clarifies that the safe harbor protections would extend to hemp and cannabidiol (CBD) companies.
The SAFE Banking Act is cosponsored by 30 bipartisan members of the Senate, including 7 Republican lawmakers. The House companion legislation (HR 1996), which was introduced last week by Congressman Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), has 109 bipartisan cosponsors. It should be noted that a previous iteration of the legislation was approved by the House in the last Congress. Unfortunately, despite bipartisan support, the measure was never considered in the Senate. However, newly installed Banking Committee Chairman Sherrod Brown (D-OH) has expressed openness to moving the measure, as long as it is accompanied by sentencing reform for previous drug offenses.