February has arrived. Temperatures in Pennsylvania are plummeting, Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow, and President Biden will deliver his State of the Union Address on Tuesday evening, February 7. The biggest event in Washington this week was the closed-door meeting between President Biden and House Speaker McCarthy, and much like the reporters who jockeyed for position on Gobbler’s Knob Thursday morning, Capitol Hill pundits watched for any sign of a swift resolution to the federal default crisis threatened by House MAGA Republicans. Unfortunately, with Speaker McCarthy and his caucus vowing to hold our economy hostage to force big cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and other vital programs, it looks like we could be in for six more months of escalating tensions, with no guarantee that we’ll avoid financial devastation.
Here are five federal policy priorities and developments that were in the spotlight this week:
#1 Default Crisis: President Biden and Speaker McCarthy met Wednesday for the first time this year to discuss the federal default crisis and the need for congressional action by early summer to prevent financial catastrophe. Both sides acknowledged that the meeting was an important initial step, even though no progress was reported in averting the crisis. Dig deeper below.
Punchbowl News: “Debt limit: What we’ve learned so far” | 2/3/23
Associated Press: “Biden, McCarthy meet face-to-face on debt crisis worries” | 2/2/23
Politico: “Biden and McCarthy hold ‘first good’ meeting on debt ceiling, but ‘no agreements, no promises’” | 2/1/23
Roll Call: “Biden, McCarthy make ‘no promises’ on debt, will keep talking” | 2/1/23
The Hill: “McCarthy leaves Biden meeting optimistic about debt talks” | 2/1/23
Politico: “The largest House GOP caucus backs more than half a dozen ideas for fiscal reforms as the White House embarks on debt ceiling talks with Republicans” | 2/1/23
The Hill: “24 GOP senators warn they will oppose debt limit increase without fiscal reforms” | 1/30/23
Politico: “Schumer plots debt ceiling course against McCarthy: ‘We’ll win’” | 1/30/23
Semafor: “Republicans have a plan B if the US breaches the debt ceiling. It’d still be a disaster.” | 1/31/23
Politico: “Congress just says no to gangs (so far)” | 2/2/23
#2 Federal Budget: The White House announced Monday that President Biden will release his proposed federal budget for the next fiscal year on March 9th, and the president called on Speaker McCarthy to release his own detailed budget, outlining House MAGA Republicans’ proposed priorities for FY2023-24, which begins on October 1st. Dig deeper below.
The Hill: “White House to release budget proposal on March 9” | 1/31/23
Center on Budget & Policy Priorities: “House Republicans’ Pledge to Cut Appropriated Programs to 2022 Level Would Have Severe Effects, Particularly for Non-Defense Programs” | 2/1/23
The Hill: “House GOP struggles to unify over budget ideas” | 2/3/23
Semafor: “Matt Gaetz wants to make poor Americans work for their health care” | 2/3/23
Roll Call: “Editorial: Republicans still trying to starve the beast: Programs in the crosshairs are typically popular with older voters” | 1/30, 2023
The Hill: “Eyeing defense spending cuts, House GOP targets military ‘wokeness’” | 2/2/23
The Bulwark: “A Short Guide to MAGA ‘Conservatism’: What it is. And what it isn’t.” | 2/1/23
The Hill: “House GOP begins uphill budget quest” | 1/31/23
Semafor: “Joe Biden says the economy is great. He might finally be right.” | 2/2/23
#3 End of COVID Emergency Programs: On Monday, the White House announced that President Biden will end the Covid-19 national and public health emergencies on May 11th. Several crucial programs that helped the nation weather the public health and economic impacts of the pandemic will end, resulting in higher costs for health care and the end of assistance for families struggling to put food on the table. Dig deeper below.
Politico: “Biden to end Covid health emergency declarations in May” | 1/30/23
Roll Call: “End of public health emergency causes cascade of changes” | 2/2/23
The Hill: “Ending the public health emergency means the end of free COVID tests” | 2/1/23
Politico: “Covid emergency’s end will mean new costs, hassles” | 1/31/23
PA Department of Human Services press release: “DHS Alerts Pennsylvanians About the End of Emergency Allotment and Other SNAP Changes, Urges Support of Charitable Food Network” | 01/27/2023
Lehigh Valley News: “SNAP emergency allotments end in March, state says, and regular monthly benefit will go down” | 1/27/23
#4 Federal Investments in Pennsylvania: The Biden administration announced several grants that are coming to Pennsylvania as a result of the major investments enacted by the president and Democrats during the last two years. Twenty-five million dollars will help plug abandoned oil and gas wells in Pennsylvania, and $3 million will enhance broadband access at Lincoln University, the nation’s first, degree-granting Historically Black College and University. Dig deeper below.
Keystone State News Connection: “PA Receives Federal Funds to Plug Abandoned Wells” | 1/31/23
White House press release: “Biden-Harris Administration Announces More Than $33.5 Million in Internet for All Grants to 12 Minority-Serving Colleges and Universities” | 1/30/23
#5 Committee Appointments: Congressional leaders continued to appoint members to serve on crucial committee, with southeastern Pennsylvania Representative Brian Fitzpatrick (R – PA1) assigned to the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, and Congressman Mike Kelly (R – PA16) of northwestern Pennsylvania now chairing the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Tax, which oversees federal taxation policies. Dig deeper below.
Bucks County Herald: “Bucks Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick appointed to Ways and Means Committee” | 2/1/23
Sharon Herald: “Kelly assumes important role in 118th Congress” | 1/29/23
The Hill: “What three hard-line conservatives plan to do with their seats on the Rules Committee” | 1/30/23
Roll Call: “Senate organizes committees for the 118th Congress” | 2/2/23
Jeff Garis is PBPC’s Federal Campaigns and Program director, and he coordinates The 99% Pennsylvania campaign, advocating for federal policies that benefit all Pennsylvanians.