Lewis-Burke Associates, LLC – May 4, 2023
The United States has entered its fifth month of divided government, and Congressional Republicans, Senate Democrats, and the Biden Administration are continuing to figure out how to effectively work together to govern the country. Here’s a recap of the major events that have taken place in Washington, with updates on the work the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society is doing to further its federal priorities.
Debt Ceiling Woes
The pressing issue facing Congress and the Biden Administration is raising the debt limit before the U.S faces the first default in the country’s history. At current estimates the United States is expected to reach the “X-date”, where the Federal Government will be unable to satisfy their outstanding obligations, in June. President Biden has proposed a clean debt ceiling increase, which was done every year during the Trump Administration and would mean that no additional provisions would be attached to the increase. However, conservatives in Congress are advocating for spending cuts to lower the deficit be included in addition to any increases.
On April 26, the Republican-led House passed HR. 2811, The Limit, Save, Grow Act, which would raise the debt ceiling by $1.5 trillion, while simultaneously cutting back discretionary funds to almost FY 2022 levels and repealing certain Biden Administration tax credits. The bill is almost certain to be dead on arrival with the Democratic-led Senate, where Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has been adamant about developing a bi-partisan approach to the crisis, calling the Republican proposal “truly extreme” and urging Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to “work together to avoid catastrophe.” President Biden and Speaker McCarthy have not met since February on the issue of the debt ceiling, but the President has convened Senate and House leadership to meet on May 9th at the White House to negotiate a solution.
Congress Starts Budget and Appropriation Hearings
At the same time, Congress is diligently working on the fiscal year (FY) 2024 appropriations. In late March both the Senate and House Appropriations committees began holding hearings on the proposed FY 2024 budgets for each Federal government agency. These hearings are important for the Agencies to detail their priorities and for members of Congress to question agency and department heads on particular programs, focus areas, and other agency activities. For example, in the Department of Transportation’s April 20 budget hearing before the House Appropriations Committee, Secretary Pete Buttigieg discussed at length the surface and aviation safety initiatives that the Department will fund with their proposed budget. These hearings will likely continue through the month of May. However, the debate over the debt ceiling will determine whether a FY 2024 budget will be enacted, and at what total level the government will be funded at. It is increasingly likely that Congress will pass a Continuing Resolution (CR) and funding levels will stay at the level enacted in FY 2023 for the next year.
HFES Submits Testimony in Support of Human Factors Programs
Additionally, over the past few weeks HFES has submitted Outside Witness Testimony to Senate and House Appropriations Committees in support of funding of programs dedicated to or related to Human Factors issues in several different agencies, including the Department of Defense (DOD), Department of Transportation (DOT), National Science Foundation (NSF), Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H).
The Outside Witness Testimony process allows organizations and societies like HFES to influence the budget and appropriations process by making their priorities clear and how funding in these areas support well intentioned, meaningful programs that will positively impact the lives of Americans. HFES’s submission of testimony ensures that Human Factors issues remains on the minds of those in the halls of Congress when members and staff begin to formulate appropriation bills.
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