Looking at the 118th Congress
The 118th Congress is in session. With split control of the government, we likely won’t see as much activity as last Congress, when major bills like the Inflation Reduction Act, Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, and CHIPS and Science Act were all signed into law. With that said, there are still areas where Congress could accomplish meaningful work as well as some things that they need to get done.
The Debt Ceiling
The debt ceiling is the number one priority for Congress right now. In January, the United States reached its debt ceiling of $31.4 trillion, and the Treasury Department began taking ‘extraordinary measures’ to avoid defaulting on the government’s obligations. This gives Congress until the beginning of June to reach an agreement.
On February 1, President Biden and Speaker McCarthy met to discuss what a potential deal on the debt ceiling might look like. President Biden and Democrats in Congress have come out in favor of a ‘clean’ raise of the debt ceiling, with no conditions attached. On the other hand, Speaker McCarthy and House Republicans have proposed roughly $130 billion worth of cuts to non-defense spending. When asked more specifically about a ‘clean’ debt ceiling raise, Speaker McCarthy said, “That’s not gonna happen. We’re not gonna just keep spending and just raise the limit on our credit card, we’re gonna do something different.” Negotiations are still in the early stages, so it’s not yet clear what a final agreement might look like. Given the stance of House Republicans, some level of spending cuts or at least controls will likely be included.
Data privacy is one potential area of bipartisan cooperation in this Congress. Last Congress, both the House and Senate held productive hearings on the issue. Democrats and Republicans seem to agree that reform is needed, given the wide and rapidly expanding digital landscape. House Energy and Commerce Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) will likely reintroduce a comprehensive privacy bill that limits the ways companies collect and use sensitive data. The bill passed out of the committee last year by a 53 to 2 vote. Similar legislation was introduced in the Senate, but ultimately both stalled due to provisions that interfered with state laws. A federal privacy framework could impact small business owners because it would affect how customer data is handled and used.
While it might be difficult for Congress to get much done on the legislative side, Republicans in the House have made oversight one of their top priorities. We can expect to see increased Congressional supervision over things like the implementation of the Inflation Reduction Act and the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) phasedown of HFC refrigerants under the American Innovation and Manufacturing (AIM) Act. House Committee on Oversight and Accountability Chairman James Comer (R-KY) has already written to the EPA asking for more information regarding the agency’s ban on non-refillable cylinders for HFC refrigerants. He echoed concerns raised by ACCA about contractor safety and supply chain impacts.
Another policy area with potential for cooperation is the workforce. As we all know, the workforce shortage has existed for years and worsened during the pandemic. What you might not know is that HVAC professionals comprise almost half of all energy efficiency jobs in the United States and over one-third of all clean energy jobs, according to E2. This is in addition to their critical, essential work that keeps society running. ACCA will continue to stress the importance of America’s HVAC workforce to public officials and promote funding and solutions for the shortage of workers in the industry. Luckily, in recent years, lawmakers on both sides have begun to realize the importance of making investments in skilled trades. Funding levels for career and technical education (CTE) have increased steadily and many states have expanded opportunities for students to access in-demand career fields.
ACCA also plans to bring awareness to the issue of installed efficiency. Systems that are improperly installed or maintained will not perform as efficiently as advertised—losing as much as half of their expected efficiency. When you consider that as many as half the HVAC systems in the United States are improperly installed, the wasted energy adds up quickly. Any lawmaker who is serious about our energy independence or climate change goals will realize that this problem needs to be addressed.
Finally, we’ve heard from many members on the issue of unfair competition from co-ops, utilities, and other entities who use underhanded practices to gain a disproportionate share of work in certain markets. We hope to elevate this issue and find solutions wherever possible.
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Posted In: ACCA Now, Government
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