Legislative Updates

Nov. 29, 2021

U.S. Chamber Calls $1.2 Trillion Plan a Win for Americans

The long wait for a comprehensive infrastructure plan is over after President Joe Biden signed the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act into law on Monday, Nov. 15.

The White House has called the $1.2 trillion spending bill a “once-in-a-generation investment in our infrastructure and economic competitiveness.” It will fund a wide array of traditional infrastructure projects – including the repair and reconstruction of highways, bridges and roads – as well as items not traditionally considered part of infrastructure, such as increased access to high-speed internet and environmental remediation.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Suzanne Clark attended the bill’s signing and thanked congressional leaders who voted for its passage. “Today, all Americans won,” she said in a statement. “The enactment of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will help connect 14 million Americans to broadband, provide clean drinking water for 10 million families, upgrade our energy grid, and grow our economy. It is the single largest investment in bridges since construction of the Interstate Highway System and the single largest investment in innovation, efficiency, and resiliency to address climate change in U.S. history.”
 

Nov. 29, 2021

U.S. Chamber Launches Renewed Effort to Sink Bill

The day before House of Representatives signed off on the Build Back Better bill with a 220-213 on Friday, Nov. 19, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce launched a new round of advocacy efforts to stop to the $3.5 trillion reconciliation plan.

The effort includes paid advertising in the home districts of members of Congress, patch-through calls that connect constituents directly with their legislators, print advertising and digital and mobile billboards. “The partisan, multi-trillion-dollar reconciliation bill would accelerate inflation and stop America’s fragile economic recovery in its tracks,” U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Suzanne P. Clark said in a statement. “With inflation at a 31-year high and employers struggling to fill a record number of job openings, members of Congress must reject proposals that would harm American businesses and consumers and threaten our future prosperity.”

The Build Back Better bill now heads to the Senate where its future is uncertain. Several moderate Democratic senators have expressed that they still have concerns about the size and scope of the bill, which many trade organizations, including FEDA, remain staunchly opposed to and are committed to work against its passage.

“The Build Back Better Act is an existential threat to family-owned and small businesses and the employees and families who depend on them – and the Senate is now the only thing standing between massive tax increases and Main Street businesses,” said Eric Hoplin, CEO of the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors. “At a time when companies are facing rising inflation, labor shortages, and a supply chain under pressure during a pandemic, raising taxes is an unfathomable idea that could only be conceived in Washington, DC.

“Despite President Biden and Speaker Pelosi’s insistence that it only taxes the rich, BBB is a massive tax increase on family-owned and small businesses, introducing new taxes on pass-through companies that would be targeted under the same framework aimed at wealthy individuals,” he continued. “Thousands of individual and family-owned companies will be disproportionally affected because the Biden administration and House Democrats fail to comprehend what they have done to S-Corporations and other pass-through businesses on Main Street.”
 

Nov. 15, 2021

Opinion Calls the Biden Administration’s Requirement a “Sledgehammer”

President Joe Biden’s attempt to push forward a vaccine mandate for companies with 100 or more employees suffered another setback on Nov. 12 when a U.S. appeals court upheld its decision to put a hold on the order.

Several states immediately challenged the mandate after the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced an emergency temporary standard (ETS) that would have forced large employers to ensure their workers were either vaccinated or undergoing weekly COVID-19 testing. On Nov. 6, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted an emergency stay on the mandate. Less than a week later, a three-member panel of the circuit court affirmed its ruling, blocking the ETS from taking effect.

In the opinion, the court notes that OSHA has issued just 10 ETSs in its 50-year history, only one of which survived legal challenges. “[OSHA] was not – and likely could not be, under the Commerce Clause and nondelegation doctrine – intended to authorize a workplace safety administration in the deep recesses of the federal bureaucracy to make sweeping pronouncements on matters of public health affecting every member of society in the profoundest of ways,” the court wrote.

“Rather than a delicately handled scalpel, the mandate is a one-size-fits-all sledgehammer that makes hardly any attempt to account for differences in workplaces (and workers) that have more than a little bearing on workers’ varying degrees of susceptibility to the supposedly ‘grave danger’ the mandate purports to address,” the opinion states.

The full text of the ruling is available here.

“While great news, this is the beginning, not the end, of the legal process and there is no guarantee of an outcome,” Jade West, chief government relations officer for the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors, said in an email to trade associations.

Additionally, the NAW shared information on updated guidance requiring employees of federal contractors to be fully vaccinated no later than Jan. 18, 2022. That information is available here.
 

Nov. 8, 2021

OSHA Releases Emergency Temporary Standard Requirements

Just days after the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced the emergency temporary standard (ETS) for President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate for large companies, a federal appeals court temporarily blocked the requirement.

So far, 27 states have filed lawsuits challenging the vaccine policy mandate, which necessitates employers with 100 or more employees to require workers to either be vaccinated or undergo regular COVID-19 testing and wear a facemask at work. On Saturday, Nov. 6, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted an emergency stay on the mandate, the first such ruling.

If the stay is eventually lifted, the OSHA ETS will require employers to do the following:

  • Provide paid time to workers to get vaccinated and allow for paid leave to recover from any side effects.
  • Determine the vaccination status of each employee, obtain acceptable proof of vaccination status from vaccinated employees and maintain records and a roster of each employee's vaccination status.
  • Require employees to provide prompt notice when they test positive for COVID-19 or receive a COVID-19 diagnosis. Employers must then remove the employee from the workplace, regardless of vaccination status; employers must not allow them to return to work until they meet the required criteria.
  • Ensure each worker who is not fully vaccinated is tested for COVID-19 at least weekly (if the worker is in the workplace at least once a week) or within seven days before returning to work (if the worker is away from the workplace for a week or longer).
  • Ensure that, in most circumstances, each employee who has not been fully vaccinated wears a face covering when indoors or when occupying a vehicle with another person for work purposes.

The ETS does not require employers to pay for testing or face coverings.

The rule is expected to cover two-thirds of the nation’s private-sector workforce, OSHA said. Further, it will also cover public sector workers employed by state and local governments in 26 states and two territories with OSHA state plans. The agency has published an extensive FAQ guiding businesses on how to comply with the mandate if the block is lifted.

“While vaccination remains the most effective and efficient defense against COVID-19, this emergency temporary standard will protect all workers, including those who remain unvaccinated, by requiring regular testing and the use of face coverings by unvaccinated workers to prevent the spread of the virus,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Jim Frederick. “As part of OSHA's mission to protect the safety and health of workers, this rule will provide a roadmap to help businesses keep their workers safe.”
 

Nov. 8, 2021

Biden Expected to Sign Long-Awaited $1.2 Trillion Plan into Law

After a full day of back-and-forth negotiating between progressive and centrist Democrats, the House of Representatives passed the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill  on Friday, Nov. 5.

The final vote was 228-to-206, with 13 Republicans lending their support. The Senate passed the plan earlier this year and it now heads to President Joe Biden’s desk for the final signature. The passage was seen as a major boost to businesses that have been seeking a comprehensive infrastructure package for several years.

“On behalf of the 30,000 wholesaler-distributors across the country, we commend the House and Senate on the historic, bipartisan passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act,” Eric Hoplin, CEO of the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors, said in a statement. “This legislation will help the wholesale distribution industry more efficiently move goods and materials across the country, benefitting both American businesses and consumers. Bipartisan collaboration results in great achievements for our country, and this investment in infrastructure is a victory for all Americans.”

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce called the bill a “major win for America.” “For more than 25 years, the Chamber has led the charge for investment in America’s crumbling infrastructure,” President and CEO Suzanne Clark said in a statement. We will continue to work with our partners in business, labor and government to identify projects with the most critical need, help find the necessary workers to get started and bring much-needed investment to communities across America.”

Highlights of the bill include:

  • $110 billion to repair aging highways, bridges and roads
  • $39 billion to expand public transportation systems and provide funding for state and local governments to purchase zero- and low-emission buses
  • $66 billion to improve Amtrak’s rail service
  • $65 billion to improve internet services for rural areas, low-income families and tribal communities
  • $65 billion to improve the reliability of the electric grid
  • $25 billion to improve airports
  • $55 billion on water and wastewater infrastructure
  • $7.5 billion for electric vehicle charging stations
  • $17 billion for ports

Democrats originally tried to reach a deal on Friday, Nov. 5 to vote for both the infrastructure plan and the more controversial $1.75 trillion reconciliation bill in tandem, however, moderates continue to balk at the high cost of the Build Back Better proposal. Instead, Democrats reached an agreement to withhold the vote on the reconciliation package until after the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office completes its review of the fiscal impact of the bill.

For a full synopsis of the infrastructure bill from the White House, please see this page.
 

Nov. 8, 2021

Group Sends Open Letter to President Biden Urging Action

An open letter to President Joe Biden from the DRIVE Safe Coalition offers five ways the administration could immediately ease the ongoing supply chain crisis.

The coalition is a collection of trucking and trade associations, including FEDA, that are working to pass the DRIVE-Safe Act, a bill that would change federal law to allow commercial drivers license holders between 18 and 21 to participate in interstate trucking. Currently, young commercial truck drivers are prohibited from crossing state lines.

“As business leaders and proud Americans, we are firmly committed to this country's economic recovery,” the letter states. “We are working to usher in a return to normalcy and striving to help all Americans enjoy a better way of life by providing them with access to the essential products and supplies they need.”

The letter recommends five actions that could be taken to strengthen the supply chain:

  • Younger driver pilot program
  • Promotion of careers in transportation and the supply chain
  • Flexibility in vaccine mandates
  • Hours of service relief
  • Flow of goods through ports

For details on each proposal, please see the full letter.
 

Nov. 8, 2021

Build Back Better Framework Would Impose New and Higher Taxes on Recovering Companies

FEDA has signed on to a letter opposing higher marginal rates on family-owned businesses.

The letter, which was authored by the S Corporation Association and sent to congressional leaders, explains that elements of the Build Back Better Framework released by the Biden Administration would impose large tax hikes on family-owned businesses, with rates exceeding 50 percent in some cases. The bill would expand the 3.8 percent Net Investment Income Tax to all pass-through business income; impose a new surtax of up to 8 percent on all forms of income, and; make permanent and expand the loss-limitation rules under Section 461. Together, the White House believes these measures would generate $650 billion over 10 years.

“Congress should avoid policies that harm Main Street employers at any time, but particularly at this difficult moment in our nation’s history,” the letter says. “Having survived the pandemic, family businesses are now confronted with rising inflation, labor shortages and supply-chain disruptions. The tax increases included in the framework would make a bad situation worse and encourage continued consolidation of economic power and decision making. Large, multi-national corporations have thrived during the pandemic. The framework would tilt the rules further in their favor and away from locally- and family-owned businesses.”
 

Nov. 1, 2021

U.S. Chamber and NAW Warn Smaller Bill Would Still Harm Businesses

Following months of negotiations between centrist and progressive Democrats, President Joe Biden revealed a trimmed-down version of the reconciliation that reduces the scope of spending from $3.5 trillion to $1.75 trillion.

To reduce the size of the package, Democrats nixed several proposed programs, including two free years of community college, paid family leave and expanded Medicare coverage of dental and vision. Also scrapped was a plan to increase the corporate tax rate from 21 percent to 26.5 percent. Instead, Biden is proposing other tax increases on companies and wealthy individuals, including a 15 percent corporate minimum tax on large corporates, a 5 percent surtax on individual incomes above $10 million and 8 percent on incomes over $25 million, and a 1 percent surcharge on corporate stock buybacks.

The $1.75 trillion that remains in the proposal includes funding for:

  • Clean energy and climate investments: $555 billion
  • Childcare and universal preschool: $400 billion
  • Child tax and earned income tax credits: $200 billion
  • Home care: $150 billion
  • Affordable Care Act credits: $130 billion
  • Medicare hearing benefits: $35 billion
  • Affordable housing: $150 billion
  • Higher education and worker training: $40 billion
  • Equity and other investments: $90 billion

To offset the cost of the package, Biden is proposing the aforementioned new taxes as well as closing Medicare tax loopholes and limiting business losses for some individuals. IRS enforcement would also be increased and the Trump Administration’s rebate rule for prescription drugs repealed. Taken together, those measures are expected to generate $1.995 trillion.

In a statement, Neal Bradley, executive vice president and chief policy officer for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, called the three-page framework “unclear” and said it lacked “substantive detail.” “The past 24 hours alone has seen major, complicated policy changes proposed, accepted, rejected and modified,” he said.

“We remain concerned that a multi-trillion tax and spend bill will lead to greater near-term inflation, reverse our economic recovery, put U.S. companies at a competitive disadvantage and weaken economic growth and job creation going forward,” Bradley continued. “It is the height of irresponsibility for Congress to rush through such a large and complicated bill with no clear understanding of the real-world impact of the policies that are being proposed. Congress should slow-down and make sure they get the policy right.”

The National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors (NAW) echoed the U.S. Chamber’s concerns in its own statement on the proposal. “The Build Back Better framework, despite the efforts of many to decrease its size and cost, remains a massive tax increase on family-owned and small businesses during a pandemic, introducing new taxes on small pass-through companies that would be targeted under the same framework aimed at wealthy individuals,” the association said. “Thousands of individual and family-owned companies are disproportionally affected by changes that the Biden administration seems to think will only affect ‘the rich,’ failing to acknowledge the existence of S-Corp businesses on Main Street.

“With rising inflation, a labor shortage, and a supply chain under extreme pressure, added taxes will jeopardize American jobs and businesses still recovering from the ongoing global pandemic,” the NAW said. “America’s individual and family-owned distributors and businesses have worked to keep the economy moving and massive new taxes would harm both businesses and workers at a time when neither can afford it.”