Omar Nashashibi Omar Nashashibi

An Election Year in Washington: A Full Agenda

January 19, 2024

In Washington, D.C., the year 2023 turned out to be the warmup act for 2024. OSHA began the process of developing its indoor heat rule for when the index exceeds 80 F. The Labor Department released its proposal expanding overtime to make 3.6 million more employees eligible for time and a half. The White House issued its list of 2524 proposed and final rules expected in the coming year. And, Congress began negotiating a bipartisan tax bill to remove the tax on research and development activities. 

When it comes to policymaking, this is progress. Unlike a manufacturing plant, at the end of each day, rarely does Congress have a final product to send out the door. Legislation and regulations can take years to develop, but when implemented may have a shattering impact on the metalworking industry.

In 2023, lawmakers sent 34 bills to President Biden for his signature. By comparison, in the last similarly divided Washington in 2019, Congress sent 282 bills to President Trump which become law. Using the measurement of how many laws one passes, thus far this 118th Congress is the least productive in at least half a century.  

As the lobbyists for PMA in Washington, D.C., our firm spent much of the past year laying the groundwork for the legislation and regulation that could move in 2024. During hundreds of meetings and conversations with policymakers in the legislative and executive branches, we worked on issues beginning to ripen this year, ranging from tax to trade and environmental and workplace policy.

In 2023, PMA’s lobbying team participated in more than 100 hr. of meetings and briefings on OSHA’s heat rule, which could significantly change operations for thousands of manufacturers. PMA filed comments on the impact on small businesses of mandatory rest breaks every 2 hr., the challenges with cooling workstations to 80 F, and how a one-size-fits-all policy will not work for manufacturing. OSHA is reviewing all comments received on the impact of such a rule on small companies and could move on a proposed regulation this year.

The Department of Labor revealed last year that in April 2024 it would finalize its rule expanding overtime eligibility. Working with coalition partners, in October 2023 PMA filed comments on the proposal that could raise the exemption threshold for covered, salaried, full-time employees to more than $60,000 annually in preparation for the final rule’s release. Also, to lay the groundwork for future regulatory action, last year PMA surveyed its members on a possible lockout/tagout rule change expected in August 2024. 

Tariffs on steel and aluminum will continue through at least the November election, though we could see some changes on the exclusion process to request a suspension of those taxes on imports, a process PMA filed comments on in October in advance of possible updates this year. The Biden Administration likely will continue tariffs on Chinese imports of 25% and 7.5%, as calls from Congress increase for a tough stance towards Beijing. 

On Capitol Hill, in a typical election year the legislative process largely shuts down. In 2024, we may see the pent-up frustrations from the previous year push some key bills over the finish line. PMA’s top legislative priority: reversing the requirement to pay taxes on R&D activities, as companies now must amortize those actions over 5 yr. PMA worked throughout 2023 with House Republicans in leadership, on the tax-writing committee, and with the Senate to reach an agreement. As of this writing, a bipartisan deal is under discussion to retroactively reinstate the ability to fully expense R&D activities and remove the tax, restoring 100% full expensing, and making whole the EBITDA standard for 163(j) business loan interest deductions. Sources indicate that lawmakers hope to move a bill in the first quarter of the year, however, it is but one of many top issues facing Congress this year.

Ahead of the winter holidays, the House of Representatives Select Committee on Competition with the Chinese Communist Party released its bipartisan list of nearly 150 recommendations to their colleagues on how to approach policy towards Beijing. Most recommendations would require an act of Congress and sources indicate that there is interest in lawmakers pursuing legislation focused on China in this election year. Among the recommendations (and most controversial) is effectively revoking China’s Permanent Normal Trade Relations status.

Another of the few bipartisan areas that may see compromise legislation: workforce training, and possibly even renewing the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). WIOA authorizes programs providing career and training services, including for workforce preparation, career development, and work-based and classroom learning. The House Education and Workforce Committee in December overwhelmingly passed an updated WIOA bill by a 44-1 vote, setting up possible movement on the long-awaited measure this year.

Every 4 yr., pundits proclaim that this election year is the most important of a generation and policymaking grinds to a halt, and typically I would agree. However, given the shear number of regulations proposed last year set for release in 2024, and the building blocks set in 2023 for key legislation, we anticipate a busy year for PMA’s advocacy program. While we may have only seen 34 bills signed into law last year, we have more than 2000 regulations on the way.

Manufacturers have much at stake, both to gain and to possibly lose, from legislative and regulatory action or inaction. PMA’s lobbying in Washington does not stop, election year or not.


See also: Precision Metalforming Association

Technologies: Management


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