FY21 Appropriations

With the FY21 appropriations process officially underway, Cabinet secretaries and other senior administration officials will continue to make the rounds before congressional committees of jurisdiction over the coming weeks to testify in support of the President’s budget request. The House Appropriations Committee is planning to begin subcommittee markups on April 21, followed by full committee markups the week of April 28. The Committee plans to complete all markups by May 19 with the goal of passing all of its bills before July. The House and Senate Armed Services Committees are also in the early stages of hearings for the FY21 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

5G Summit

The White House is planning to host a 5G summit in April, according to National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will also hold a forum on March 26 focused on 5G virtualized radio access networks.

Read more in McGuireWoods Consulting’s Emerging Technologies Washington Update.

Republican and Democratic Retreats

Congress was in session this week, though the Senate recessed for Republican and Democratic retreats on Wednesday and Thursday.

Section 230

House Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee Chairman David Cicilline (D-RI) is planning to introduce legislation to reform Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act to make platforms liable for running “demonstrably false” political ads. The bill will be the latest in a series of legislative proposals to reform the landmark law and comes on the heels of last week’s Department of Justice public workshop.

President Trump Concludes India Trip

On Tuesday, President Trump concluded a 36-hour trip to India. He was accompanied by a high-level delegation that included Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, and about a dozen others. Although the visit did not secure a “mini” trade deal as was originally intended, it did showcase the strength of the US-India relationship and the friendship between President Trump and Prime Minister Modi. As a participant in the delegation, it was reported that Chairman Pai spoke to Indian counterparts about spectrum issues including 5G.

Coronavirus Appropriations

Stateside, the President requested $2.5 billion in supplementary appropriations to protect the United States from the spread of the coronavirus as multiple congressional committees of jurisdiction have been convening hearings on various aspects of the crisis. Negotiations continue as Senate Democrats have put forth their own proposal for $8.5 billion in spending. In the meantime, President Trump announced during a Wednesday evening press conference that Vice President Mike Pence would lead the U.S. effort to manage the response to the virus. The administration Thursday announced that State Department Ambassador-At-Large Debbie Birx will serve as the administration’s coronavirus “czar.”

CCPA Implementation

Meanwhile, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra sent a letter on Tuesday to the bipartisan leadership of the Senate Commerce and House Energy and Commerce Committees providing an update on California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) implementation. He also urged Congress to adopt federal privacy legislation that, at a minimum, provides the rights to access, correct, and delete personal data that has been collected; to minimize data collection, processing, and retention; to data portability among services; and; to know what data is collected and processed and for what reasons. He also urged Congress to make clear that state attorneys general have parallel enforcement authority and to adopt a private right of action, while warning against preemption.

Read more in McGuireWoods Consulting’s Emerging Technologies Washington Update.

Senate

Twelve Republican Senators Support Grassley-Wyden Drug Pricing Bill
As of Feb. 18, Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Ranking Member Ron Wyden’s (D-OR) bipartisan drug pricing legislation now has 12 Republican senators in support of the plan. Sen. Grassley said he needs support from at least 25 Republican senators to convince Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to bring S. 2543 to the Senate floor for a vote. The senators who have said they support the legislation, however, have not officially cosponsored the legislation.

Administration

FDA, FTC Collaborate to End Biosimilars Misinformation and Increase Competition
On Feb. 3, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced a collaboration to advance biosimilars adoption, discourage false or misleading communications about biosimilars and deter anticompetitive behaviors.

To begin, a public meeting will be held on March 9, 2020, for input on how to increase competition for biological products.

Find the statement here.

Read more on healthcare policy on the McGuireWoods Consulting website.

The State of Education in Washington

President Trump released his $4.8 trillion budget proposal for FY 2021 spending last week. The president’s budget aims to cut non-defense spending, including funding for the U.S. Department of Education. President Trump requested $66.6 billion for the Department of Education for FY 2021, which represents a $5.6 billion, or nearly 8 percent, cut from enacted levels. While the president’s budget is dead on arrival in Congress, it provides insight on the president’s education priorities.

Expanding School Choice

School choice has always been a top priority for the Trump administration. As such, the president’s budget included up to $5 billion for the Education Freedom Scholarships (EFS) program, a federal tax credit program for donations to organizations that grant scholarships to students to attend private school or other educational opportunities.

Reducing the Federal Role in Education

The president’s budget creates the Elementary and Secondary Education for the Disadvantaged (ESED) block grant program by consolidating funding for 29 education programs (and $24 billion in spending) into one $19 billion block grant. The programs that will be consolidated include Title 1 programs, arts programs, and charter and magnet school programs among others. States will be able to determine how this funding is used as long it is used for authorized purposes, reducing the federal role in education, which is a long-time goal of the Trump administration.

Growing Career and Technical Education Programs

President Trump’s budget includes a $900 million increase for Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs. The president has focused on the importance of CTE in recent weeks. On January 31, President Trump issued a presidential proclamation declaring February as CTE month. Additionally, the president mentioned CTE in his State of the Union address, asking Congress to support his goal of ensuring every high school student in America has access to CTE programs.

Changing the Student Loan Program

The president’s budget proposes to make cuts to the student loan program of almost $5 billion. The proposal would eliminate the public servant student loan forgives program, cap the amount of money graduate students and parents can borrow, and end supplemental grants for low income students. The plan would instead allow for undergraduate borrowers to qualify for loan forgiveness after 15 years, down from the current 25 years. It also would expand Pell Grants to people in prison pursuing higher education degrees.

Read more on education policy in McGuireWoods Consulting’s Education Policy Update.

Hearings/Markups

House Education and Labor Committee: “Markup: H.R. 5800, Ban Surprise Billing Act”
Tuesday, February 11, 2020: The House Education and Labor Committee held a markup for:

Find more details on the hearing here.

Why this is important: The committee approved H.R. 5800, 32-13, to end surprise medical billing. The plan uses a federal benchmark payment to settle differences while allowing providers and payers to appeal to an independent arbiter in disputes over bills above $750. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates the bill would save the federal government about $24 billion over a decade.

House Ways and Means Committee: “Markup of Health Legislation”
Wednesday, February 12, 2020: The House Ways and Means Committee held a markup for the follow three bills:

  • H.R. 5821, the “HOSPICE” Act
  • H.R. 5825, The “Transparency in Health Care Investments Act of 2020”
  • H.R. 5826, the “Consumer Protections Against Surprise Medical Bills Act”

Find more details on the markup here.

Why this is important: The bill, H.R. 5826, passed by voice vote and addresses surprise medical billing by requiring negotiations between health plans and providers who could submit disputes to an independent mediator if there is an impasse. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that the bill would save the federal government $17.77 billion over a decade. The committee also passed H.R. 5821 by voice vote.

House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Health: “Protecting Women’s Access to Reproductive Health Care”
Wednesday, February 12, 2020:The Subcommittee on Health of the Committee on Energy and Commerce held a legislative hearing to discuss H.R. 2975, the Women’s Health Protection Act of 2019Find more details on the hearing here.

Senate Committee on Aging: “There’s No Place Like Home: Home Health Care in Rural America”
Wednesday, February 12, 2020: The Senate Committee on Aging held a hearing on rural health care concerns, featuring a panel of witnesses to discuss home care and hospice care. Find more details on the hearing here.

Senate

HHS Secretary Azar Testifies to Senate Finance on President Trump’s 2021 Budget
On Feb. 13, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary, Alex Azar, testified to the Senate Finance Committee during a hearing on President Trump’s fiscal 2021 budget proposal. Senate Finance Democrats asked Azar to describe the administration’s Affordable Care Act (ACA) replacement plan, but Azar said the high-profile litigation over the constitutionality of the health law is a long way from being finished and at this point, an ACA replacement is a hypothetical situation.

Bipartisan Senate Bill Introduced to Close Orphan Drug Act Cost Recovery “Loophole”
On Feb. 11, Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension (HELP) members Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) along with Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) introduced the Fairness in Orphan Drug Exclusivity Act, a companion to the House’s bipartisan bill of the same name. The bill aims to close an Orphan Drug Act loophole that is believed to allow drug manufacturers to obtain orphan drug designation, and the corresponding seven years of exclusivity, if they claim they are unable to recover development costs on the drug.

Read more on healthcare policy on McGuireWoods Consulting’s website.

House and Senate in Recess

The House and Senate will be in recess next week coinciding with Presidents’ Day.

DOJ Workshop on Section 230

On February 19, the Department of Justice will hold a workshop on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act titled “Section 230 – Nurturing Innovation or Fostering Unaccountability?.”

US-India Trade Agreement

The President and First Lady will travel to India on February 24 and 25. President Trump and Prime Minister Modi are expected to celebrate a new US-India trade agreement during the visit. On April 21, the President and First Lady will host King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia of Spain at the White House for a state visit.

Read more in McGuireWoods Consulting’s Emerging Technologies Washington Update.

Drone Origin Security Enhancement Act

On Monday, the House passed H.R. 4753, the Drone Origin Security Enhancement Act. The bill prohibits the Department of Homeland Security from acquiring or operating foreign manufactured unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), or UAS with certain parts manufactured overseas. Also on Monday, Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) proposed to make the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) part of the Department of Justice (DOJ) under one Senate-confirmed Director, rather than five commissioners, reporting to the Associate Attorney General. Hawley’s proposal focuses on “Big Tech” oversight and would give the new entity authority to enforce rules requiring interoperability, data portability, and data minimization.

Rep. Jordan New Ranking Member of House Judiciary

House Republicans have named Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) the new ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee. He succeeds Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA), who is stepping aside as he pursues a bid for the Senate. Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) will replace Jordan as the top Republican on the House Oversight and Reform Committee.

FY21 Budget Release

President Trump released his FY21 budget proposal on Monday, proposing sweeping cuts to federal spending. Several House and Senate committees are holding hearings on the FY21 budget this week as Congress prepares to begin the appropriations process. Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi (R-WY) said this week that he will not hold a hearing on the President’s budget request, calling it an “exercise” to which Congress pays little attention. See below for additional details on the budget proposal as it pertains to emerging technologies.

Executive Order on Strengthening Resilience through Responsible Use of Positioning, Navigation, and Timing Services

On Wednesday, the President signed an Executive Order on Strengthening Resilience through Responsible Use of Positioning, Navigation, and Timing Services (PNT) directing the federal government to develop guidance to mitigate the risks of disruption to critical infrastructure that rely on PNT services. The order responds to concerns about U.S. adversaries hacking global navigation satellite systems. President Trump and First Lady Melanie Trump also hosted President Lenin Moreno Garcés and First Lady Rocio González de Moreno of the Republic of Ecuador to the White House.

DOJ Workshop on Venture Capital and Antitrust

The Department of Justice hosted a workshop on Wednesday at Stanford University on venture capital and antitrust. In opening remarks, Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim called the event “part of our on-going effort at the Department of Justice to understand the competitive conditions under which online platforms operate.” He also observed that venture capitalist and antitrust enforcers “share similar values” when it comes to dynamic competition, investment, and disruption.

Ethical Use of Facial Recognition Act

On Wednesday, Senators Merkley and Booker introduced the Ethical Use of Facial Recognition Act, which would temporarily prohibit the federal government from using facial recognition software. The bill would also bar state and local governments from using federal funds to implement such technology. After 18 months, a commission established by the bill would provide recommendations to congress on how the government should use and regulate facial recognition software.

Data Protection Act

On Thursday, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) released a bill that would overhaul the way the government regulates privacy. The bill, titled the Data Protection Act, would create a new Data Protection Agency, where consumers could file data malpractice complaints against companies. The agency would be responsible for investigating complaints and inflicting penalties if wrongdoing is found.

Equal Rights Amendment

The House adopted a resolution to remove the deadline for ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) have offered a Senate companion resolution. Supporters have renewed their efforts since Virginia ratified the ERA earlier this year.

Revised Regulations for CCPA

Last Friday, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra released revised regulations regarding the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) in response to comments received on the initial proposal. The public may comment on the modified regulations until February 25.

Read more in McGuireWoods Consulting’s Emerging Technologies Washington Update.

Hearings/Markups

House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation: “Vaping in America: E-Cigarette Manufacturers’ Impact on Public Health”

Wednesday, February 5: The Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations of the Committee on Energy and Commerce held a hearing with executives from five e-cigarette manufacturers serving as witnesses. The executives of Juul, Fontem, Japan Tobacco International, NJOY and Reynolds American testified about marketing strategies and the public health effects of vaping. Find more details on the hearing here.

Why this is important: The witnesses testified a day before FDA’s partial ban on unapproved flavored cartridge-based electronic nicotine delivery system (ENDS) products went into effect. Together, the companies represent approximately 97 percent of the U.S. e-cigarette market. Juul holds more than two-thirds of the yearly market share, followed by Reynolds, NJOY, Fontem and Japan Tobacco International.

House Ways and Means Committee, Subcommittee on Health: “More Cures for More Patients: Overcoming Pharmaceutical Barriers”

Wednesday, February 5: The Subcommittee on Health of the House Ways and Means Committee held a hearing on pharmaceutical barriers to patient treatment. Find more details on the hearing here.

Why this is important: The subcommittee is investigating pharmaceutical tax write-offs, including charitable donations, the financial benefits of certain drug approval pathways and how the 2017 tax law affected drug prices.

House

House Oversight Again to Hold Hearing on Trump Administration’s 2020 Opioid Strategy

On Feb. 4, the House Oversight and Reform Committee announced it will hold a hearing later this month to further investigate the Trump administration’s national drug strategy, released by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) on the same day.

The strategy itself features a number of specific goals to tackle the opioid crisis, including: reducing the number of overdose deaths by 15 percent by 2022; reducing illicit drug use among teens; increasing provider education on best opioid practices; reducing opioid prescriptions; and reducing the production and presence of drugs other than opioids, including cocaine, in other countries. State officials recently told Congress that non-opioid drug use, including cocaine use, was gaining traction in their states and they called for flexibility to use federal funds to address them. The strategy also seeks to double the number of facilities that offer medication-assisted treatment by 2022, as well as increase the number of federal health workers certified to administer and prescribe buprenorphine from 4 percent to 10 percent by 2022. Find the ONDCP strategy here.

Read more on healthcare policy on the McGuireWoods Consulting website.

congressPending Nominations

The House and Senate are both in session next week, but will recess the following week coinciding with Presidents Day. With the impeachment trial over, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has teed up a number of pending nominations for consideration.

FY21 Budget

President Trump will release his fiscal year 2021 budget on Monday. The budget is generally seen as the administration’s wishlist for Congress to consider for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins on October 1. Several congressional committees will begin hearings on the FY21 budget and appropriations next week.

President to Travel to India

President Trump is scheduled to travel to India the week of February 23 for an official state visit. He is expected to spend two days with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi, as well as make a trip to the Taj Mahal. Central to this visit will be trade. The two leaders are expected to sign a limited trade deal, and Indian officials are likely to push Trump to restore the country’s preferential trade status, which would lower tariffs on a myriad of Indian exports.

Section 230 Workshop

DOJ will hold a Section 230 workshop on February 19 to discuss the law’s “expansive interpretation by the courts, its impact on the American people and business community, and whether improvements to the law should be made.” Following the workshop, which is open to the public, policy stakeholders will be invited to participate in listening sessions to further discuss the law and the impact that reforming it would have.

Comment Period Extended on Draft Vertical Merger Guidelines

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) are extending the February 11 deadline for comments on the draft Vertical Merger Guidelines. The deadline is now February 26. The FTC and DOJ also announced two upcoming joint public workshops on the Draft Vertical Merger Guidelines on March 11 and March 18.

Read more in McGuireWoods Consulting’s Emerging Technologies Washington Update.

Impeachment Trial Ends

The Senate impeachment trial came to an end this week with the Senate voting on Wednesday to acquit President Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The vote largely came down along party lines, with the exception of Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT), who joined Democrats in voting to convict for abuse of power.

Support for Puerto Rico

House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-NY) introduced a bill last Tuesday that would provide support to Puerto Rico following a series of earthquakes that rocked the island. The bill would provide over $4.5 billion in aid to the US territory, with $3.26 billion going to a community development block grant for long term disaster relief. In addition, the bill would provide millions in aid for the infrastructure, education, and nutritional needs of the island’s residents.

Protecting the Right to Organize Act

The House voted on Thursday to pass major legislation that would significantly reform labor laws. The Protecting the Right to Organize Act (PRO Act), which was introduced by House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA), would strengthen unions, redefine the words “worker” and “supervisor”, and provide legal protections to undocumented workers in the workplace.

State of the Union

On Tuesday, President Trump delivered his third State of the Union Address during which he restated his commitment to close the digital divide between urban areas and rural and remote areas. In a White House fact sheet issued the same day, the President touted his commitment to workforce development, including pledging jobs and education in areas like artificial intelligence (AI), quantum computing, cybersecurity and 5G so “workers are able to thrive in the jobs of tomorrow.”

Request for Comment on AV 4.0

Today, the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) jointly published a request for comment on Automated Vehicles (AV) 4.0, Ensuring American Leadership in Automated Vehicles Technology. The key difference from AV 3.0 is the expansion of scope from DOT modal administrations to 38 federal agencies that are involved in development and integration of AV technology. Comments are to be submitted to the docket by April 2.

President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology

The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAS), resurrected by executive order on October 22, 2019, held its first working meeting Monday and Tuesday, during which it discussed its near-term focus on quantum computing, AI, 5G telecommunications, advanced manufacturing, and synthetic biology as the prime industries of the future. The White House tasked the council with developing a five-year plan to accelerate the development of these industries. Kelvin Droegemeier, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), chairs the Council and there are currently ten other appointed members, a number which is expected to grow.

Read more in McGuireWoods Consulting’s Emerging Technologies Washington Update.