Federal Updates

  • The House Appropriations Committee approved the FY2020 Labor, HHS, Education, and Related Agencies spending bill, increasing the Depart of Education budget by 6 percent.
    • An amendment was adopted, adding $103 million for addition funding for career and technical education, mahnet schools, preschools and the Open Textbooks Pilot program.
    • Read a summary of the bill, view the text or read the committee report.
  • The President met with senior congressional Democrats, including Speaker Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Schumer (D-NY), at the White House April 30 to discuss a potential infrastructure package, including potential funding for schools. After the meeting, Pelosi and Schumer said that they reached an agreement with the President to negotiate towards a $2 trillion package without having discussed specific funding mechanisms.
  • Last week, the House Education and Labor Committee held the fourth in a five-part series of hearings focused on the Higher Education Act, titled “The Cost of Non-Completion: Improving Student Outcomes in rel=”noopener noreferrer” Higher Education.” View the archive of the hearing.
  • The U.S. Treasury Department announced lower interest rates on new federal student loans effective July 1, 2019 from the current 5.045 percent to 4.529 percent for undergraduates, from 6.595 percent for graduates to 6.079 percent and 7.079 percent for federal PLUS loans compared to the current 7.595 percent.

Read more in education policy on the McGuireWoods Consulting website.

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Hearings/Markups

Senate Judiciary Committee: “Intellectual Property and the Price of Prescription Drugs: Balancing Innovation and Competition”
Tuesday, May 7, 2019: The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on practices by drug manufacturers to delay the patent system and extend monopolies on prescription drugs. Find witness testimonies, live feed and other information here.

Why this is important: There appeared to be broad agreement on the CREATES Act of 2019, as Judiciary Committee Chair Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said he expects the committee will move on legislation related to patents and prescription drug pricing this year.

Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee: “Implementing the 21st Century Cures Act: Making Electronic Health Information Available to Patients and Providers, Part II”
Tuesday, May 7, 2019: The Senate HELP committee held the second hearing in a series on electronic health information and further implementing the 21st Century Cures Act. Witnesses include Dr. Don Rucker, the national coordinator for Health Information Technology at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and Dr. Kate Goodrich, the director and Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) chief medical officer. Find witness testimonies, live feed and other information here.

Why this is important: Senate HELP Committee Chairman Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) called on the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to consider delaying the implementation of two new interoperability rules with expectations to prohibition against information blocking and standardized criteria for application programming interface (API) development. Echoing the March hearing, senators expressed concern on how HHS will ensure patient data are protected once they can be shared with third-party apps.

Senate Committee on Finance: “Medicare Physician Payment Reform After Two Years: Examining MACRA Implementation and the Road Ahead”
Wednesday, May 8, 2019: The Senate Finance Committee held a hearing to evaluate how well the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) of 2015 is meeting its goals in reforming physician payments and to discuss ways to improve the law’s implementation. Find witness testimonies, live feed and other information here.

Why this is important: The hearing examined the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) of 2015 and assessed how well that reform legislation is meeting its goals of improving quality of care and value for taxpayers. Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-OR) said that the committee was concerned about how rural areas will fit with respect to innovative payment models moving forward.

House Committee on Appropriations: “Full Committee Markup of FY2020 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies”
Wednesday, May 8, 2019: The House Committee on Appropriations held a markup to consider the Report on the Suballocation of Budget Allocations for FY 2020 and Full Committee Markup of the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education Appropriations Bill. Find a summary of the markup here.

House Committee on Energy and Commerce: “Lowering Prescription Drug Prices: Deconstructing the Drug Supply Chain”
Thursday, May 9, 2019: The House Committee on Energy and Commerce held a hearing on the drug supply chain, including drug manufacturers, pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), insurers, hospitals, pharmacies and patients—all represented by the witnesses testifying. The purpose of the hearing was to discuss the root causes of high prescription drug costs, how prices are set and how each supply chain member can help lower prices. Find witness testimonies, live feed and other information here.

Why this is important: Witnesses from the pharmaceutical industry cited pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) and the current rebate structure for high drug prices as part of the problem. PBM representatives called on the manufacturers to lower their list prices. The same debate took place in previous hearings in efforts to lower prescription drug prices.

Read more on healthcare policy on the McGuireWoods Consulting website.

Pending Judicial and Executive Branch Nominations

The House and Senate are both in session next week with two weeks in Washington before the Memorial Day recess. Leader McConnell will continue to process pending judicial and executive branch nominations.

Disaster Aid

In the meantime, Senate leadership continues to negotiate an aid package to deliver supplemental funding to disaster-stricken areas around the country, though funding for hurricane recovery in Puerto Rico remains a point of contention. Majority Leader McConnell (R-KY) said this week that he aims to pass a bill before the recess.

Robocalls

The Senate may also hotline, or expedite consideration of, the TRACED Act, bipartisan legislation aimed at curbing abusive robocalls. Minority Leader Schumer (D-NY) endorsed the bill this week as its list of cosponsors neared 75, ensuring passage.

Lowering Prescription Drug Prices

Next week, the House will take up legislation that packages together a number of bills aimed at lowering prescription drug prices. H.R. 987, the Strengthening Health Care and Lowering Prescription Drug Costs Act, which will include, among other bills, the CREATES Act, the Protecting Consumer Access to Generic Drugs Act, and the BLOCKING Act. This week, the House passed two bills, H.R. 1503 and H.R. 1520, which would update the FDA Orange and Purple Books, respectively, with the goal of making it easier for generics and biosimilars to reach the market.

Immigration Plan

The House and Senate were both in session this week and on Tuesday, a group of Senate Republicans, including Judiciary Committee Chairman Graham (R-SC) and Senators Blackburn (R-TN), Cotton (R-AR), Cramer (R-ND), Crapo (R-ID), Grassley (R-IA), Lee (R-UT), McSally (R-AZ), and Perdue (R-GA), attended a White House briefing to hear about the President’s forthcoming immigration plan spearheaded by senior adviser Jared Kushner. On Wednesday, the President hosted a Cabinet meeting before flying to Florida to tour hurricane damage at Tyndall Air Force Base and then hold a rally. Today, he attends a second White House event on surprise medical billing.

Confirmations

Earlier today, National Telecommunications and Information and Administration (NTIA) Administrator David Redl resigned. The Senate confirmed Redl, a former Energy and Commerce Committee aide, by voice vote in November 2017. Consistent with Majority Leader McConnell’s plan to move as many nominations as possible in the coming months, the Senate on Wednesday confirmed Kimberly Reed (President), former Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-AL), and Judith Pryor to serve on the Board of the Export-Import Bank, restoring a quorum and enabling the Bank to consider and process larger transactions. The Senate also voted to confirm Joseph Bianco to be US Circuit Judge for the 2nd Circuit and to move ahead with Janet Dhillon’s nomination to sit on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Today, the Senate votes on Michael Park’s nomination to also sit on the 2nd Circuit Court.

FY20 Appropriations

House and Senate committees are both moving ahead with the FY20 appropriations process this week with the House Appropriations Committee processing several bills: Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education; Legislative Branch; Military Construction and Veterans Affairs; and State and Foreign Operations. On the Senate side, appropriators continue to hear from department heads on the Administration’s FY20 budget request with an eye to beginning markups later this month once they receive top-line funding levels.

Access Broadband Act

On Wednesday, the House voted unanimously to adopt the ACCESS BROADBAND Act, which would create a new Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth within the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) aimed at connecting more communities to high-speed internet. Reps. Brooks (R-IN) and Tonko (D-NY) championed the measure. The Senate Commerce Committee will consider a number of bills related to broadband deployment, including one sponsored by Chairman Wicker (R-MS) and Senator Klobuchar (D-MN) that aims to improve coordination between the FCC, NTIA, and USDA to better distribute federal funds for broadband deployment.

Preparing Localities for an Autonomous and Connected Environment Act

Meanwhile, Reps. Blumenauer (D-OR), Doyle (D-PA), and Bonamici (D-OR) introduced the Preparing Localities for an Autonomous and Connected Environment (PLACE) Act, which would create a federally-funded clearinghouse within an institution of higher education to examine the secondary influences of autonomous vehicles (AVs). The bill authorizes $2 million annually for coordinated research to help understand how AVs can impact things like land use, transportation, real estate, and social equity.

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

This week in Washington: Hearings continue on the price of prescription drugs, Senate Committee on Finance to hold a hearing on Medicare physician payment reform, while the Senate HELP Committee will hold its second hearing in a series on electronic health information and further implementing the 21st Century Cures Act.

Hearings/Markups

House Committee on Rules: “Hearing on the Medicare for All Act of 2019,” H.R. 1384
Tuesday, April 30, 2019: The House Committee on Rules held a hearing on the Medicare for All Act of 2019. This hearing will be the first time Congress has ever held a hearing on Medicare for All. The Rules Committee typically holds hearings when a bill has been considered by other committees, gone through a markup process and been sent to Rules to determine how the bill will be considered on the House floor. However, Speaker Pelosi promised Medicare for All supporters that the Rules Committee and the Budget Committee would hold hearings. The House Budget Committee is likely to hold a hearing next month. Find the full hearing and witness testimonies here.

House Committee on Energy and Commerce: “The Payment of Prescription Drugs in Medicare Parts B & D”
Tuesday, April 30, 2019: The House Committee on Energy and Commerce held a hearing on the cost of drugs in Medicare Part B and Part D. The hearing covers Medicare’s prescription drug programs as the Health Subcommittee looks at proposals to strategically improve coverage and lower costs for seniors. Find the full hearing and witness testimonies here. Find a summary of the hearing here.

House Judiciary Committee: Markup on CREATES Act, Pay-for-Delay Legislation
Tuesday, April 30, 2019: The House Judiciary Committee held a markup and voted to send four drug-pricing and competition bills to the House floor, including pay-for-delay legislation, the CREATES Act and a bill that would allow the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to crack down on brand drug manufacturers’ use of sham citizen petitions to delay generic drug competition. The committee also voted in favor of Chair Jerry Nadler’s (D-NY) Preserve Access to Affordable Generics and Biosimilars Act, which allows the FTC to penalize companies that reach patent dispute settlements that delay generic or biosimilar competition.

All bills were favorably reported to the House with no added amendments, and by unanimous voice vote:

  • H.R. 965, the “CREATES Act”
  • H.R. 2375, the “Preserve Access to Affordable Generics and Biosimilars Act”
  • H.R. 2374, the “Stop Significant and Time-wasting Abuse Limiting Legitimate Innovation of New Generics Act”
  • H.R. 2376, the “Prescription Pricing for People Act of 2019”

The House Energy & Commerce Committee passed a version of the Creating and Restoring Equal Access to Equivalent Samples (CREATES) Act with bipartisan amendments earlier this month. Find the full markup here.

Upcoming Hearings/Markups

Senate

Senate Democrats Introduce the “Choose Medicare Act”
On May 1, Sens. Chris Murphy (CT) and Jeff Merkley (OR), alongside Democratic colleagues, introduced the “Choose Medicare Act,” which allows anyone not on Medicare or Medicaid to enroll in Medicare, and gives employers the option to offer Medicare to employees instead of, or in addition to, private insurance. The list of 15 cosponsors includes: Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Jack Reed (D-RI), Tina Smith (D-MN), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Martin Heinrich (D-NM). Monitor the bill here.

House

House to Vote on Two Drug Pricing Bills This Week
On May 3, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) confirmed that the House will vote on two prescription drug-pricing bills this week with the intent to make it easier for generic and biosimilar drug manufacturers to access information on drug patents and marketing exclusivity.

  • H.R. 1503 – The Orange Book Transparency Act of 2019 makes changes to the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) “orange” book to provide better information on brand drug and patent exclusivity. Monitor the bill here.
  • H.R. 1520 – The Purple Book Continuity Act of 2019 update the FDA’s “purple” book on patents and exclusivity for biologic medicines. Monitor the bill here.

CBO Releases Report on Single-Payer Health Care System Designs
At the request of the House Budget Committee Chairman, John Yarmouth (D-KY), the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) created a report on design considerations and consequential factors of the single-payer health care debate. This report was released on May 1. The report provides Congress with a neutral framework for approaching single-payer proposals. While CBO’s assessment explicitly refrains from specifics, it did outline factors to consider, and possible issues faced, when designing, implementing or transitioning to single-payer health care.

Key considerations to note:

  • The report addresses whether or not unauthorized immigrants would be eligible for universal health care coverage, a population that averaged 11 million people per month in 2018.
  • A public plan means increased cost and provides a specified set of health care services to all eligible enrollees, meaning participants would not have a choice of insurer or health benefits like those that they do now.

Find the full report here.

Read more in healthcare policy on the McGuireWoods Consulting website.

FY20 Spending Bills

With the Memorial Day and lengthy August recess looming between now and the end of the fiscal year on September 30, appropriators will be focused on moving FY20 spending bills. The House Appropriations Committee held its first FY20 spending bill markup this week in the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Subcommittee. Over the coming weeks, the Committee and its subcommittees will continue to consider the remaining FY20 bills, while their Senate counterparts have not yet scheduled any markups as they await their top-line funding levels.

Pending Nominations

Senate Majority Leader McConnell’s (R-KY) top priority for the coming months will be confirming as many of over 100 nominations pending before the Senate as possible, including dozens of judicial nominations.

Debt Ceiling Negotiations

There will also be an effort to address some 30 tax extenders set to expire in the coming months while McConnell and Speaker Pelosi (D-CA) negotiate around raising the debt ceiling before the Treasury Department runs out of so-called extraordinary measures, likely this fall.

House Minority Leader McCarthy (R-CA) also announced this week that his caucus will hold a policy retreat September 12-14 in Baltimore.

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

Infrastructure Package

The House and Senate returned to Washington this week after a two-week recess. On Tuesday, the President met with senior congressional Democrats, including Speaker Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Schumer (D-NY), at the White House to discuss a potential infrastructure package. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow, and presidential advisers Ivanka Trump and Kellyanne Conway were also among those in attendance. After the meeting, Pelosi and Schumer said that they reached an agreement with the President to negotiate towards a $2 trillion package without having discussed specific funding mechanisms. Another meeting is expected in about three weeks.

The following day, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee convened a hearing during which all members of the House were invited to speak on their infrastructure-related priorities while the Committee prepares to consider surface transportation reauthorization legislation.

Confirmations

On Tuesday, the Senate voted 68-31 to confirm William Cooper to be General Counsel of the Department of Energy and 72-27 to confirm Gordon Hartogensis to be Director of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. The upper chamber also considered a number of other judicial nominations.

Green New Deal

On the other other side of the Capitol, Rep. Hice (R-GA) offered a discharge petition this week in an attempt to force a floor vote on the Green New Deal resolution spearheaded by Rep. Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY). The procedural tactic, which is rarely successful, forces a vote if the petition attracts 218 signatures.

Barr Testimony

Attorney General Bill Barr fielded questions this week from both the House and Senate Judiciary Committees on Mueller report and the Department of Justice investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein also announced on Monday that he will resign effective May 11. The Senate Judiciary Committee’s planned vote to advance the President’s nominee for Deputy AG, Deputy Secretary of Transportation Jeff Rosen, was postponed.

Trade Talks

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer spent the week in Beijing for US-China trade talks.

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

Upcoming Hearings/Markups

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

House Committee on Rules“Hearing on the Medicare for All Act of 2019,” H.R. 1384
The House Committee on Rules will hold a hearing on the Medicare for All Act of 2019. This hearing will be the first time Congress has ever held a hearing on Medicare for All. The Rules Committee typically holds hearings when a bill has been considered by other committees, gone through a markup process and sent to Rules to determine how the bill will be considered on the House floor. However, Speaker Pelosi promised Medicare for All supporters that the Rules Committee and the Budget Committee would hold hearings. The House Budget Committee is likely to hold a hearing next month. Read the witness list and other information.

House Committee on Energy and Commerce“The Payment of Prescription Drugs in Medicare Parts B & D”
The House Committee on Energy and Commerce will hold a hearing on the cost of drugs in Medicare Part B and Part D. The hearing covers Medicare’s prescription drug programs as the Health Subcommittee looks at proposals to strategically improve coverage and lower costs for seniors. Find the full hearing and witness testimonies here.

TBA

House Judiciary CommitteeTBA Markup on CREATES Act, Pay-for-Delay Legislation
The House Judiciary Committee is planning a markup on the CREATES Act and pay-for-delay legislation. The date of the markup has not been announced. Last month, Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) said he intended to introduce a bill to prohibit deals in which a brand drug maker pays a generic competitor to abandon a patent challenge, delaying their entry into the market. Rep. Nadler has not yet introduced the bill. The House Energy & Commerce Committee passed a version of the Creating and Restoring Equal Access to Equivalent Samples (CREATES) Act with bipartisan amendments earlier this month.

Senate

Grassley to Hold Nursing Home Hearing After GAO, OIG Reports Released in Summer
On April 22, Senate Finance Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-IA) announced plans to hold oversight hearings concerning nursing home care after the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the Department of Health and Human Services’s (HHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) reports on the topic are released this summer. Grassley has a long history in oversight of the nursing home care, as does the ranking member of the committee, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR).

Read more on healthcare policy on the McGuireWoods Consulting website.

House and Senate Return to Washington

Both the House and the Senate return to Washington next week. Throughout the week, the appropriations and authorizing committees will continue to hear from department and agency heads on the President’s FY20 budget proposal. On Monday, the Senate will take up William Cooper’s nomination to be General Counsel of the Department of Energy. On Tuesday, the House Rules Committee will hold a hearing on Medicare for All legislation offered by Rep. Jayapal (D-WA), while the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health will hold another in a series of hearings to date on drug pricing, this one focused on Medicare Parts B and D. The President, Speaker Pelosi (D-CA), and Senate Minority Leader Schumer (D-NY) are also scheduled to meet on Tuesday to discuss infrastructure, while the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will hold a members’ day hearing on Wednesday during which all representatives are invited to discuss their infrastructure and surface transportation reauthorization priorities.

Attorney General Barr to Testify May 1

On May 1, Attorney General Bill Barr will testify about the Department of Justice investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Majority Leader Hoyer (D-MD) expects the House to take up legislation this month related to climate change, disaster relief, and retirement savings, as well as the Equality Act and potentially bills to address prescription drug pricing and Dreamers. Looking further ahead, the House Energy and Commerce Committee is expected to hold a FCC oversight hearing next monthly, tentatively on May 15.

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

Recess Wrap-Up & Subpoenas

The House and Senate are wrapping up a two week recess. As they prepare to return to Washington next week, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Nadler (D-NY) has subpoenaed the Department of Justice to release the unredacted Mueller report. He also subpoenaed former White House Counsel Don McGahn this week to testify publicly on May 27 and provide documents related to the report.

Sanctions

On Monday, the White House announced that the government will not reissue exemptions to sanctions for several countries that import oil from Iran when the waivers expire on May 2, an “action intended to bring Iran’s oil exports to zero and deny the regime its principal source of revenue.”

President Meets with Twitter CEO

The President met with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey on Tuesday in the Oval Office to discuss alleged anti-conservative bias on the social media platform. Coinciding with National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, they also discussed the role tech companies play in illegal online opioid sales amid calls from some lawmakers to further amend Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act to roll back liability protections for online platforms when it comes to those types of sales.

FAA Issues Air Carrier Certificate to Wing Aviation

On Tuesday, Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao announced that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued an air carrier certificate to Wing Aviation, the first such certificate awarded for drone delivery operations. The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 directs the FAA to update its rules to authorize drone deliveries, but in the meantime, drone operators seeking to deliver goods for compensation or hire must go through the same certification process as manned charter aircraft operators, including obtaining exemption authority from some operational requirements and obtaining an airworthiness certificate for the unmanned aircraft. The Secretary also announced this week that the FAA’s commercial space office will be reorganized as the agency prepares to implement a new proposed rule to overhaul the launch and reentry licensing process (find more information on the proposed rule here).

Other Happenings in Tech & Privacy

Gail Slater, a senior adviser to the President on technology, telecommunications, and cybersecurity policy, will leave the White House to join Fox Corporation in Washington, the company announced on Wednesday.

In California, the Assembly Privacy and Consumer Protection Committee held a hearing on Tuesday on a number of bills to amend the California Privacy and Consumer Protection Act (CCPA). A bill offered by Assemblymember Wicks that carried several provisions championed by privacy advocates was pulled from the agenda.

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