House Judiciary to Return Sept. 4 to Markup Bills Aimed at Reducing Gun Violence

Congress remains in recess through the second week of September, but the House Judiciary Committee will return to Washington on September 4 to markup several bills aimed at reducing gun violence. The Committee will also hold a hearing September 25 on military-style assault weapons.

8chan Owner to Appear in Sept. 5 Deposition

According to the House Homeland Security Committee, 8chan owner Jim Watkins has also agreed to appear at a September 5 deposition to discuss whether the site has made any efforts to stop the spread of racist and violent content.

Trump to Join Other G7 Leaders in France

President Trump will join other G7 leaders this weekend in Biarritz, France. He also announced on Tuesday evening that he will not travel to Denmark early next month for bilateral meetings with senior political and business leaders as planned after Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said that she would not be interested in discussing the potential sale of Greenland to the United States. The President and First Lady had also been scheduled to visit Queen Margrethe II during their time in Copenhagen. The trip was to coincide with a visit to Warsaw on September 1 to mark the 80th anniversary of the beginning of World War II. Elsewhere, Vice President Pence is scheduled to travel to Iceland, the United Kingdom, and Ireland next week.

Read more in McGuireWoods Consulting’s Emerging Technologies Update.

Communications Decency Act, PLAN Act

While Congress remains in recess, Rep. Ed Case (D-HI) sent a letter to colleagues this week seeking support for draft legislation aimed at reforming Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act so that short-term rental marketplaces can be held liable for listings in jurisdictions that have banned such rental properties. Case asked the House Energy and Commerce Committee last month to review the matter, arguing that Section 230 shields platforms from penalties for knowingly listing properties they know to be illegal. He intends to introduce the Protecting Local Authority and Neighborhoods (PLAN) Act when Congress returns to Washington in September.

Cybersecurity of Internet-Connected Cars

Today, Senators Ed Markey (D-MA) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) wrote to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Acting Administrator Heidi King expressing concerns about the cybersecurity of internet-connected cars and asking for information on any steps NHTSA has taken to address such vulnerabilities. Markey and Blumenthal reintroduced legislation last month that would direct NHTSA and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to establish federal standards for security and privacy in “increasingly computerized vehicles.” King is leaving the agency at the end of the month; Department of Transportation Deputy General Counsel James Owens will take the helm after her departure.

Technology Policy Institute’s Annual Forum

FTC Commissioner Noah Phillips and Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust Makan Delrahim were among those who spoke this week in Aspen at the Technology Policy Institute’s annual forum. During his panel, Delrahim said that while Section 230 has “nothing to do with antitrust,” it would be appropriate to review it in the context of today’s internet. He also said that the Department of Justice (DOJ) has contacted companies subject to its recently announced investigation into the practices of market-leading online platforms and suggested the Department might soon “be issuing compulsory process on some third parties” as part of its inquiry.

Colwell Joins White House as Special Adviser to the President on Technology, Telecommunications and Cybersecurity

Meanwhile, former House Energy and Commerce Committee Chief Counsel Robin Colwell joined the White House this week as a special adviser to the President on technology, telecommunications, and cybersecurity issues. She also replaces Gail Slater on the National Economic Council.

National Space Council Meeting

On Tuesday, President Trump hosted Romanian President Klaus Iohannis at the White House for a bilateral meeting while Vice President Pence spoke at a National Space Council meeting, where he announced that the new United States Space Command will formally launch next week under the leadership of Four-star Air Force General John Raymond.

Hickenlooper, Inslee Drop from 2020 Race

Former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper announced today that he will seek the Democratic nomination to challenge Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) in 2020. Gardner sits on the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee and chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy, among other assignments. Hickenlooper recently dropped out of the Democratic presidential primary field. Washington Governor Jay Inslee also dropped out of the presidential race this week and will instead run for reelection.

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

Federal Updates

  • Last week, U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Ed Markey (D-MA), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) sent letters to numerous education technology companies expressing concern about “vast amount of data being collected about our nation’s students” and seeking details on company data collection practices.
  • House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Scott (D-VA), Financial Service Committee Chairwoman Waters (D-CA), and Oversight Committee Chairman Cummings (D-MD) requested records from the Education Department regarding the cancellation of information-sharing agreements with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).
  • No school districts are participating in the “Flexibility for Equitable Per-Pupil Spending” pilot program that was established in the Every Student Succeeds Act. The program allows districts to combine local, state and federal funding into new systems that weight funding on a per-pupil basis.

Read more on education policy on the McGuireWoods Consulting website.

House

Cummings and Sanders Seek Information About Possible Obstruction of a Congressional Investigation on Generic Drug Prices
On August 14, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD), the Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Ranking Member of the Senate Budget Committee, sent letters to Heritage Pharmaceuticals, Mylan N.V., and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Ltd. renewing a 2014 document request about the companies’ pricing of generic drugs. Cummings and Sanders also requested information regarding the companies’ apparent efforts to stonewall the 2014 investigation, in order to obtain a more detailed understanding of what specific actions took place to impede efforts, thwart the ability of Congress to enact legislative reform, and jeopardize patients access to generic drugs.

Senate

Grassley Urges HHS, FDA to Implement Unannounced Inspections of Foreign Drug Manufacturing Facilities
On Aug. 6, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) sent a letter to Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar, and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Acting Commissioner Norman Sharpless urging them to reinstate unannounced inspections of prescription drug manufacturing facilities in foreign countries.  The reason for the request is the Trump administration’s new “Safe Importation Action Plan” as well as the fact that these facilities provide most of the ingredients for production inside the United States.

Grassley Asks Novartis For Information on Zolgensma
Senate Finance Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-IA) sent a letter to Novartis AG requesting information by Aug. 23 regarding the manufacturer’s knowledge of data manipulation during the approval process for its $2.1 million gene therapy Zolgensma.

Blackburn Introduces Three Bills on Rural Health
On Aug. 1, Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) introduced a rural health package that includes three bills. The first bill, the Rural America Health Corps Act is cosponsored by Sens. Durbin, Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Doug Jones (D-AL) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). It gives a two-year forgiveness period for the existing National Health Services Corp, which provides $50,000 a year to repay student loans for primary care doctors, behavioral health clinics, nurse practitioners and physician assistants who serve in “health professional shortage areas.”

The second bill, the Rural Health Innovations Act, co-sponsored by Murkowski, authorizes the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Community-Based Division to create two five-year grant programs. The first grant program allows existing federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) and rural health clinics (RHC), as well as start-up clinics, to expand their services to be able to triage and stabilize patients in emergencies, including increasing the availability of lab and x-ray equipment. The bill grants $500,000 for existing facilities and $750,000 for start-up facilities.

The third bill, the Telemedicine Across State Lines Act, instructs the HHS to write a rule on best practices for providing telehealth across state lines with input from stakeholders. Regular reports to Congress on the HHS’ progress would be required.

Read more on healthcare policy on the McGuireWoods Consulting website.

Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act

Amid ongoing protests in Hong Kong, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said this week that the House will move to take up the bicameral and bipartisan Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act when it returns from recess.

USTR to Hold Hearing on France’s Digital Services Tax

On Monday, the Office of the USTR will hold a hearing on France’s digital services tax as part of its investigation into whether the tax is “discriminatory or unreasonable and burdens or restricts United States commerce.”

US-UK Relations Post-Brexit

Vice President Pence will travel to Iceland, the United Kingdom, and Ireland the first week of September. Meetings in the UK will focus on the US-UK economic relationship post-Brexit.

Spectrum Policy Symposium

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) announced this week that it will hold its annual Spectrum Policy Symposium on Tuesday, September 10. This year’s event will focus on “Looking to America’s Spectrum Future” and will serve as an opportunity for NTIA to provide updates on efforts to develop the National Spectrum Strategy as required by the Oct. 25, 2018 Presidential Memorandum on “Developing a Sustainable Spectrum Strategy for America’s Future.” Speakers will include representatives from the White House, various federal agencies, and the private sector.

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

Tech Foundations for Congressional Staff

Congress remains in recess through September 9. While members of Congress are away from Washington, many congressional staff attended two days of presentations this week on new developments in current and emerging technologies at Georgetown Law’s annual Tech Foundations for Congressional Staff event. Topics covered ranged from “New Developments in Privacy-Impacting Technologies” and “Realities of Implementing the GDPR and CCPA” to “Data, Inference & Algorithmic Fairness,” “The Use & Impact of Facial Recognition Technologies,” and “New Approaches in Content Moderation,” among others.

8chan Owner Subpoenaed

In the meantime, House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MS) and Ranking Member Mike Rogers (R-AL) announced on Wednesday that the Committee has subpoenaed 8chan owner Jim Watkins to testify on September 5 as part of “ongoing oversight work on countering extremist content on social media platforms.”

Tariff Delay

On Tuesday, the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) announced that the Administration will delay until December 15 a new 10% tariff on certain Chinese-manufactured products, including cell phones, laptops, and certain clothing, among other goods. The tariffs were originally set to take effect on September 1. USTR will also create an exclusion process for other goods.

FTC Holds Workshop on Truth-in-Advertising, Data Security

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced late last week that its new Technology Task Force (TTF) is seeking a Technology Fellow to support monitoring technology markets. Specifically, the fellow will play a key role in investigations into claims of anticompetitive behavior in markets where technology is a particularly important dimension of competition. Meanwhile, the FTC hosted a workshop today in Atlanta focused on truth-in-advertising and data security compliance in collaboration with the Office of the Georgia Attorney General, the State Bar of Georgia Antitrust Law Section, and the Better Business Bureau Serving Metro Atlanta. The day-long event marks the first in the newly launched “Green Lights & Red Flags” series in which the Commission hosts workshops with regional partners to address social media marketing, data security, and other timely marketing topics.

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

Roundtable on Violent Extremism

Today, the White House will host a roundtable on violent extremism with internet and technology companies.

Confirmation Votes

The House and Senate are in recess until the second week in September. Before adjourning last week, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) set up a number of confirmation votes for the first week the Senate is back in session, including Kelly Craft to be Ambassador to the United Nations and Dale Cabannis to be Director of the Office of Personnel Management, as well as nominees for senior positions at the Departments of Health and Human Services, Veterans Affairs, and Treasury.

FY20 Appropriations

Soon thereafter, McConnell plans to bring the first FY20 appropriations bill to the floor. Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) plans for the Committee to mark up the first package, which will likely include the Labor-Health and Human Services, Defense, and Energy-Water bills, the week of September 9.

House Democrats to Visit Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and McAllen, TX

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) will lead a congressional delegation of House Democrats to McAllen, Texas and Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras for meetings about border security, detention facilities, and asylum seekers.

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

Bipartisan Budget Act, Senate Confirmations

The House and Senate are in recess until the second week of September. Last Friday, the President signed the Bipartisan Budget Act into law, implementing a two-year budget deal that also suspends the debt limit until July 31, 2021. He also signed legislation waiving a prohibition that precluded Dan Elwell, who has been serving as the Acting Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) since January 2018, from staying on as Deputy Administrator once Steve Dickson is sworn in as Administrator because they are both former military officers. The Senate confirmed Dickson 52-40 on July 24 and he is set to be sworn in on August 12. The Senate also confirmed Michael Kratsios last Thursday to serve as the Trump Administration’s first US Chief Technology Officer and Associate Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).

Director of National Intelligence Nomination, Retirement Announcements

Last Friday, the President announced that he no longer plans to nominate Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-TX) to succeed former Senator Dan Coats as Director of National Intelligence (DNI). He has not yet announced a replacement. In the meantime, two more members of the Texas delegation – Reps. Will Hurd (R-TX) and Kenny Marchant (R-TX) – announced that they will not seek reelection in 2020.

President Visits El Paso and Dayton

On Wednesday, the President visited El Paso and Dayton to meet with communities victimized by recent mass shootings. The visit followed a letter from House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MS) and Ranking Member Mike Rogers (R-AL) to the owner of 8chan calling on him to testify about the proliferation of extremist content on his site. The letter does not explicitly refer to the protections provided by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, but coincided with a letter from House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Ranking Member Greg Walden (R-OR) to US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer expressing concern with including a provision similar to Section 230 in the proposed US-Mexico-Canada trade agreement (USMCA). Pallone and Walden “take no view” in the letter as to whether or not the provision should be included, but ask Ambassador Lighthizer to consult with the Committee on this issue specifically as USMCA negotiations continue. Elsewhere, Rep. Ron Wright (R-TX) signed on last Friday to cosponsor Rep. Paul Gosar’s (R-AZ) Section 230 reform bill, H.R. 4027. For more on the Stop the Censorship Act, click here.

Potential Executive Order

Reports this week also indicated that the White House is preparing an executive order directed at allegations of anti-conservative bias on social media platforms. The President said at last month’s White House summit on social media that the Administration would explore all avenues to combat the perceived bias. The executive order is understood to be in early draft stages and is not expected to be released imminently.

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

Congress

House Passes Short-Term Funding Extension for Medicaid Pilot Program

On July 30, the House passed a bill to keep a $1 billion Medicaid pilot providing mental health and addiction services running through mid-September—the third short-term funding extension in four months.

The bill, H.R 3253, passed during a pro forma session and already passed by the Senate, now heads to the president’s desk. It provides roughly $60 million to continue services through Sept. 13. The program’s champions plan to push for a longer-term extension.

The program was launched in 2017 and provides enhanced Medicaid funding to nearly 80 clinics across eight states designated as “certified community behavioral health centers.” If the funding ends, the clinics will stay open but will lose their enhanced match, which, clinic operators say, could lead to layoffs and reduced services.

The National Council for Behavioral Health, which provides technical assistance to the centers, estimates 300,000 people could lose access to services if funding isn’t renewed in September. That includes 9,000 people currently receiving medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction.

Senate Passes Bipartisan Budget Deal, President Trumps Signs

On Aug. 1, the Senate passed a $2.7 trillion budget agreement with a 67-28 vote. The bipartisan agreement, H.R. 3877, passed in the House last week, and was signed by President Trump on Aug. 2. The agreement raises spending $320 billion over current levels and lifts the debt ceiling for two years. When Congress returns from summer recess, the process will begin to ensure funding is secured for after the Sept. 30 deadline.

Under the budget agreement, the defense spending limit will increase by $22 billion over current levels for fiscal 2020. The non-defense funding cap will be raised by $27 billion during that time. The measure hikes each of those budget limits by another $2.5 billion in fiscal 2021, which begins in October 2020.

Find the bipartisan deal here.

Administration

Read more on healthcare policy on the McGuireWoods Consulting website.

FY20 Spending Allocations

The House and Senate will be in recess until the second week in September. Senate Appropriations Chairman Shelby (R-AL) will set FY20 spending allocations during the recess in anticipation of subcommittee markups beginning shortly after lawmakers return to Washington and the first full Committee markup set for September 12. Shelby has suggested that he will prioritize the Energy-Water, Labor-Health and Human Services, and Defense bills.

Nominations

The Senate can also be expected to move ahead with Gene Scalia’s nomination to succeed former Secretary Alex Acosta at the Department of Labor.

80th Anniversary of WWII

The President and First Lady will mark the 80th anniversary of the beginning of World War II on September 1 in Warsaw before traveling to Denmark for bilateral meetings. President Trump will also host Australian Prime Minister Morrison on September 20 for a state visit.

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