Department of treasury symbol

Debt Ceiling Vote

Provided conversations between Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and Speaker Pelosi (D-CA) continue towards a two-year deal to raise budget caps and the debt limit, both Chambers can be expected to vote next week to avoid hitting the ceiling during the August recess.

Pending Nominations

In addition, Senate Majority Leader McConnell (R-KY) will endeavor to confirm as many pending nominations before the recess as possible, which will likely include Mark Esper’s nomination to be Secretary of Defense and Steve Dickson’s nomination to be Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration.

9/11 Victims Compensation Fund

He will also bring up legislation to reauthorize the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund, which the House passed last Friday 402-12. Senator Paul (R-KY) objected to an effort to bring the bill to the floor this week.

congressRehabilitation for Multiemployer Pensions Act, Homeland Security Improvement Act

The House plans to take up H.R. 397, Rehabilitation for Multiemployer Pensions Act, and H.R. 2203, the Homeland Security Improvement Act, as well as a number of suspension bills. Chairman Pallone (D-NJ) also suggested after the House Energy and Commerce Committee unanimously advanced the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act on Wednesday that the bill could come to the floor next week.

President Trump will host Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan at the White House on Monday.

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

Debt Ceiling

The House and Senate are both in session this week as the August recess approaches and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin continue to negotiate a path towards raising the debt ceiling, which Mnuchin is urging Congress to do before leaving Washington for the summer. Mnuchin said this morning that they have reached an agreement on a two-year deal to increase budget caps and to raise the debt limit and that discussions are now focused on offsets. The Speaker called it a “path” to agreement.

Intelligence Reauthorization, Raise the Wage Act

This week, the House passed a three-year intelligence reauthorization 397-31 before turning to the Raise the Wage Act, which aims to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 by 2025. The bill passed this afternoon, 231-199. The Energy and Commerce Committee marked up nearly 30 bills yesterday across its jurisdiction, touching on everything from prescription drug pricing to product safety and combating abusive robocalls. The Senate Aging Committee also held a hearing yesterday focused on robocall fraud focused on the impact on senior citizens.

Deepfakes

As lawmakers continue to express concerns about so-called “deepfakes,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) wrote to the CEOs of Facebook, Google, and Twitter this week asking for information about how these platforms plan to address the realistic fake videos and images and other false content, particularly ahead of the 2020 elections. Reps. Kilmer (D-WA), King (R-NY), Murphy (D-FL), and Hurd (R-TX) also introduced legislation late last month to require the Department of Homeland Security to publish an annual report on the use of deepfake technology. Senator Portman (R-OH) introduced a bipartisan companion bill earlier this month.

Google and Censorship through Search Engines

On the other side of Capitol Hill, the Senate continues to consider pending nominations, including judicial and ambassadorial nominations, as well as a series of tax treaties. On Monday, Senators Cruz (R-TX) and Hawley (R-MO) wrote a letter to the FTC urging the Commission to use 6(b) authority to investigate how major tech companies, namely Facebook, Twitter, and Google, curate content. The letter preceded a hearing in Cruz’s Senate Judiciary subcommittee on “Google and Censorship through Search Engines.” Meanwhile, Hawley and Senators Blumenthal (D-CT) and Markey (D-MA) wrote to the FTC on Tuesday calling its reported $5 billion settlement with Facebook for violating users’ privacy “woefully inadequate” and asking for information on the Commission’s decisionmaking.

Bot Disclosure and Accountability Act

On Tuesday, Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduced the Bot Disclosure and Accountability Act, which authorizes the FTC to enforce transparency requirements on social media companies regarding the use of bots that replicate human activity and prohibits candidates, campaigns, and political organizations from using bots to disguise political advertising or deceive voters by giving the false impression of support from actual humans. The bill currently has no cosponsors. Elsewhere, Senate Judiciary Committee member Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) hosted the first in a bimonthly series of tech roundtables on Thursday as part of a new Committee task force she announced last week during the White House social media summit. The task force is expected to focus on issues including competition, privacy, and allegations of anti-conservative bias.

Executive Order on Maximizing Use of American-Made Good, Products and Materials

President Trump kicked off the week by hosting a Made in America showcase at the White House, during which he signed an executive order on Maximizing Use of American-Made Goods, Products, and Materials. He hosted a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday and was scheduled to meet later in the day with Republican congressional leadership, but the meeting was cancelled at the last minute. On Wednesday, he held a rally in North Carolina.

Cryptocurrency

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin held a briefing on Monday at the White House during which he said that the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) is pursuing additional enforcement actions related to cryptocurrency. He also expressed concerns about Facebook’s plans to launch a digital currency ahead of a pair of related hearings in the Senate Banking and House Financial Services Committees on Tuesday and Wednesday. Elsewhere, the Pentagon announced on Monday that it is establishing a Joint Artificial Intelligence (AI) Center under its new Digital Modernization Strategy in order to keep pace with AI capabilities in the private sector.

Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule

The FTC announced this week that it is seeking comments on whether or not amendments to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection (COPPA) Rule are necessary to reflect changes in technology since the agency last made updates in 2013. The FTC will also host a public workshop on October 7 to discuss COPPA and its effectiveness.

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

Federal Updates

  • The approved House of Representatives’ FY2020 appropriations bills included $260 million in dedicated funding for social emotional learning. Of this package, $170 million would go to grants for research into evidence-based interventions, $25 million to the Supporting Effective Educator Development (SEED) grant program, $40 million to the Full-Service Community Schools Program, and $25 million to bolster school safety.
  • U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos repealed the “gainful employment” rule, an Obama administration directive that required career and certificate programs to prove that graduates were securing remunerative (or gainful) employment in order to qualify for federal financial aid. U.S. Department of Education officials said that repealing the rule would allow them to focus on transparency instead of regulation and hold all postsecondary programs accountable for their results.
  • Reps. Cedric Richmond and Anthony Gonzalez introduced the bipartisan Jumpstart Our Businesses By Supporting Students (JOBS) Act. The bill would expand Pell Grant eligibility to cover short-term workforce training programs. Senators Tim Kaine and Rob Portman introduced a similar bill in the Senate in March.
  • The Senate confirmed (56-37) Robert L. King to serve as Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education at the Department of Education. He has been working at the Department of Education as a Senior Advisor since last year.

Read more on education policy on the McGuireWoods Consulting website.

Hearings/Markups

Senate Committee on Aging: “Redefining Reality: How the Special Diabetes Program is Changing the Lives of Americans with Type 1 Diabetes”
Wednesday, July 10, 2019: The Senate Committee on Aging held a hearing on the realities of Type 1 diabetes, in light of rising insulin costs and the possible loss of funding for Type 1 diabetes research. Find witness testimonies and hearing updates here.

Why this is important: The panel of witnesses asked the committee to renew the Special Diabetes Program at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Failure to renew by the end of September would mean $150 million in lost funding for Type 1 diabetes research.

House Committee on Oversight and Reform: “The Trump Administration’s Attack on the ACA: Reversal in Court Case Threatens Health Care for Millions of Americans”
Wednesday, July 10, 2019:  The House Committee on Oversight and Reform held a hearing on the Texas v. Azar (U.S.) case, which threatens to dismantle the Affordable Care Act (ACA) if upheld. Find witness testimonies and hearing updates here.

Why this is important: The hearing came a day after a federal appeals court heard oral arguments in Texas v. Azar, during which the two judges expressed skepticism that the ACA’s individual mandate is constitutional without a penalty. Republican members of the committee spent the hearing criticizing the ACA, as well as any plans for Medicare for All.

House Committee on Energy and Commerce: Markup of Health Care Legislation
Thursday, July 11, 2019: The House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Health held a markup on 10 pieces of health care-related legislation, listed below. All 10 bills were favorably reported to the full committee, with bipartisan support. The subcommittee only had a debate on H.R. 3630, the “No Surprises Act.” While the bill was favorably reported to the full committee without amendment, Republican members raised concerns with the benchmark pricing provision of the bill, urging consideration of arbitration instead. Members anticipate debating amendments on this issue at a full committee markup. The bills that were considered and favorably reported are:

Find official markup updates here. Find a detailed overview of the markup here.

House Committee on Oversight and Reform: “Identifying, Preventing, and Treating Childhood Trauma: A Pervasive Public Health Issue that Needs Greater Federal Attention”
Thursday, July 11, 2019:  The House Committee on Oversight and Reform heard directly from trauma survivors, public health experts and government officials to examine the long-term consequences of childhood trauma and the insufficiency of the federal response to this urgent public health issue. Find witness testimonies and hearing updates here.

Why this is important: First panel witnesses shared their personal stories of trauma, healing and advocacy. Second panel witnesses were experts who discussed the prevalence of childhood trauma and the limited nature of current federal initiatives to prevent childhood trauma and to treat those who have experienced it.

Read more on healthcare policy on the McGuireWoods Consulting website.

congressMinimum Wage, Intelligence Reauthorization and Healthcare Bills

Today, the House will vote to renew the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund. Next week, the House plans to vote on legislation to raise the minimum wage to $15 and on a three-year intelligence reauthorization, with healthcare bills on the agenda for the week of July 22. House leadership also plans to bring legislation related to Saudi arms sales and election security to the floor before the August recess, but will not hold votes on its remaining two FY20 appropriations bills – Homeland Security and Legislative Branch – before the August recess.

Pending Executive and Judicial Nominations

The Senate Appropriations Committee has not yet considered any FY20 appropriations measures; Leader McConnell (R-KY) and Chairman Shelby (R-AL) are holding consideration while the White House and congressional leaders negotiate a budget deal to set spending caps. While those negotiations continue, McConnell is expected to continue to bring pending executive branch and judicial nominations to the floor. Notably, McConnell aims to confirm Mark Esper, the President’s nominee to serve as Secretary of Defense, before the August recess, though the White House has not yet sent the nomination to the Senate. Bipartisan congressional leaders have agreed in principle to hold a confirmation hearing next Tuesday, provided the Senate has formally received the nomination.

President to Meet with Prime Minister Imran Khan of Pakistan

President Trump will host Prime Minister Imran Khan of Pakistan at the White House on July 22 to discuss counterterrorism, defense, energy, and trade, among other issues of mutual interest.

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

NASA Space Exploration Plans

Returning to Washington after the July 4 recess with just a handful of legislative days remaining before the August recess, the Senate spent the balance of the week on judicial and executive branch nominations. In the meantime, the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Subcommittee on Aviation held a hearing on NASA’s space exploration plans. The full Committee also advanced several pending nominations and bills (see below for additional details).

FY20 National Defense Authorization Act

The House spent the majority of its floor time on its FY20 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Elsewhere, the House Homeland Security Committee held another hearing Wednesday on facial recognition. During the hearing, Chairman Thompson (D-MS) said that Congress has not authorized Customs and Border Protection to use the technology to track US citizens and requested additional information from the agency on its policies.

Online Data as Personal Property

House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Collins (R-GA) released draft principles on Wednesday for forthcoming legislation aimed at ensuring online data is considered a user’s personal property. “Congress should empower people to protect their data and their privacy as their own property. Once people have that ability, it is my hope and expectation that online service providers will respond by innovating new and better means of servicing consumers that don’t threaten to over-intrude on consumers’ data privacy in the first place,” said Collins. Rep. Schakowsky, who is leading efforts within the House Energy and Commerce Committee to produce draft comprehensive privacy legislation, confirmed this week that she does not plan on releasing a proposal before the August recess.

White House Happenings

On Monday, the President spoke at the White House on his Administration’s environmental agenda, including investing in and exporting technologies such as carbon capture. On Tuesday, he hosted Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani for a bilateral meeting before signing an executive order on Wednesday aimed at improving kidney care in the United States.

Robocalls

Today, the FCC is holding a summit on implementation of SHAKEN/STIR, a caller ID authentication framework to combat illegal robocalls and caller ID spoofing, while the White House hosts a summit on social media. Senator Blackburn (R-TN) and Rep. Gaetz (R-FL) are expected to attend alongside conservative social media personalities.

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

September 30 Budget Deadline

The House and Senate return to Washington next week with just six work weeks until government funding expires on September 30. In addition to government funding, the chambers must also address National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) reauthorization, Export-Import Bank reauthorization, and budget caps by the September 30 deadline. While the House successfully passed 10 of 12 spending bills last month through one standalone appropriations bill and two minibuses, negotiations in the Senate have stalled as the upper chamber struggles to reach consensus on a budget caps deal. Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Shelby (R-AL) has reportedly proposed the concept of “deeming” top-line defense and nondefense spending levels once the upper chamber returns to Washington in order to advance funding negotiations absent a budget deal.

Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing: “Protecting Innocence in a Digital World”

The Senate Judiciary Committee is slated to convene a hearing next Tuesday, July 9 entitled “Protecting Innocence in a Digital World” to analyze existing protections for minors on the internet. The hearing comes amid efforts led in large part by Senators Hawley (R-MO) and Markey (D-MA) to bolster children’s online privacy rules. In recent months, the Senators have introduced several measures aimed at addressing growing concerns around the topic, including legislation to amend the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).

Nominations and Legislation

On Wednesday, the Senate Commerce Committee will consider the nominations of Stephen Dickson to be Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Michelle Schultz to be a Member of the Surface Transportation Board. The Committee will also consider a number of legislative measures during the executive session, including the Blockchain Promotion Act, the Developing Innovation and Growing the Internet of Things (DIGIT) Act and the Broadband Deployment Accuracy and Technological Availability (DATA) Act, among other bills.

Social Media Summit

The White House will host a Social Media Summit on Thursday the address “strategic challenges of today’s online environment.” The Administration has reportedly extended invitations to Turning Point USA Executive Director Charlie Kirk as well as representatives from the Heritage Foundation and the Media Research Center.

Robocalls

The same day, the FCC will convene a summit on the industry’s implementation of SHAKEN/STIR, a caller ID authentication framework to combat illegal robocalls and caller ID spoofing. The summit will highlight progress that major providers have made toward combating robocalls and provide an opportunity to identify any challenges to implementation.

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

G-20 Summit

President Trump returned Monday from the G-20 Summit in Osaka, Japan. During the trip, President Trump met with Chinese President Xi Jinping, after which the leaders announced plans to resume previously stalled trade negotiations. In exchange, President Trump pledged to withhold tariff escalation and announced that Xi agreed to resume purchases of American agricultural products. In addition to meeting with President Xi, President Trump held a bilateral meeting at the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) with Kim Jong-un of North Korea.

Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Bill

While the House and Senate remained out of session for the weeklong Fourth of July recess, President Trump signed into law Monday H.R. 3401, the $4.6 billion emergency supplemental appropriations bill. The House voted 305-102 to pass the measure last Thursday, June 27 despite pushback from some House Democrats. The bill provides $2.9 billion for the Department of Health and Human Services and $1.3 billion for the Department of Homeland Security, among other provisions, to support efforts to address the humanitarian crisis at the southern border.

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

Hearings/Markups

House Committee on Energy and Commerce: “Reauthorizing Vital Health Programs for American Families”
Tuesday, June 25, 2019 – The Health Subcommittee of the Committee on Energy and Commerce held a legislative hearing on health care bills that reauthorize a variety of health programs for Americans:

  • H.R. 776, the “Emergency Medical Services for Children Program Reauthorization Act of 2019” reauthorizes the Emergency Medical Services for Children Program at $22.334 million each year through 2024.
  • H.R. 1058, the “Autism CARES Act of 2019” reauthorizes funding for programs at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) through 2024.
  • H.R. 2035, the “Lifespan Respite Care Reauthorization Act of 2019” reauthorizes the Lifespan Respite Care Program at $20 million in fiscal year (FY) 2020 and increases the funding level by $10 million each year thereafter through FY 2024. It would also add new reporting requirements for program grantees.
  • H.R. 2507, the “Newborn Screening Saves Lives Reauthorization Act of 2019” reauthorizes newborn screening programs for five years. The bill includes reforms to ensure that the activities of the Advisory Committee on Heritable Disorders in Newborns and Children (ACHDNC) are transparent, including requiring the creation of a publicly accessible website that details the uniform screening panel nomination process. The bill also requires the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to standardize data collection and reporting to track and monitor newborn screening in real time. Additionally, the bill orders a study on the modernization of newborn screening. The bill authorizes appropriations of $60.65 million per year through 2024.

Find witness testimonies and hearing updates as they become available here.

House Ways and Means Committee: “Markup of Health Legislation”
Wednesday, June 26, 2019 – The House Ways & Means Committee held a markup and advanced five Medicare-related bills, including legislation to expand coverage of telehealth services for mental health treatment, eliminate beneficiary cost sharing for chronic care management services and add 1,000 new residency slots under the Graduate Medical Education (GME) program.

  • H.R. 3414, the Opioid Workforce Act: Funds 1,000 new residency positions in the areas of addiction medicine and psychiatry, under the GME program, over the next six years.
  • H.R. 3417, the BETTER Act: Includes various Medicare proposals, and one provision expands Medicare’s coverage of telehealth services for mental health treatment by eliminating restrictions on originating sites so that beneficiaries can receive the services in their homes. The package also extends funding for the National Quality Forum and State Health Insurance Programs before funding expires; provides more outreach and education to people before they become eligible for Medicare; and fixes a technical issue in existing law that, according to committee members, prevents some rural and community hospitals from establishing GME programs.
  • H.R. 3436, the Improving Chronic Care Management Act: Eliminates the coinsurance paid by beneficiaries receiving chronic care management services. That benefit was created in 2015 and provides care coordination to people with two or more chronic conditions.
  • H.R. 3439, the Protecting Patient Access to Information for Effective and Necessary Treatment Act: Extends funding for the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Trust Fund through fiscal 2026. The committee rejected two Republican amendments: one seeking to convert PCORI’s funding mechanism from mandatory spending to discretionary spending, and another seeking to repeal the Affordable Care Act’s tax on health insurers.
  • H.R. 3429, the HEARTS and Rural Relief Act: Allows veterans to retain coverage under TRICARE, the veterans’ health coverage program, without having to pay Medicare premiums. It also adds an ambulatory surgical center representative to the advisory panel on hospital outpatient payment, exempts accessories for certain wheelchairs from the competitive bidding program and codifies a delay in CMS’ direct supervision rule for critical access hospitals for two years.

Find markup updates here.

Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP)“Executive Session/Markup of S. 1199, S. 1173, S. 1895”
Wednesday, June 26, 2019 – The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) held a markup and passed the following to the Senate floor:

  • S. 1199, Poison Center Network Enhancement Act of 2019
  • S. 1173, Emergency Medical Services for Children Reauthorization Act of 2019
  • S. 1895, Lower Health Care Costs Act

Why this is important:
The first two bills, S. 1199 and S. 1173, passed by voice vote and were reported favorably as amended (unanimous consent to a manager’s amendment). S. 1895 was passed 20-3 and reported favorable as amended to the Senate floor. While the amended final bill chose the benchmarking pricing option as a deterrent to surprise medical billing, the committee passed Sen. Cassidy’s amendment 12-11, requiring insurance companies to post accurate lists of who is in-network, so patients have a better chance of avoiding surprise bills. The committee also passed an amendment from Sens. Baldwin (D-WI) and Braun (R-IN), 16-7, requiring pharmaceutical companies to disclose certain information about a drug, such as the cost of its research and development and advertising funds, if the price of a drug over $100 climbs more than 10 percent in one year or 25 percent over three years. The package also includes a measure from Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), the majority leader, and Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) to raise the smoking age in every state to 21 from 18. The decision to add the majority leader’s bill to S. 1895 could help the package reach the Senate floor this summer.

Find markup updates here.

Senate Committee on the Judiciary: “Executive Business Meeting”
Thursday, June 27, 2019 – The Senate Committee on the Judiciary held a markup and passed the following drug-pricing bills:

  • S. 1227, Prescription Pricing for the People Act of 2019: The bipartisan bill requires the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to study the role of intermediaries in the drug supply chain and then make recommendations to Congress on fixing the system.
  • S. 440, the Preserving Access to Cost Effective Drugs (PACED) Act: Ranking Member Feinstein (D-CA) argued that the bill was unnecessary due to court precedent and was too far-reaching. The bill prohibits patent holders from using tribal or foreign government sovereign immunity as a defense in proceedings before the U.S. Patent Office, the courts and the International Trade Commission. The bill reinforces last year’s ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which struck down tribal sovereign immunity in patent proceedings. The court expanded on that ruling last week when it determined states also do not have sovereign immunity from patent proceedings. The bill applies to all patents, not just those for pharmaceuticals.
  • S. 1224, Stop Significant and Time-Wasting Abuse Limiting Legitimate Innovation of New Generics, Stop STALLING Act: The bipartisan bill gives the FTC the authority to deter the use of sham citizen petitions to delay generic or biosimilar competition.
  • S. 1416, Affordable Prescriptions for Patients Act of 2019: The amended version of the patent bill, by Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), is meant to stop the anticompetitive use of patents by codifying definitions of “product hopping” and “patent thicketing” within the FTC Act and empowering the FTC to bring antitrust suits against companies that abuse the patent system.

Find markup updates here.

Read more on healthcare policy on the McGuireWoods Consulting website.

July 4 Recess

Today, the Senate will debate U.S. policy towards Iran pursuant to a deal that secured a final vote on the NDAA. The House and Senate are scheduled to recess next week for the 4th of July. Looking ahead, the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs and House Financial Services Committees will convene hearings on Facebook’s proposed digital currency on July 16 and 17, respectively.

Social Media Summit

The Administration announced this week that the White House will host a Social Media Summit on July 11 that will focus on the “strategic challenges of today’s online environment.” No attendees have been announced, but according to the White House, guests will include “digital leaders.”

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