McGuireWoods Consulting

House and Senate in Session; Partial Government Shutdown Remains in Effect

Both the House and Senate were in session this week as the partial government shutdown remains in effect. Senate Democrats continued to block action on a Middle East policy bill, but a privileged motion offered by Minority Leader Schumer (D-NY) to disapprove the Trump administration’s decision to lift certain Russia sanctions moved forward with bipartisan support. Senate Republicans are attending the conference’s retreat today at Nationals Park.

House Democrats continue to bring up and pass spending bills to reopen the government that to date have failed to move the needle in the Senate, where Majority Leader McConnell (R-KY) has said he will not bring up any spending bills that the President will veto because they do not include $5 billion to build a border wall.

SOTU?

Speaker Pelosi (D-CA) wrote to President Trump this week suggesting that due to security concerns generated by the shutdown, the State of the Union address scheduled for January 29 be postponed or delivered in writing. Today, the President responded with a letter to Pelosi cancelling a congressional trip to Brussels, Egypt, and Afghanistan and suggesting that time would be better spent in Washington.

Senate Judiciary Committee Convenes

The Senate Judiciary Committee convened for this first time this Congress under the new leadership of Chairman Graham (R-SC) to hold confirmation hearings for William Barr, the President’s nominee to succeed former Attorney General Jeff Sessions. See below for more details on the hearings. The Environment and Public Works Committee also held a confirmation hearing for Andrew Wheeler, who the President nominated to replace former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt. Wheeler has been leading the EPA in an acting capacity since former Pruitt resigned.

Read more in our Emerging Technologies Washington Update.

House

New Leadership Updates
On Jan. 9, eight Democratic members were added to the House Energy and Commerce Committee:
Reps. Nanette Diaz Barragan (CA), Robin Kelly (IL), Marc Veasey (TX), Tom O’Halleran (AZ), Darren Soto (FL), Lisa Blunt Rochester (DE), Ann McLane Kuster (NH) and Don McEachin (VA).

House Budget Chair Asks CBO to Study Single-Payer Policy Considerations
On Jan. 8, House Budget committee Chairman John Yarmuth (D-KY) sent a letter to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) requesting a study on the design and policy implications of a single-payer health care system. Yarmouth said that CBO’s input would benefit the upcoming House hearings on Medicare-for-All, held by the Budget committee. The report is not expected to provide an estimate on any particular single-payer proposal. Read the letter here.

Over-the-Counter Drug Reform and Pandemic Prep Bill Clear House
On Jan. 9, the House again passed a plan to overhaul how the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates over-the-counter (OTC) drugs and reauthorize the Department of Health and Human Services’s (HHS) pandemic preparedness unit, sending the bill to the Senate for the third time since last summer. The bill, H.R. 269, would be the first major change to federal regulation of the OTC drug industry in four decades, and passed 401 to 17. The legislation, sponsored by Reps. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and Susan Brooks (R-IN), expands the FDA’s authority and creates a five-year, $134 million OTC user fee program to fund a staffing increase. Track and read H.R. 269 here.

House Republicans Reintroduce Bill to Protect Preexisting Condition Coverage
On Jan. 10, Rep. Dave Joyce (R-OH), with cosponsors Reps. John Kato (R-NY), Mike Turner (R-OH), Anthony Gonzales (R-OH) and Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA), reintroduced a bill to preserve preexisting conditions protections following the federal district court ruling in Texas to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Joyce reintroduced his own bill from the 115th Congress, the Continuing Coverage for Preexisting Conditions Act of 2019, to ensure ACA provisions that bar discrimination due to preexisting conditions remain in effect without a penalty if the individual mandate is found unconstitutional.

Senate

Democrats Send Letter Demanding Briefing on Short-Term Plan Rule from the Trump Administration
On Jan. 8, Senate and House Democratic health leadership sent a second letter to the Trump administration, demanding a response to their initial questions over the short-term plan rule released earlier this year. The letter requested a briefing with staff responsible for the regulation. The letter reiterated that the administration’s policy, allowing short-term plans to be renewed for up to three years, is illegal. The letter was signed by Energy & Commerce Chair Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Ways & Means Chair Richard Neal (D-MA), Education & Labor Chair Bobby Scott (D-VA), Senate Finance ranking Democrat Ron Wyden (OR) and Senate HELP ranking Democrat Patty Murray (WA). Read the letter here.

Senators Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Repeal Health Insurance Tax
On Jan. 10, Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), John Barrasso (R-WY) and Cory Gardner (R-CO) reintroduced legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) tax on health insurers, citing it increases premiums. The Jobs and Premium Protection Act (S. 80) eliminates the health insurance tax (HIT) set to go into effect in 2020, which payers argue should be passed along to consumers.

Sanders, Cummings and Khanna Unveil Drug Pricing Package
On Jan. 10, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Reps. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) and Ro Khanna (D-CA), along with more than two dozen members of the House and Senate, introduced a legislative package to reduce prescription drug prices. The drug pricing package includes three bills: the Prescription Drug Price Relief Act, pegging the price of prescription drugs in the U.S. to the median price in Canada, the U.K., France, Germany and Japan; the Medicare Drug Price Negotiation Act, directing the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to negotiate lower prices for prescription drugs under Medicare Part D; and the Affordable and Safe Prescription Drug Importation Act, allowing patients, pharmacists and wholesalers to import safe, affordable medicine from Canada and other major countries.

Read more about healthcare policy on the McGuireWoods Consulting website.

116th Congress Convenes

The 116th Congress convened last Thursday afternoon with Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) winning her bid for a second stint as Speaker of the House. Under the new Democratic majority, the House passed a pair of Senate-passed bills to fund through September 30 all departments and agencies closed in the partial shutdown, with the exception of the Department of Homeland Security, which would be funded through February 8. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) didn’t bring the bills to Senate floor, however, absent the President’s support for legislation that doesn’t include $5 billion to build a border wall.

The standoff continued throughout the week with the President delivering an Oval Office address on Tuesday evening on the need for a wall followed by a rebuttal from Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Schumer (D-NY). The pair, with Republican leadership, went to the White House on Wednesday afternoon for what ended up being a brief meeting with the President that did not yield any progress. Today, the President visits the southern border to again make the case for a wall.

Funding Bills

In the meantime, House leaders are bringing four separate funding bills (Financial Services, Agriculture, Interior, and Transportation-Housing Urban Development) to the floor that largely mirror Senate-passed legislation. The Financial Services bill passed last night 240-188, drawing eight Republicans. The House takes up the Agriculture and Interior bills today. The President has threatened to veto them.

On the other side of the Capitol, Senate Democrats are likely to block all legislation unrelated to ending the government shutdown; on Tuesday evening, a motion to proceed to Middle East policy legislation failed.

Subcommittee Leadership

With the Senate Republican conference ratifying committee leaders for the 116th Congress, subcommittee leadership is beginning to take shape. The Senate Appropriations Committee announced on Wednesday that Senator John Kennedy (R-LA) will chair the Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government, which has jurisdiction over the Federal Trade Commission and Federal Communications Commission. He replaces Senator Lankford (R-OK), who relinquished his subcommittee gavel to take a seat on the Senate Finance Committee. Senator Coons (D-DE) is the ranking member. On the House side, Speaker Pelosi (D-CA) announced that Reps. Barragan (D-CA), Blunt Rochester (D-DE), Kelly (D-IL), Kuster (D-NH), McEachin (D-VA), O’Halleran (D-AZ), Soto (D-FL), and Veasey (D-TX) will join the Energy and Commerce Committee.

Connect America Fund Accountability Act

Elsewhere, Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA), the new ranking member on the House Judiciary Committee, introduced legislation today targeting FCC broadband subsidies distributed through the Connect America Fund (CAF). The Connect America Fund Accountability Act increases reporting requirements for providers that receive CAF funds based on complaints that rural areas are not experiencing speeds that providers are reporting. Collins also plans to reintroduce the Gigabit Opportunity Act to create tax incentives for investing in broadband in low-income areas.

Read more in our Emerging Technologies Washington Update

Federal Updates

  • Download our 2019 Congressional calendar
  • The partial government shutdown continues, affecting the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Justice, Homeland Security, Interior, State, Transportation, and Housing & Urban Development. The shutdown is going on day 19.
  • The House rules package, approved on the first day of the 116th Congress, changed the House Education & Workforce Committee’s name to the House Education & Labor Committee.
  • The Senate HELP Committee will have three new members for the 116th Congress: Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT), Senator Mike Braun (R-IN), and Senator Jacky Rosen (D-NV).
  • On Monday, the U.S. Department of Education released its proposals on a range of higher education rules, including accreditation, institutional eligibility, religious inclusion, and TEACH grants. The Department has selected 15 individuals to participate in the negotiated rulemaking process slated to begin next week, January 14.

Meetings and Events

International Society of Technology in Education (ISTE) Digital Leadership Summit
Friday, January 18 – Sunday, January 20 | Santa Clara, California

Association of American Colleges & Universities (AAC&U) Annual Meeting
Wednesday, January 23 – Saturday, January 26 | Atlanta, Georgia

American Enterprise Institute (AEI) “Education policy debate: A federal right to education?” 
Thursday, January 24 | Washington, DC

Future of Education Technology Conference (FETC) Annual Meeting
Sunday, January 27 – Wednesday, January 30 | Orlando, Florida

American Association of School Administrators (AASA) Annual Meeting
Thursday, February 14 – Saturday, February 16 | Los Angeles, California

 

Read more on education policy on the McGuireWoods Consulting website.

This Week: Happy New Year! The 116th Congress begins and healthcare issues are part of the “buzz” of day one. Part of the government is still closed.

Government Shutdown Update: The shutdown does not impact CMS. However, the FDA is one of the agencies affected. The House of Representatives voted on Jan. 3 to fund the remaining portions of the government impacted by the shutdown, but that legislation is not expected to be considered by the Senate, despite being the same legislation the Senate passed in the waning days of the last Congress that the president rejected at the last minute. As of Jan. 7, the partial government shutdown will be at 17 days.

House

New Leadership

House Ways and Means Committee

  • Chairman: Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA)
  • Ranking Member: Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX)

House Energy & Commerce

  • Chairman: Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ)
  • Ranking Member: Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR)

House Budget

  • Chairman: Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY)
  • Ranking Member: Rep. Steve Womack (R-AR)

House Speaker Pelosi Supports Medicare-For-All Hearings

According to press reports, Speaker Pelosi is supportive of a hearing on Medicare-for-All proposals. The Medicare-for-All hearing is expected to be in the House Rules and Budget Committees and will be scheduled sometime in the next few weeks.

House Energy and Commerce Chair Pallone Announces Hearing to be Held on ACA and Texas Ruling

On Jan. 3, Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) of the House Energy and Commerce Committee announced a hearing examining the impacts of the U.S. district judge’s decision in Texas to strike down the Affordable Care Act. While no exact date has been set, the hearing will be held sometime later this month.

Senate

New Leadership

The Senate also returned on Jan. 3, with swearing in of new members on Jan. 4. Committee memberships will be finalized Jan. 9.

Senate Finance

  • Chairman: Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA)
  • Ranking Member: Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR)

Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (Republican Committee Assignments)

  • Sen. Lamar Alexander (TN)
  • Sen. Mike Enzi (WY)
  • Sen. Richard Burr (NC)
  • Sen. Johnny Isakson (GA)
  • Sen. Rand Paul (KY)
  • Sen. Susan Collins (ME)
  • Sen. Bill Cassidy (LA)
  • Sen. Pat Roberts (KS)
  • Sen. Lisa Murkowski (AK)
  • Sen. Tim Scott (SC)
  • Sen. Mitt Romney (UT)
  • Sen. Mike Braun (IN)

Senate Finance (Republican Committee Assignments)

  • Sen. Chuck Grassley (IA)
  • Sen. Mike Crapo (ID)
  • Sen. Pat Roberts (KS)
  • Sen. Mike Enzi (WY)
  • Sen. John Cornyn (TX)
  • Sen. John Thune (SD)
  • Sen. Richard Burr (NC)
  • Sen. Johnny Isakson (GA)
  • Sen. Rob Portman (OH)
  • Sen. Pat Toomey (PA)
  • Sen. Tim Scott (SC)
  • Sen. Bill Cassidy (LA)
  • Sen. James Lankford (OK)
  • Sen. Steve Daines (MT)
  • Sen. Todd Young (IN)

Senate Democrats Joining Health-Related Committees

  • Sen. Jacky Rosen (NV) – Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP)
  • Sen. Maggie Hassan (NH) – Senate Finance
  • Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (NV) – Senate Finance

*Note: Senate assignments are subject to ratification by the full Senate on Jan. 9.

Read more about healthcare policy on the McGuireWoods Consulting website.

Partial Government Shutdown

The partial government shutdown entered its 13th day this morning amid the standoff between the President and Congress over his request for $5 billion to build a border wall. As a result, nine departments and dozens of agencies and other entities are largely closed with hundreds of thousands of federal workers furloughed.

On Wednesday, bipartisan congressional leaders went to the White House for a border security briefing but did not make any progress towards a deal to reopen the government. As the 116th Congress convenes today, incoming Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) will bring up and the House is expected to approve Senate-passed legislation to fund through the end of the fiscal year all of the agencies that are currently closed, except the Department of Homeland Security, which would be funded at current levels through February 8. Senate Majority Leader McConnell (R-KY) doesn’t plan to bring anything to the Senate floor that the President doesn’t support, however.

Executive Branch Nominations

Before the 115th Congress came to a close, the Senate confirmed a number of pending executive branch nominations. Geoffrey Starks will fill the vacant Democratic seat on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The Senate also confirmed Republican Commissioner Brendan Carr to a full second term. Dr. Kelvin Droegemeier is the Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the first person to hold the position during this administration. Patrick Fuchs and Martin Oberman join the Surface Transportation Board and Joel Szabat is the new Assistant Secretary for Aviation and International Affairs at the Department of Transportation. A complete list of those confirmed can be found here. The President will have to resubmit any nominations that were not confirmed to the new Congress.

116th Congress

As the 116th Congress gets underway, the Senate has nine new members, namely Senators Blackburn (R-TN), Braun (R-IN), Cramer (R-ND), Hawley (R-MO), McSally (R-AZ), Romney (R-UT), Rosen (D-NV), Scott (R-FL), and Sinema (D-AZ). The House is swearing in over 100 new members today.

Read more in our Emerging Technologies Washington Update

On Dec. 14, U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor declared the Affordable Care Act (ACA) unconstitutional. The case, Texas v. Azaar, was brought earlier this year, arguing that the U.S. Supreme Court ruling of the law as consitutional relied on Congress’ power to tax, and the designation of the penalty for the individual mandate as a tax. However, Congress has since removed the penalty for the individual mandate, allowing the plaintiffs to argue that the invididual mandate is no longer constitutional.

The case presented five challenges to the law. The Trump administration, in an unusual decision, did not defend the law. That action gave rise to another case filed by the Maryland attorney general claiming the administration was not properly enforcing the law and asking for a declaratory judgement that the law was constitutional. A hearing on that case was held Dec. 19.

When Judge O’Connor released his declaratory judgment, he was responding to only one of the claims in the case. While most observers expected him to rule the individual mandate and the consumer protections unconstitutional, few expected the entire law to be found unconstitutional. While much attention has focused on the ACA’s insurance component and Medicaid expansion, the law also included a number of Medicare changes, such as the creation of Accountable Care Organizations, as well as the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act, which provides the framework under which the Food and Drug Administration approves biosimilars and interchangeable biologics. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation, upon which the administration is relying to develop alternative payment models, would also fall.

Read the full analysis on the McGuireWoods Consulting website.

This Week: To shut down or not to shut down the issue as Congress tries to wrap up and leave; opioids back in the news; Alexander says he will not run for reelection in 2020.

House

House Adds Border Security and Disaster Aid to Senate Continuing Resolution
After the Senate passed a continuing resolution to fund the government until Feb.8, the President announced he would not sign it. The House then voted 217-185 to send the continuing resolution back to the Senate after adding $5.7 billion for border security and $7.8 billion for disaster relief.

At this writing, it was unclear the Senate could pass the House version. In the event of a shut down, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is funded. However, the Food and Drug Administration is not because it was not included in the previously passed funding. The agency might have to furlough approximately 40 percent of its staff.

Senate

Continuing Resolution Passes Senate, but Trump wants Changes
On Dec. 20, the Senate passed a Continuing Resolution, based upon an agreement with the House, Senate and White House.  After passage, the President announced he would not sign the package without funding for the wall.  The CR funding would run through Feb 8. The Senate passed resolution left the debate over the wall and other issues to the new Congress.  Included in the CR:

Continued funding

  • Continues appropriations through Feb. 8, 2019, for FY19 appropriations measures that have not yet been enacted (Agriculture, Commerce-Justice-Science, Financial Services, Homeland Security, Interior-Environment, State-Foreign Operations, Transportation-HUD).

Temporary extensions included in previous CRs of expiring authorities

  • The National Flood Insurance Program, extended for duration of the CR.
  • The Violence Against Women Act, extended for duration of the CR.
  • The Pesticide Registration Improvement Act, extended for duration of the CR.
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, extended for duration of the CR.
  • Immigration extensions (EB-5, E-Verify, Conrad 30 program for international medical school graduates, special immigrant religious workers program and H2B returning worker authority for DHS), extended for duration of the CR.

New temporary extensions of expiring authorities

  • The Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards Act, extended for duration of the CR.
  • Two expiring provisions of the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act, extended for duration of the CR.
  • Medicaid Money-Follows-the-Person and Spousal Impoverishment, extended through March 31 (longer extension necessary for program integrity), with offsets.
  • Statutory PAYGO scorecard balance debited to following year.

HELP Chairman Will Not Seek Reelection in 2020
On Dec. 17, Sen. Lamar Alexander, who chairs the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, announced he will not run for reelection in 2020. He will remain chair in the next Congress. Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY) is next in line to chair the HELP committee, although he would have to give up being chair of the Senate Budget Committee. Sen. Alexander was part of a working group of GOP senators that failed to pass an Affordable Care Act replacement bill last year. Days before announcing his retirement, Sen. Alexander said that the committee would be open to considering a revival of the bill.

Sen. Wyden Asks FCC to Adopt Three-Digit Number for Mental Health and Suicide Support
On Dec. 17, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) asked the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to adopt a new three-digit phone number for those needing mental health and suicide support. Sen. Wyden noted in his letter to the FCC that suicide rates are rising nationally with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reporting more than 40,000 Americans died by suicide last year.

Read the letter here.

Sen. Booker Will Introduce Legislation on Medicaid Drug Transparency
On Dec. 17, Sen. Corey Booker (D-NJ) announced he will introduce the “Medicaid Drug Decisions Transparency Act” this week, requiring more transparency surrounding states’ Medicaid drug decisions. The bill requires pharmaceutical companies to disclose their payments to pharmacists and others who serve on state Medicaid drug boards. The bill also increases penalties for companies that fail to comply with reporting requirements and requires the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to provide states with summaries of drug company payments made to members of their Medicaid drug committees.

Read more about healthcare policy on the McGuireWoods Consulting website.

Continuing Resolution

The White House and Congress spent the early part of the week negotiating the parameters of an end of year spending package that would avert a partial government shutdown at midnight on Friday. The negotiations focused on the President’s strong desire for $5 billion to build a border wall. On Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) introduced a clean continuing resolution (CR) extending current funding levels for upwards of seven departments and agencies (among them the Departments of Homeland Security, Transportation, and Commerce) through February 8. The bill also extends several government programs, mostly for the duration of the CR, including the National Flood Insurance Program, the Violence Against Women Act, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). The Senate passed the bill on Wednesday evening by voice vote.

The House was expected to vote on the measure late tonight, but conservative members oppose kicking the can down the road, especially to a Democratic majority, and failing to fill the President’s $5 billion request. The President told House Republican leadership this afternoon that he will not sign the CR as is, prompting outgoing Speaker Ryan (R-WI) to say the House will add “border security” to the bill and increasing the likelihood of a partial shutdown.

Criminal Justice Reform, Tax Bill, Farm Bill

Congress moved several other pieces of legislation this week. On Tuesday, the Senate voted 87-12 to pass sweeping bipartisan criminal justice reform legislation. With the President’s endorsement, the House is scheduled to follow suit on Thursday under suspension of the rules. The House will also move a Republican end of year tax bill today with little hope of the Senate doing the same. In the meantime, the President signed the farm bill into law.

Personnel and Membership-Related Announcements

As the Administration and Congress grappled over government funding, each also saw a slew of personnel and membership-related announcements. Last Friday evening, the President named Mick Mulvaney Acting White House Chief of Staff upon the departure of John Kelly. Mulvaney, a former representative from South Carolina, is the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and until recently was also serving as the Acting Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). OMB Deputy Director Russell Vought will take over as Acting Director. On Saturday, the President announced that Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke will also step down at the end of the year.

On Capitol Hill, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced that Senators-elect Kyrsten Sinema (D-NV) and Jacky Rosen (D-NV) will sit on the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee in the next Congress. Senators Cortez Masto (D-NV) and Hassan (D-NH) are leaving the Committee. Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) said last Friday that he will resign at the end of the year, prompting Governor Doug Ducey (R-AZ) to name another appointment to the late Senator John McCain’s seat until a 2020 special election. On Tuesday, Ducey tapped Rep. Martha McSally (R-AZ), who narrowly lost her bid in November for the state’s other Senate seat to Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ). Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), who chairs the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee also announced this week that he will not seek reelection in 2020.

Read more in our Emerging Technologies Washington Update

This Week: The Affordable Care Act was found unconstitutional, but nothing will change as it winds through the courts. As the 115th Congress comes to a close, last-minute bills are introduced, some healthcare legislation passed and CBO releases its biannual book of ideas to reduce the deficit. It is unclear if the government will shut down or not; the continuing resolution runs out on the 21st.

House

House Passes Medicaid Package, Includes Senate Drug Misclassification Bill

The House of Representatives voted 400-11 to pass a health care bill (H.R. 7127) that includes the ACE Kids Act, legislation that would allow state Medicaid programs to use a health home model to coordinate care for children with medically complex conditions. Among other provisions, the bill would maintain spousal impoverishment protections, require states to come into compliance with asset verification requirements and provide for civil monetary penalties against manufacturers that knowingly misclassify drugs under the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program.

Ways and Means Chair Pushes Device, Insurance, “Cadillac” Tax Delays by End of the Year

On Dec. 10, outgoing House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) introduced a revised tax and IRS oversight package that also includes the delay and repeal of certain Affordable Care Act taxes. The legislation would include a five-year delay of the medical device tax, a two-year delay of the health insurance tax and a one-year delay of the Cadillac tax—delays that were Republican priorities in the Save American Workers Act, which never reached a floor vote. The chairman believes the bill could pass with bipartisan support before Christmas.

Text of the revised tax package can be located here.

Ways & Means Republicans Introduce Medicare Red Tape Reduction Package

On Dec. 11, the House Ways and Means Republicans introduced a package of seven bills as part of their Medicare Red Tape Relief Project. The legislation includes proposals to permanently eliminating physician supervision requirements for critical access hospitals, repealing the 96-hour rule for critical access hospitals and requiring prior authorization notification and a study on simplification.

Find more information on this legislation here.

Senate

Senate Democrats Introduce Bill for HHS to Block Drug Price Rises

On Dec. 13, Democratic Sens. Richard Blumenthal (CT), Kamala Harris (CA), Amy Klobuchar (MN) and Jeff Merkley (OR) introduced legislation allowing the government to prohibit prescription drug price hikes if they are unjustifiably expensive. The Curbing Unreasonable Rises and Excessively (CURE) High Drug Prices Act allows the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to prohibit drug price increases that it decides are excessive.

Read more about healthcare policy on the McGuireWoods Consulting website.