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.

Emergency Appropriations for the Border

The House voted 230-195 on Tuesday to pass a $4.5 emergency supplemental appropriations bill for the border after Democratic leadership added provisions to secure support from the Congressional Hispanic and Progressive Caucuses. On Wednesday, the Senate rejected the House-passed measure 37-55 before passing its own $4.6 billion bill 84-8. Leadership is now working to reconcile the differences between the two bills and produce a package that can secure enough support to send to the President for his signature before lawmakers leave for next week’s recess.

Second FY20 Minibus

Elsewhere, the House voted 227-194 to pass its second FY20 minibus, a $383 billion spending package, before taking up and passing, 224-196, a $25 billion FY20 Financial Services-General Government spending bill. The Senate continues to consider, and is expected to pass today, its FY20 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

Robocalls Legislation

The House Energy and Commerce Committee unanimously passed H.R. 3375, the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act, unanimously on Tuesday, just weeks after the Senate passed its own legislation aimed at combatting illegal robocalls, the TRACED Act.

SPECTRUM NOW Act

On Tuesday, Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Chairman Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet Ranking Member Brian Schatz (D-HI), alongside senior House Energy and Commerce Committee members Reps. Doris Matsui (D-CA) and Brett Guthrie (R-KY), introduced the Supplementing the Pipeline for Efficient Control of The Resources for Users Making New Opportunities for Wireless (SPECTRUM NOW) Act, legislation aimed at accelerating the process to repurpose key spectrum for 5G by creating a pathway for agencies to modify operations on federally-held spectrum to make those frequencies available for commercial wireless broadband use.

President Trump is in Japan for the G-20 Summit and a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

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

Hearings/Markups

Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP): “Lower Health Care Costs Act”
Tuesday, June 18, 2019: The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) held a hearing on the Lower Health Care Costs Act, a bipartisan discussion draft largely concerning drug pricing. The committee requested comment on the draft that addresses surprise medical billing, reforms to prevent anticompetitive behavior in health care markets and a proposal to create a nationwide health care cost transparency organization. The comment period closed on June 5. Find an analysis of the discussion draft by MWC Research Associate Mariam Eatedali here. Find witness testimonies and hearing updates here.

Why this is important: While the hearing’s witnesses were highly supportive of the bill’s provisions regarding the elimination of gag clauses and the building of an all-payer claims database, they disagreed concerning how to determine what should be paid when a claim is out of network. The options discussed were: (1) in-network guarantees, which would require a provider to either join an insurance network or be paid by the hospital; (2) third-party, “baseball style” arbitration; and (3) benchmark payment setting.

Senate Special Committee on Aging: “The Complex Web of Prescription Drug Prices, Part III: Examining Agency Efforts to Further Competition and Increase Affordability
Wednesday, June 19, 2019: The Senate Aging Committee held the third hearing in its series on prescription drug prices, with witnesses testifying from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Office of the Inspector General. Find witness testimonies and hearing updates here.

Why this is importantThe committee focused on how drugs become generic and how they are discounted by rebates to patients with health insurance. 

House Committee on Oversight and Reform: “Medical Experts: Inadequate Federal Approach to Opioid Treatment and the Need to Expand Care”
Wednesday, June 19, 2019: The House Committee on Oversight and Reform held a hearing on solutions that address the opioid crisis and action that can be taken at the federal level. Witnesses will include a panel of medical experts. Find witness testimonies and hearing updates here.

Why this is important: The witness panel spent the hearing advocating for the committee’s Comprehensive Addiction Resources Emergency (CARE) Act. The bill, H.R. 2569, has an identical bill introduced to the Senate, S. 1365. Both bills are modeled directly on the bipartisan Ryan White Act, which Congress passed in 1990 to help state and local governments combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic and provide the resources and the comprehensive framework to begin treating the opioid crisis like a critical public health emergency.

House Committee on Energy and Commerce:“Strengthening Health Care in the U.S. Territories for Today and Into the Future”
Thursday, June 20, 2019: The House Committee on Energy and Commerce’s Health subcommittee will hold a hearing on long-term health care concerns in U.S. territories. Find witness testimonies and hearing updates here.

Why this is important: The federal funding shortfall in the U.S. territories means most of the territories are not able to provide the full range of benefits that state Medicaid programs are required to cover. Unlike in the states, where the Federal Medicaid Assistance Percentage (FMAP) is not capped, and the federal share varies based on the per capita income of residents of that state, federal funding for Medicaid in the territories is subject to a statutory cap and a fixed federal matching rate. While Congress has provided some time-limited increases to the territories’ Medicaid funding, the committee is seeking a long-term solution.

Read more on healthcare policy on the McGuireWoods Consulting website.

Budget Agreement

With one week remaining before the July 4 recess – and the August recess just around the corner – congressional leaders continue to negotiate towards a budget agreement.

Second FY20 Minibus

The House will resume consideration of its second FY20 minibus next week, but has postponed any consideration of its FY20 Homeland Security funding bill until after the recess.

FY20 National Defense Authorization Act

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has also teed up the FY20 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for floor consideration, as well as several privileged Arms Sales Resolutions of Disapproval.

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

Trudeau Visit

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is in Washington today for separate meetings with the President, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) that will primarily focus on the proposed US-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) trade agreement.

Nominations

With just a handful of legislative days remaining before the July 4 recess, the Senate continued to process pending judicial and executive branch nominations this week, including Sean Cairncross’ nomination to be CEO of the Millennium Challenge Corporation. In the meantime, the President announced on Tuesday that Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan would withdraw his nomination to serve in that role in a permanent capacity and that Army Secretary Mark Esper would replace him as Acting Secretary.

House Passes First FY20 Minibus

On the other side of Capitol Hill, the House voted 226-203 on Wednesday to pass its first FY20 minibus, a package of appropriations bills. It then turned to a second minibus comprised of the Commerce-Justice-Science, Agriculture-Rural Development-FDA, Interior-Environment, Military Construction-Veterans Affairs, and Transportation-Housing and Urban Development bills, as well as nearly 300 amendments. Lawmakers will vote later today on amendments to the Commerce-Justice-Science division.

Do Not Track Act

Before leaving Washington last week, Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) cosponsored Senator Josh Hawley’s (R-MO) Do Not Track Act, which previously drew support from Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). Nearly two dozen Senate Democrats also introduced a bill led by Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) to prohibit the distribution of 3D printer plans for printing firearms.

Facial Recognition Technology

23 House Democrats also wrote to Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan this week to express concerns about Customs and Border Protection using facial recognition technology. The lawmakers specifically cited reports of false matches and algorithmic bias, as recently discussed during a pair of House Oversight Committee hearings on ensuring transparency in government use of the technology.

Legislation Introduced on Ride-Hailing Platforms

This week, Reps. Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Thomas Suozzi (D-NY) and Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Bob Menendez (D-NJ) introduced companion bills to compel states to require vehicles operating through a ride-hailing platform to display an illuminated sign displaying the company’s logo, as well as to adhere to specific vehicle inspection requirements. H.R. 3262 also requires ride-hailing platforms to implement a system by which riders can electronically verify a driver’s identity, including placing a machine-readable code or label in the vehicle’s window that a rider can scan using her or her mobile phone or other device.

Robocalls

This morning, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Ranking Member Greg Walden (R-OR) announced a bipartisan deal on legislation to combat illegal robocalls. The Communications and Technology Subcommittee will markup the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act next week.

TOWER Infrastructure Deployment Act

Reps. Tim Walberg (R-MI) and Yvette Clarke (D-NY) introduced the TOWER Infrastructure Deployment Act this week, a bill aimed at building a workforce equipped to support deployment of new communications technologies. At the outset, the legislation establishes a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) advisory council to examine industry needs as it transitions to technologies including 5G, next-generation broadband, and next-generation television.

Precision Ag Connectivity Task Force

The FCC also announced this week that it is seeking nominations for a new Precision Ag Connectivity Task Force in accordance with the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018. The Task Force will advise the FCC and Department of Agriculture on steps that should be taken to expand access to broadband for agricultural purposes. Nominations are due by July 17.

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

In a June 18 opinion piece for Market Watch, McGuireWoods Consulting senior vice president, Ryan Bernstein, and research associate, Mariam Eatedali, reviewed the current state of the new USMCA trade agreement between the United States, Mexico and Canada, and what is needed for ratification in these countries.

In Mexico, the Senate has the exclusive power to approve treaties made by the president with foreign countries. The trade deal can pass in Mexico with a majority vote, and all state laws must conform to the new treaty.

“While the Mexican Constitution sets out an easy ratification process, politically Mexico had to make legislative changes to its labor laws to help address concerns voiced by Democrats in the United States and labor concerns at home,” Bernstein and Eatedali said.

Canada began its ratification process on May 29, and the legislation (C-100) includes amendments needed to conform to the new trade agreement.

“If C-100 does not pass by the end of June, either session can be extended or called back during the summer. The more likely hard deadline is the middle of September when the writ drops and Canada transitions into election mode for October,” Bernstein and Eatedali noted. “If it is not passed by the middle of September, it will “die on the order paper” and will have to be reintroduced in the next Parliament, which might be a different government.”

In the U.S., House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has the ultimate control on the timing and passage of USMCA. The implementing bill, which is considered a revenue bill that the House must pass first, must be passed by the House within 15 session days to keep its protection from amendment and filibuster, and must be passed by both chambers within 90 session days of the bill’s introduction.

“Changes made to address Democrats’ concerns could be solved with side letters, yet Pelosi requested that enforcement provisions be included within the implementing bill instead of as side legislation,” the authors said.  “At the same time, the New Democrat Coalition is using the current momentum, and the president’s need for their support, to bring attention to infrastructure- and workforce-related legislation, including a push to increase the federal minimum wage.”

Ratification of the USMCA must happen this year in the U.S., or wait until after the 2020 election.

“Until all three counties ratify the new agreement, the original NAFTA continues to govern North American trade,” said Bernstein and Eatedali. “If Congress were to amend their ratification legislation, treaty negotiators among all three countries would then need to determine whether Mexico and Canada would be willing to accept the amended legislation and amend any ratification legislation they might have already passed.”

Read more on the McGuireWoods Consulting website.