This Week in Washington
The House and Senate are not in session this week for the July 4th recess.
The House and Senate return for a three week session next week. The Senate’s agenda will likely include: votes on more Trump Administration nominations; FAA reauthorization; Coast Guard reauthorization; and the Fiscal Year 2018 Department of Defense authorization bill. Advancing legislation to reauthorize the Food and Drug Administration will also be a priority as the agency could be required to issue layoff notices if Congress does not complete work on this legislation before August 1st.
Health Care Developments
Senate Republicans began last week planning to vote on legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA). After failing to garner enough support for the “Better Care Reconciliation Act,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced a vote would not take place before the recess.
Both conservative and moderate Senate Republicans have expressed concern about the current draft of the bill. Senators Rand Paul (R-KY), Mike Lee (R-UT), Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Ron Johnson (R-WI) all came out against the bill soon after the draft text was released. They do not think the legislation goes far enough to repeal the ACA or help lower insurance premiums. They have advocated for repeal of all the ACA’s insurance regulations and utilizing high-risk pools for those with pre-existing conditions.
Moderate Senators have expressed concern about the impact the legislation will have on coverage and Medicaid. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) said she has “so many fundamental problems with the bill…that it’s difficult for me to see how any tinkering is going to satisfy my fundamental and deep concerns about [its] impact…” Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), both from Medicaid expansion states, have pushed for a seven-year phase out of Medicaid expansion rather that the three years in the draft bill. They are also calling for an additional $45 billion in funding to address the opioid epidemic.
There have been reports the Senate may consider eliminating the plan to cut the capital gains tax rate on high income individuals and families and use those savings to provide more support for low-income Americans to purchase health insurance. There are also reports the next draft of the Senate Republicans’ bill will include a provision allowing health savings accounts to be used for premiums.
On June 27, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee marked up and approved, by a 32-25 vote, the “21st Century Aviation Innovation, Reform, and Reauthorization Act” (H.R. 2997). The bill would reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration for six years, and would privatize the Air Traffic Control (ATC) system. Democrats voted against the bill, in large part due to the privatization provisions. The Senate Commerce Committee approved its “Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act of 2017’’ on Thursday, June 29 by voice vote.