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Capitol Hill Update: June 29, 2020

06/29/2020

Schedule:

The House and Senate are in session this week.

Senate:

On Wednesday, the Senate tried to advance Republicans’ policing reform bill, the JUSTICE Act, S. 3985. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) promised a mostly open amendment process. (We say “mostly open” because we heard that 20 amendments would be allowed.) Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) managed to keep his caucus mostly in live, denying the 60 votes necessary to invoke a procedural motion to proceed for consideration of the bill. Sens. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) were the only Democrats to vote for the procedural motion. Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) also voted for the motion. The House, though, passed its own policing bill, the Justice in Policing Act, H.R. 7120, by a vote of 236 to 181. Schumer may reconsider Democrats’ position now that the House has passed its bill. A conference committee between the two chambers is a certainty if Congress has any chance of passing anything on this issue.

On Thursday, the Senate invoked cloture on the motion to proceed to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY 2020, S. 4049. The Senate will meet at 3:00 pm today to resume consideration of the motion to proceed to the NDAA. A roll call vote on the motion to proceed is expected around 5:30 pm. More than 500 amendments have been filed to NDAA. We’re watching amendments related to beneficial ownership filed by Sens. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and the Department of Defense’s 1033 program, which allows the sale or transfer of excess property to state and local law enforcement, filed by Sens. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.). Given the number of amendments, it’s likely that the Senate will be on NDAA all week.

The committee schedule for the week can be found here.

House:

The House will consider five rule bills this week when members return today. Those bills are the Protecting Your Credit Score Act, H.R. 5332; the Community Reinvestment Act Regulations CRA, H.J. Res. 90; the Emergency Housing Protections and Relief Act, H.R. 7301; the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Enhancement Act, H.R. 1425; and the Moving Forward Act, H.R. 2 (previously known as the INVEST in America Act). The House already approved the rule, H.Res. 1017, for all the bills that will be considered this week, except for the Moving Forward Act. The House Rules Committee will meet today at 1:00 pm to consider the rule for the Moving Forward Act.

H.J. Res. 90 is a joint resolution under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to nullify the Community Reinvestment Act Regulations, 85 Fed. Reg. 34734, issued by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC). The Community Investment Act Regulations are designed to increase lending and promote banking in low- and middle-income communities. The rule applies only to national banks and federal savings associations.

House Financial Services Committee Chair Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), who is the sponsor of the CRA, led a letter to Comptroller Joseph M. Otting and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) Chair Jelena McWilliams in which she urged a pause on all rulemakings during the COVID-19 pandemic. “[W]e urge you to delay any unrelated rulemakings, including the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) with respect to the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA), during the ongoing crisis,” the letter states. “After the crisis passes, we urge your agencies to work with the Federal Reserve to develop a new, joint NPRM that is consistent with the purpose of the Community Reinvestment Act.” Although the FDIC joined the OCC in the proposed rule, the FDIC wasn’t part of the final rule.

The Emergency Housing Protections and Relief Act, H.R. 7301, would authorize $100 billion in Department of Housing and Urban Development Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) to assist renters with rent payments. ESG is a program designed to help the homeless, as well as prevent individuals from becoming homeless. The program gave $280 million in grants in FY 2019. The grants available under the Emergency Housing Protections and Relief Act will be available for three years. The bill would also create the Homeowner Assistance Fund, place a moratorium on all evictions and foreclosures, increase funding for public housing, and increase funding for grants to help the homeless. The Emergency Housing Protections and Relief Act was introduced five days ago, and there’s not a lot available on it, so we’re sure that we’re missing some information.

The Protecting Your Credit Score Act, H.R. 5332, requires the three major credit reporting agencies -- Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion -- to create a private website for Americans free and unlimited access their credit reports, as well as make it easier for them to challenge errors on credits reports and learn how their data is being used.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Enhancement Act, H.R. 1425, doubles down on ObamaCare by attempting to force more people into both the exchanges and Medicaid. Although Democrats have made clear that Medicare for All remains their policy end-goal, this latest proposal seems to show that they are content in the meantime to continue herding patients into the existing silos that ObamaCare narrowed health care payments into. tries to entice more people into the exchanges by enlarging the federal insurance premium subsidies and expanding eligibility, and by dangling grant money in front of states to get them to find innovative ways to get people to join. But the stick to that carrot is that the bill also eliminates alternative means of finding cheaper insurance outside of the exchanges, by shuttering the Trump Administration’s expanded 1332 waivers and both the short-term limited-duration and association health plan rules. If you use those programs and like your insurance, you can’t keep it.

Another particularly troubling provision of Title I is Section 115, which directs that in states which are operating under a federally-created exchange, “the Exchange shall require each qualified health plan offered through such Exchange to meet such quantitative network adequacy standards as the Secretary may prescribe.” This gives future administrations tremendous power to dictate how insurers establish what providers are in and out of their chosen networks, yet another vital function by which insurers attempt to contain costs. Title II of the bill is a second swing at forcing states to expand their Medicaid programs to take on residents who are low-income but who are not part of the vulnerable groups that the program was initially designed to accommodate. Whereas the initial attempt in ObamaCare to simply make the Medicaid expansion mandatory was struck down as an unreasonable federal overreach in the U.S. Supreme Court’s infamous King v. Burwell (2015) decision, H.R. 1425 merely imposes a penalty in a state’s Federal Medicaid Assistance Percentage (FMAP) if they don’t expand Medicaid. This is a lesser version of the same concept, while also imposing a new and onerous reporting requirement for non-expansion states.

Another part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Enhancement Act is price controls. Title III moves beyond ObamaCare and sets up socialist-style price controls for prescription drugs so that Medicare drug reimbursement prices are negotiated based upon an international price index. This is substantially the same as prior attempts -- sadly often supported by members from both parties -- to impose price restrictions that would come at the cost of U.S. global competitiveness in pharmaceuticals and the ability to find new medicines and cures. House Democrats have already passed one bill, the Lower Drug Costs Now Act, H.R. 3, that would have decimated American innovation in pharmaceuticals, and they’re trying to do it again. Like the Lower Drug Costs Now Act, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Enhancement Act is dead on arrival in the Senate.

The Moving Forward Act, H.R. 2, was previously known as the INVEST in America Act, is House Democrats’ $1.5 trillion infrastructure bill. The Moving Forward Act includes $500 billion for roads, bridges, and transit, $130 billion for school infrastructure, $100 billion for housing, $100 billion for rural broadband, and $70 billion for renewable energy. Of course, lowering emissions is a big theme in this bill. For example, House Democrats say that the Moving Forward Act would put the United States on “a path toward zero emissions from the transportation sector.” This bill is the Green New Deal for transportation.

We recently put out a piece outlining some of the key issues with the legislation, when it was significantly smaller, at $494 billion. First, this bill is extremely costly, and even more so now, jumping up to $1.5 billion from its previous iteration. Second, as discussed earlier, the bill is climate-centric, not even attempting to mask its Green New Deal-esque policies.

Third, the bill is very anti-competitive. Government-run programs and services often are less effective than those same services would be in the private sector, including Amtrak. However, this bill unnecessarily -- and artificially -- props it up with more money and special benefits. Last, the bill continues Democrats’ trend of micromanaging people and businesses in our nation wherever possible, placing federal requirements on as many entities as they can find. Simply put, the overinvolvement of the federal government in the market is burdensome and harmful.

Especially after spending more than $3 trillion on COVID-19 measures, this is a cost that taxpayers simply cannot afford. The section-by-section of the Moving Forward Act is available here.

The committee schedule for the week can be found here.