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Weekly Washington Policy Updates - Pat Soldano

General Updates

 

McCarthy Ousted from Speakership in Historic Move: On Tuesday, Oct. 3, the House made history by removing Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) as speaker of the House in a 216-210 vote. Although 210 Republicans voted to keep McCarthy as speaker, the eight Republicans who joined all Democrats and voted against him were successful due to the narrow GOP majority in the chamber. On Oct. 2, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) filed a procedural “motion to vacate the chair” against then-Speaker McCarthy after months of threatening to force a vote on McCarthy’s leadership. Gaetz and his allies said they strongly disagreed with the way McCarthy ran the legislative process in the House. They also accused McCarthy of working with Democrats to fund the government and allegedly violating other internal agreements that were made when McCarthy became speaker.

Health Care

 

Biden Administration Announces All Manufacturers of 10 Selected Drugs for the Medicare Drug Price Negotiation Program Have Chosen to Participate: On Tuesday, Oct. 3, the Biden administration announced  that all manufacturers of the 10 drugs selected for negotiation have signed agreements to participate in the Medicare Drug Price Negotiation Program included in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). The 10 drugs are used to treat various medical conditions, including heart failure, arthritis, cancers and diabetes. The administration noted that the 10 drugs covered under Part D selected for negotiation accounted for $3.4 billion in out-of-pocket costs for an estimated 9 million Medicare enrollees in 2022. CMS will publish any agreed-upon negotiated prices by Sept. 1, 2024, and any prices negotiated for the first set of participating drugs will go into effect in 2026. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will also hold a series of patient listening sessions from Oct. 30 through Nov. 15 to solicit patient input.

Tax

 

IRS Chief Counsel Nominee Fields Republican Concerns: On Sept. 28, the Senate Finance Committee held a hearing considering several nominations, including that of Marjorie A. Rollinson to be chief counsel for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and assistant general counsel in the Department of the Treasury. Rollinson was most recently a deputy director of national tax at Ernst & Young (EY) and previously served a stint at the IRS as the associate chief counsel (international). Rollinson’s nomination comes at a time when the IRS and the Treasury Department are under fire for alleged regulatory overreach that does not reflect congressional intent. The most controversial rulemaking has been in response to guidance issued on the energy-tax credits in the Inflation Reduction Act (Pub. L. 117-169 ). In response to a line of questioning from Finance Committee Ranking Member Mike Crapo (R-ID), who asked whether it was appropriate for the IRS to issue guidance that is inconsistent with statute, Rollinson was noncommittal to the assertion that the IRS was engaging in such activity, stating that the current role of the IRS is to interpret statute “within the parameters of the law” and that the Office of Chief Counsel would ensure that they would “advise fully” on proper interpretation of the law for guidance purposes.

Immigration

 

House-Passed FY24 HS Appropriations Bill Drops H-2A & H-2B Visa Reforms: Last Thursday, the House approved its FY24 Homeland Security appropriations bill (H.R.4367 ) by a 220-208 margin, with Reps. Jared Golden (D-ME) and Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (D-WA) joining all Republicans voting in favor of the measure. However, the spending bill’s final version ultimately left out previously proposed provisions to increase seasonal employers’ abilities to obtain workers holding H-2A and H-2B visas. Specifically, prior versions of the spending bill included language that would permit employers in several seasonal industries to hire returning workers on H-2B visas without those individuals counting against the 66,000 cap per fiscal year. Another component would have removed restrictions on agricultural employers that prevented them from hiring workers holding H-2A visas for certain non-seasonal activities.

Energy, Environment and Natural Resources

 

DOI Releases Final Five-Year Offshore Oil and Gas Plan: On Sept. 29, 2023, the Department of the Interior (DOI) released  the proposed final plan for the five-year National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program (National OCS Program). The proposal includes the three offshore oil and gas lease sales, the fewest in the program’s history. The lease sales are scheduled in 2025, 2027 and 2029 in the Gulf of Mexico. Three lease sales are the minimum number required by the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) to enable the DOI to offer offshore wind leases in the future. The announcement initiated a 60-day waiting period before the secretary of the Interior can formally approve the program and issue a Record of Decision. DOI will also publish a Call for Information and Nominations for potential future oil and gas leases in the Gulf of Mexico between 2024–2029.

Transportation

 

FAA Nominee Testifies on Hill: Michael Whitaker, President Biden’s nominee to lead the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), testified before the Senate Commerce, Science. and Transportation Committee on Wednesday. During the hearing , Whitaker pledged to reduce backlogs in air traffic controllers, telling Ranking Member Ted Cruz (R-TX) that he would support the implementation of a second air traffic controller academy. Whitaker has not attracted the same level of Republican opposition that led Phil Washington, President Biden’s previous FAA nominee, to ultimately withdraw from consideration. Chair Maria Cantwell (D-WA) noted that the committee may advance Whitaker’s nomination before it advances a five-year FAA reauthorization bill. The agency’s reauthorization deadline was extended from Sept. 30 to Dec. 30 as part of the continuing resolution (CR) that passed over the weekend.

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