November 12, 2013

THE WEEK AHEAD

Legislative Focus:  Pharmaceutical Compounding, Cancelled Health Care Plans Under ACA

The Senate convened at 2:00 p.m. with a vote on a motion to limit debate on the Pillard nomination scheduled at 5:30 p.m.

This week, the Senate is expected to consider judicial nominations and a measure to expand regulation of compounding pharmacies. Today the Senate will vote to advance the nomination of Cornelia “Nina” Pillard to be a judge for the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. The Senate may also hold a vote to limit debate on the motion to proceed to a bill (H.R. 3204) that would regulate pharmacy compounding and establish a framework for tracing medicines throughout the supply chain. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has also indicated that a bill to raise the federal minimum wage might be on the floor before the Thanksgiving recess.

The House convened at 2:00 p.m. with votes scheduled at 6:30 p.m.

The House returns from recess this week with a relatively light legislative agenda. Today the House will consider six bills on various topics that are scheduled for votes under suspension of the rules, including legislation (S.893) to provide a 1.5% increase for veterans disability compensation benefits in 2014 and a measure (S.330) to provide for research on whether the donation and transplant of organs from one HIV-positive individual to another should be allowed.

For the rest of the week, the House is scheduled to consider bills intended to address asbestos claim fraud (H.R. 982) on Wednesday, frivolous lawsuits (H.R. 2655) on Thursday and restoration of individual health care plans cancelled under the Affordable Care Act (H.R. 3350) on Friday.


KEY HEARINGS & MARKUPS

Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs:  The Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on the nomination of Janet L. Yellen to be chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System;
Thursday, November 14th at 10:00 a.m., 106 Dirksen Building.

Commerce, Science and Transportation:  The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee will hold a hearing on the role of manufacturing hubs in an innovation economy;
Wednesday, November 13th at 2:30 p.m., 253 Russell Building.

Conference Committee:  House and Senate conferees will meet to consider the f¬iscal 2014 budget resolution;
Wednesday, November 13th at 10:00 a.m., 1100 Longworth Building.

Education and the Workforce:  The House Education and the Workforce Committee will hold a hearing on federal student aid;
Wednesday, November 13th at 10:00 a.m., 2175 Rayburn Building.

The House Education and the Workforce Committee will hold a hearing on the impact of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act on educational institutions;
Thursday, November 14th at 10:00 a.m., 2175 Dirksen Building.

Energy and Commerce:  The Environment and the Economy Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on the Chemical Safety Improvement Act;
Wednesday, November 13th at 10:15 a.m., 2123 Rayburn Building.

The Energy and Power Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on the EPA’s proposed greenhouse gas standards for new power plants and discuss draft legislation on the subject;
Thursday, November 14th at 9:30 a.m., 2123 Rayburn Building.

The Health Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on implementation of the Affordable Care Act;
Thursday, November 14th at 10:00 a.m., 2322 Rayburn Building.

The Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on science, technology, engineering and mathematics education and training in the manufacturing workforce;
Friday, November 15th at 9:30 a.m., 2123 Rayburn Building.

Health, Education, Labor and Pensions:  The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee will hold a hearing on federal student aid;
Thursday, November 14th at 10:00 a.m., 430 Dirksen Building.

Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs:  The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on the nomination of Jeh C. Johnson to be secretary of Homeland Security;
Wednesday, November 13th at 10:00 a.m., 342 Dirksen Building.

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a hearing titled “Threats to the Homeland;”
Thursday, November 14th at 10:00 a.m., 342 Dirksen Building.

Homeland Security:  The House Homeland Security Committee will hold a hearing on the security of information users provide to the Healthcare.gov website;
Wednesday, November 13th at 10:00 a.m., 311 Cannon Building.

Joint Economic:  The Joint Economic Committee will hold a hearing to examine the current economic outlook;
Wednesday, November 13th at 2:30 p.m., 216 Hart Building.

Judiciary:  The House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on the implementation of an entry-exit system;
Wednesday, November 13th at 2141 Rayburn Building.

Oversight and Government Reform:  The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will hold a hearing on Affordable Care Act implementation and the rollout of heathcare.gov;
Wednesday, November 13th at 9:30 a.m., 2154 Rayburn Building.

The National Security Subcommittee of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will hold a series of hearings on border security oversight. A hearing regarding border crossing cards and B1/B2 visas will be held:
Thursday, November 14th at 10:00 a.m., 2154 Rayburn Building.

Transportation and Infrastructure: The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will hold a hearing on Hurricane Sandy recovery;
Thursday, November 14th at 10:00 a.m., 2167 Rayburn Building.



HHS ISSUES FINAL MENTAL HEALTH PARITY RULE

  
On Friday, the Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor and the Treasury jointly issued a final rule increasing parity between mental health/substance use disorder benefits and medical/surgical benefits in group and individual health plans. The final rule implements the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA) of 2008 and includes several changes to the interim final rule issued in 2010. The Affordable Care Act expands MHPAEA requirements to the individual and small business markets, where health insurers also are required to cover mental health and substance abuse disorder benefits. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services intends to issue additional guidance for states to implement MHPAEA requirements in their Medicaid programs. A fact sheet on the rule is available here.



FRA PUBLISHES NOFA FOR RAILROAD SAFETY TECHNOLOGY GRANT PROGRAM


The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) published a notice of funding availability (NOFA) for the Railroad Safety Technology Grant Program. The program was first authorized under the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 for $50 million and $550,000 remains available. Grants are open to state and local governments, passenger and freight rail carriers and railroad suppliers for projects that benefit the public through improved railroad safety and efficiency. The grants have a maximum 80-percent federal and minimum 20-percent grantee match requirement. Applications are due by February 5, 2014. The NOFA can be found here.



NATION’S REPORT CARD RELEASES 2013 RESULTS


Last week, the results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) were released with evidence of modest gains in student achievement for the nation as a whole. The NAEP, also known as the “nation’s report card,” is a congressionally mandated, nationally representative assessment of elementary student performance in core subjects and is governed by a board that includes governors or former governors. 

States are required to participate in state NAEP assessments in reading and mathematics at grades 4 and 8 every two years with a 500-point scale for each subject. The 2013 results show that fourth-graders’ average score in math rose one point since 2011, the last year the NAEP was administered, with no statistically significant increase in fourth-grade reading scores. Among eighth-graders, students gained one point in the average score in math and three points in in reading. 

For more information on the NAEP and for state-specific results, please click here



FEMA DIRECTOR URGES CONGRESS TO CONTINUE SUPPORTING PREPAREDNESS GRANT PROGRAMS

 
Last week, the Senate Homeland Security Subcommittee on Emergency Management, Intergovernmental Relations, and the District of Columbia held a hearing examining ongoing recovery efforts from Hurricane Sandy. During his testimony, Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate emphasized the importance of continuing support and funding from Congress for homeland security grant programs. He noted the critical role this federal investment plays in helping state and local governments build capabilities and resiliency for managing the initial impacts of disasters. Other witnesses of the hearing included Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan and Deputy Secretary of Transportation John Porcari. Witness testimony and video of the hearing can be found here.



HHS ANNOUNCES FUNDING FOR LOW INCOME ENERGY ASSISTANCE

 
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently announced the release of approximately $2.9 billion of fiscal year (FY) 2014 block grant funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). The funding is provided under the current continuing resolution and represents roughly 90 percent of the regular block grant funding provided in FY 2013. More information, including a table with allocations for each state and territory, may be found here



SENATE NAMES WRDA CONFEREES

Last week, the Senate announced conferees for the Water Resources and Development Act (WRDA). Pending House approval of the conference request, the following Senators will represent the Senate during WRDA conference negotiations: Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Ben Cardin (R-Md.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), David Vitter (R-La.), James Inhofe (R-Okla.), and John Barrasso (R-Wyo.). Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, will serve as the chair of the WRDA conference. The House has yet to formally announce conferees.