November 18, 2013


Legislative Focus:  Nominations, NDAA, Domestic Energy Production

This week the Senate will work towards finishing work on the annual national defense authorization bill in advance of their Thanksgiving recess, while the House takes up a number of bills regarding issues ranging from the transparency of federal government spending to domestic energy production.

The Senate convened at 2:00 p.m. with a vote on the nomination at 5:30 p.m.

Today the Senate will take up the nomination of Robert L. Wilkins to be a judge on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals and is expected to adopt a motion to limit debate and pass a bill (HR 3204) that would clarify the Food and Drug Administration’s oversight of compounding pharmacies and establish a national drug tracing system. The chamber is then expected to take up a motion to limit debate on the motion to proceed to the fiscal 2014 defense authorization bill (S 1197). Amendments to the defense authorization bill could address the possible retirement of the A-10 attack aircraft and an attempt to use money from a legal settlement to help the Pentagon fund parts of a destroyer and naval aircraft.

The House convened at noon with legislative business starting at 2:00 p.m. and votes postponed until 6:30 p.m.

Today the House is expected to consider five bills under suspension, including HR 2061, the Digital Accountability and Transparency (DATA) Act. This legislation would enhance the current website to track all spending using new government-wide standards in order to allow taxpayers and policymakers to track federal expenditures more effectively.

On Tuesday, the House is scheduled to take up HR 1965, the Federal Lands Jobs and Energy Security Act. The bill consolidates five measures and seeks to increase domestic oil and gas production on federal lands. On Wednesday, the House is also scheduled to take up HR 2728, the Protecting States’ Rights to Promote American Energy Security Act, which would prohibit the Interior Department from enforcing federal rules related to hydraulic fracturing in states that have their own hydraulic fracturing oversight rules.


Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs:  The Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on virtual currencies such as Bitcoin;
Tuesday, November 19th at 3:30 p.m., 538 Dirksen Building.

The Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee will hold a series of hearings on housing finance;
Tuesday, November 19, Wednesday, November 20, and Thursday, November 21 at 10:00 a.m., 538 Dirksen Building

Commerce, Science and Transportation:  The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee will hold a hearing on predatory and unfair lending practices harming the military community;
Thursday, November 21st at 2:30 p.m., 253 Russell Building.

Education and the Workforce:  The House Education and the Workforce Committee will hold a hearing on the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act;
Tuesday, November 19th at 10:00 a.m., 2175 Rayburn Building.

The Workforce Protections Subcommittee of the House Education and the Workforce Committee will hold a hearing on affordable care for seniors and disabled individuals;
Wednesday, November 20th at 10:00 a.m., 2175 Dirksen Building.

Energy and Commerce:  The Energy and Power Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a markup on The North American Energy Infrastructure Act;
Tuesday, November 19th at 5:00 p.m. and Wednesday, November 20th at 9:30 a.m., 2123 Rayburn Building.

The Communications and Technology Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing hearing on FirstNet Oversight and Public Safety Wireless Communications;
Thursday, November 21, 2013 at 10:30 a.m.; 2123 Rayburn Building

Energy and Natural Resources:  The Senate Public Lands, Forests and Mining Subcommittee will hold a hearing on 11 pending public lands bills;
Wednesday, November 20th at 3:30 p.m., 366 Dirksen Building.

Foreign Relations:  The East Asian and Pacific Affairs Subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations will hold a hearing on trade in the Asia-Pacific;
Wednesday, November 20th at 2:30 p.m., 419 Dirksen Building.

Homeland Security:  The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a business meeting to vote on the nomination of Jeh Johnson as Secretary of Homeland Security on Wednesday at 10:00 a.m.

The Border and Maritime Security Subcommittee of the House Homeland Security Committee will hold a hearing on maritime border security;
Tuesday, November 19th at 10:00 a.m., 311 Cannon Building.

Natural Resources:  The House Committee on Natural Resources will hold a hearing on sequestration’s impact on rural schools;
Wednesday, November 20th at 10:00 a.m., 1324 Longworth Building.

The Public Lands and Environmental Regulation Subcommittee of the House Committee on Natural Resources will hold a markup of three bills: H.R. 3286 for reimbursement to states using state funds to operate national parks during the shutdown; H.R. 3294 to streamline state authority over and responsibility for management of federal lands; and H.R. 3311 to allow the Secretary of Interior to allow states to operate nation parks during a government shutdown;
Thursday, November 21, 2013 at 10:00 a.m., 1324 Longworth Building.

Special Aging:  The Senate Special Committee on Aging will hold a hearing on the future of long-term care; Monday, November 18th at 2:15 p.m., 562 Dirksen Building.


The White House announced an administrative change that would allow health insurers to temporarily continue offering health plans for small businesses and individuals who do not meet minimum coverage requirements established by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Under the new rules, insurers may continue offering policies for one year that otherwise would have ended in 2014.

The House passed the Keep Your Plan Act, sponsored by Rep. Upton (R-MI) that would allow insurers to sell policies in 2014 that were in effect as of January 1, 2013. The measure also allows new customers to enroll in these plans.  39 Democrats joined all but 4 Republicans in voting for the measure.   


HHS Releases Exchange, Medicaid Enrollment Data
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that 106,185 individuals selected health insurance plans through the health exchanges during the first month of open enrollment (Oct. 1 – Nov. 2). Of that group, 79,391 (74.8%) selected a plan through a state exchange, while 26,794 (25.2%) signed up through a federally-run exchange. HHS reported that another 975,407 individuals have applied and received an eligibility determination, but have not yet selected a plan. An additional 396,261 individuals have been determined eligible for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). For more information, including enrollment data by state, click here.


The U.S. Department of Education announced a streamlined process for states to renew waivers from the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). States with waivers that expire at the end of the 2013-2014 school year will be able to renew for one year by submitting a request letter to the Education Department and by resolving state-specific issues previously identified by the Department. This is a significant shift from renewal guidance released in September that would have required new mandates and reporting for teacher distribution, student performance targets and college- and career-ready standards. Thirty-four out of the 43 states and territories that have been awarded ESEA flexibility have waivers expiring at the end of the current school year and will be eligible for renewal. Requests are due to the department by February 28, 2014. The department also indicated that stricter enforcement of certain Title I and Title II provisions should be expected for waiver and non-waiver states. 

More information on ESEA flexibility waiver renewals may be found here.


Last week, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) and Rep. Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.) released the bipartisan “Strong Start for America’s Children Act.” The bill would create a voluntary, state-federal match program for governors to fund preschool for four-year olds from families earning below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL). States would be required to match 10% of federal funding in the program in the first year. By the eighth year of the program, states and the federal government would each pay half of the program’s cost. The bill would also create a competitive grant program for governors to increase state early education capacity and build the infrastructure to offer high-quality preschool programs. The competitive grant would require a 20% state match. In addition, the bill would provide additional Child Care Development Grant (CCDBG) formula funds to states and create a new Early Head Start child care partnerships program. The bill closely aligns with the President’s “Preschool for All” plan announced in the State of the Union address. 


Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued an announcement detailing the agency’s regulatory proposal to lower the 2014 renewable fuel standard (RFS) targets. Under the proposal for 2014, the EPA would require refiners to blend 15.21 billion gallons of renewable fuel into gasoline and diesel, versus 18.15 billion as established under the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. In addition, the proposed standards would lower the production targets for conventional ethanol to 13.01 billion and 2.2 billion gallons for advanced biofuels, down from 14.4 billion and 3.75 billion, respectively. Once the proposal is published in the federal register, the EPA will accept comments on a petition that requests a partial waiver of the 2014 RFS volume requirements. For more information on the announcement, please click here


Last Thursday, Sens. Mark Kirk (D-Ill.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.) introduced S. 1709, the American Manufacturing Competitiveness Act of 2013. The bipartisan bill directs the Committee on Technology of the National Science and Technology Council to develop and update a national manufacturing competitiveness strategic plan. The strategic plan would specify and prioritize short-term and long-term goals, articulate the federal role in supporting research and development (R&D) and describe how federal agencies will assist small- and medium-sized manufacturers in developing and implementing new products. When developing the strategic plan, the bill requires the committee to conduct an analysis of manufacturing R&D and innovation in the marketplace, as well as the current capabilities of the domestic manufacturing workforce, among other provisions. Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D-Ill.) introduced a bipartisan companion bill, H.R. 2447, in the House last June. S. 1709 has been referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation for consideration. 


Last week, President Barack Obama signed H.R. 2094, the School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act. The law allows the HHS Secretary to give additional preference in awarding asthma-related grants to states that allow schools to maintain a supply of epinephrine in a secure location that is easily accessible and allow administration of such medication by trained school personnel. The bill passed the House in July and passed the Senate earlier this month. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, twenty-six states now have laws allowing schools to stock and administer asthma-related medication. The text of the bill may be accessed here


The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee held its confirmation hearing for Jeh Johnson, the nominee to lead the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). During the hearing, Mr. Johnson committed to Committee Chairman Tom Carper (D-Del.) that he would work effectively with state, local and private sector stakeholders in cyber, border protection and other homeland security areas critical to DHS’s mission. In response to a question from Ranking Member Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) about homeland security grant programs, Mr. Johnson said that he supported efforts to consolidate grant programs and award them based on risk. Mr. Johnson also told Senator Coburn that he would review DHS’s intelligence and analysis programs for opportunities to identify inefficiencies and reduce the size of DHS as a whole. Mr. Johnson’s nomination is not considered controversial and Committee leadership said they expected he would be confirmed by the full Senate. Mr. Johnson previously served as General Counsel for the Department of Defense from 2009 to 2012. 


The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) published interim guidance on the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program (CMAQ). This guidance updates and replaces the last program guidance from 2008. The new guidance focuses on project eligibility information, geographic area eligibility, the flexibility and transferability provisions available to states, requirements for annual reporting of CMAQ obligations, and a discussion of the program and administrative responsibilities of the federal government, state governments, metropolitan planning organizations, transit agencies, and private sector project sponsors. The guidance implements changes enacted under MAP-21 including, for instance, increasing from 20 percent to 50 percent the amount of CMAQ funding states may flex into other core surface transportation programs, reestablishing the 80-20 federal-state share formula, and expanding the eligible use of CMAQ funds for operating assistance from three years to five. The interim guidance is effective immediately and comments are due by January 13, 2014. More information can be found here.