November 30, 2015

Legislative Focus: EPA Power Plant Emissions, ESEA Reauthorization, Health Care

The Senate convened for legislative business today at 3 p.m., with a vote at 5:30 on Gayle Smith’s nomination for administrator of the United States Agency for International Development.

The House convened at 2 p.m. for legislative business, including debate of 9 measures under suspension. Today’s votes are postponed until 6:30 p.m.

The Senate could also consider a reconciliation bill to repeal provisions of the Affordable Care Act.

Later in the week the House is expected to consider two Senate-passed resolutions (S.J. Res 23 and S.J. Res. 24) to set aside EPA standards for greenhouse gas emissions from existing and new coal-fired power plants. The House is also expected to consider a conference report to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Both the Senate and the House could also finalize and vote on a conference report on federal transportation programs.

Key Hearings and Markups

Senate Indian Affairs Committee

·         Full committee hearing titled “Tribal Law and Order Act – 5 Years Later: How have the justice systems in Indian Country improved?” Wednesday, December 2 at 2:15p.m., 628 Dirksen Building.

House Armed Services Committee

·         Readiness subcommittee hearing titled “Effects of Reduced Infrastructure and Base Operating Support Investments on Readiness.” Thursday, December 3 at 8 a.m., 2118 Rayburn Building.

·         Military Personnel subcommittee titled “Stakeholder Views on Military Health Care.” Thursday, December 3 at 10:30 a.m., 2212 Rayburn Building.

House Education and the Workforce Committee

·         Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions subcommittee hearing titled “Principles for Ensuring Retirement Advice Serves the Best Interests of Working Families and Retirees.” Wednesday, December 2 at 10 a.m., 2175 Rayburn Building.

House Natural Resources Committee

·         Federal Lands Subcommittee hearing on the discussion draft of the “National Park Service Centennial Act.” Wednesday, December 2 at 10 a.m., 1324 Longworth Building.

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee

·         Full committee hearing titled “Office of National Drug Control Policy: Reauthorization.” Wednesday, December 2 at 10 a.m., 2154 Rayburn Building.

The Week in Review

President Signs FY 2016 Defense Authorization
Last Wednesday the President signed S. 1356, the FY 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Congress passed the two-year budget agreement in the wake of the President’s veto of the original NDAA conference agreement. The new bill authorizes nearly $600 billion for defense-related programs through a $25 billion increase in the defense discretionary cap and $8 billion for defense Overseas Contingency Operations funding. The revised bill reduces overall funding by $5 billion from the original conference agreement, including cuts to several National Guard–related accounts such as the National Guard and Reserve Equipment Account. Most National Guard spending levels remain above the President’s budget request.

CMCS Releases ACA-Mandated Comparison of CHIP, Exchange Plans
In a white paper released last week, the Center for Medicaid and CHIP Services (CMCS) announced that the secretary is not certifying any qualified health plans (QHPs) sold on the exchanges as comparable to plans provided through the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The Affordable Care Act (ACA) required the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to review QHPs and certify those plans with comparable benefits and cost-sharing. HHS found that average out-of-pocket spending in QHPs was higher than that within CHIP plans, and concluded that benefit packages in CHIP generally are more comprehensive for child-specific services (for example, dental, vision and rehabilitation services). Under the ACA, states that experience a shortfall in federal CHIP funding are required to establish procedures to enroll children in certified QHPs. The Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act, signed into law last spring, extends CHIP funding through Sept. 30, 2017.