COVID-19 Update: Congress’ Risk to Public Companies

Companies large and small are scrambling to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, including understanding the emerging economic risks that could affect their profits, their operations and even their very existence.

Add another burden to public companies’ growing roster of risks: Congress.

As lawmakers and the Trump administration prepare additional legislative responses to the crisis, there is a growing danger that extraneous items affecting public companies could be slipped into the bills.

The White House and congressional leaders are racing to approve what is likely to exceed $1 trillion in aid for displaced workers, the airline and tourism industries, healthcare providers, and more. But some lawmakers are looking to exploit the crisis to ensure non-coronavirus provisions affecting public businesses become law, too. Continue Reading

COVID-19 Update: $1 Trillion Stimulus Next Up

The Senate is beginning to draft what likely will be the largest emergency relief and fiscal stimulus legislation in the country’s history – more than $1 trillion – to address the mushrooming coronavirus pandemic.

The heart of the emerging plan will be as much as $500 billion in rebate checks to individuals and households, likely means-tested to target the relief to middle-class Americans. The White House is pushing for checks to go out as soon as April 6, with a second check on May 18.

That package also is expected to include tens of billions of dollars in relief for the airline industry and other sectors, a loan program for small businesses, and more funding for state Medicaid expansion, unemployment benefits and paid sick leave.

It’s not clear when Congress will vote on this still-developing package. The Republican-controlled Senate is working through elements with the White House. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., will need Democrats’ support for any aid package, which would require 60 votes in the Senate. Continue Reading

The Weekly Hill Update

Washington D.C. The capitol, the seat of the government of the United States.Below is the Federal Policy team’s weekly preview, posted when Congress is in session.

HEADLINES

•  After passing emergency funding to respond to the coronavirus, Washington is now turning to potential measures to bolster the economy – as equity markets opened Monday plummeting 7 percent before trading was halted.

•  President Donald Trump will meet with the prime minister of Ireland but plans to skip the annual Saint Patrick’s Day luncheon at the Capitol.

•  The House plans to vote on immigration-related legislation and may take up a renewal of foreign surveillance powers, while the Senate continues consideration of energy legislation.

HOUSE

  • The House will be in session today through Thursday. The agenda includes legislation to overturn President Trump’s ban on travel from certain countries, and to ensure access to counsel for detained immigrants.
  • Lawmakers also hope to renew the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which expires this week – but an agreement on renewal legislation is elusive.
  • House appropriators will continue their budget hearings, including with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.
  • The full list of this week’s House committee activity can be found here.

SENATE

  • The Senate plans to resume consideration on a broad energy bill aiming to promote clean energy and grid modernization and security.
  • The Senate Commerce Committee will mark up six bills, including one on rural broadband and one on fighting doping in sports.
  • The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee plans to mark up 26 various bills.
  • The current list of Senate committee activity can be found here.

WHITE HOUSE

  • President Trump today is returning from Florida as his administration scrambles to mitigate the coronavirus outbreak.
  • Thursday he will meet with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar and participate in the annual Shamrock Bowl presentation – but he will not attend the annual Saint Patrick’s Day luncheon at the Capitol amid his feud with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who is hosting the event.
  • Later in the week he plans to travel to Colorado for a fundraiser for vulnerable Republican Sen. Cory Gardner.

Capitol Hill Healthcare Update

CORONAVIRUS WORRIES CONTINUE AFTER EMERGENCY FUNDING BILL

Congressional approval last week of emergency spending to address the coronavirus hasn’t allayed Capitol Hill’s concerns about preparedness and response as the impact of the virus in the United States rapidly escalates.

Two lawmakers – Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz. – announced this weekend that after interacting with an individual last week who later tested positive for COVID-19, they were taking precautionary measures and would not be in Washington this week. The No. 3 elected House Republican, Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., was absent from a GOP retreat in Maryland this weekend because she wanted to limit participation in nonessential gatherings.

President Donald Trump on Friday signed legislation providing $8.3 billion to fight the outbreak, primarily through the Department of Health & Human Services. Continue Reading

Capitol Hill Healthcare Update

CONGRESS SPEEDS TOWARD EMERGENCY CORONAVIRUS FUNDING PACKAGE

As novel coronavirus continues to sweep the globe, Congress and the White House are assembling a spending package with billions in emergency spending and new authorities to combat the crisis.

Leaders hope to reach an agreement by as soon as this afternoon, which procedurally would allow the House to vote Wednesday and the Senate to approve it before the end of the week.

House and Senate appropriators worked through the weekend to provide billions to the Health and Human Services Department (HHS) and the State Department to help fight the global outbreak and limit its spread in the United States. Continue Reading

The Weekly Hill Update

Washington D.C. The capitol, the seat of the government of the United States.Below is the Federal Policy team’s weekly preview, posted when Congress is in session.

HEADLINES

•  Coronavirus response is consuming Capitol Hill, as lawmakers race to complete an emergency supplemental spending bill.

• President Donald Trump will meet with pharmaceutical executives and later visit the National Institutes of Health.

•  Tuesday’s 14 primaries represent perhaps the most consequential day in the 2020 presidential nomination process, as it has winnowed to essentially a two-man race between Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden, the latter newly energized after his blowout victory in South Carolina Saturday.

HOUSE

  • The House will be in session today through Thursday. The agenda includes legislation to extend federal workforce protection to Transportation Security Administration officers; negotiators are also hoping to have a coronavirus supplemental bill ready for floor action this week.
  • Trump’s cabinet will continue appearing for budget hearings, including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, and EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler.
  • The House Energy and Commerce Consumer Protection Subcommittee on Wednesday will hold a hearing on counterfeit products in online marketplaces.
  • The full list of this week’s House committee activity can be found here.

SENATE

  • The Senate plans to vote on a broad energy bill aiming to promote clean energy and grid modernization and security.
  • Senate appropriators will hold hearings Wednesday with Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette.
  • The Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism on Wednesday will hold a hearing on big tech and China.
  • The current list of Senate committee activity can be found here.

WHITE HOUSE

  • Trump and Vice President Mike Pence today will meet with pharmaceutical executives on coronavirus, vaccine development and drug prices. Pence also is scheduled to hold a 5 p.m. news conference on the administration’s coronavirus response activities. Trump will travel to North Carolina for a campaign rally tonight.
  • Trump on Tuesday will speak to the National Association of Counties Legislative Conference and visit the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland.
  • Later in the week Trump plans to travel to Pennsylvania and Florida for campaign-related events.

Capitol Hill Healthcare Update

AZAR TO TESTIFY THIS WEEK BEFORE HOUSE, SENATE COMMITTEES

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar faces a marathon week of testimony, appearing before four congressional committees to discuss his department’s fiscal 2021 budget.

In addition to funding issues, Azar is likely to face questions on the federal government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak. Last week 25 Senate Democrats wrote to Azar, pressing the administration to request emergency funding.

Lawmakers are likely to grill Azar on prescription drug pricing and the administration’s approach to addressing costs. Democrats also are expected to criticize the administration’s actions regarding Affordable Care Act implementation.

Azar will testify Tuesday before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee that funds HHS, then Wednesday in the House Appropriations Subcommittee. The secretary will go before the House Commerce Health Subcommittee on Wednesday, where he will discuss the budget and HHS’s response to the coronavirus.

Finally, Azar will testify Thursday at the House Ways and Means Committee. Continue Reading

The Weekly Hill Update

Washington D.C. The capitol, the seat of the government of the United States.Below is the Federal Policy team’s weekly preview, posted when Congress is in session.

HEADLINES

• Returning from a one-week recess, the House plans to take up legislation to address vaping, and the Senate will focus on nominations and abortion-related legislation.

• President Donald Trump is in India visiting Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

• Moderate Democrats are reeling as Bernie Sanders firmly seizes momentum and frontrunner status leading into Saturday’s South Carolina primary and 14 more primaries next week on Super Tuesday.

HOUSE

  • The House will be in session Wednesday through Friday. The agenda includes noncontroversial bills on veterans’ opportunities and natural resources, as well as potential legislation to expand regulation on and ban the sale of some vaping products.
  • Several members of Trump’s cabinet will appear for budget hearings with the Appropriations Committee as well as authorizing committees.
  • The Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday will hold a hearing on U.S.-China trade and competition.
  • The full list of this week’s House committee activity can be found here.

SENATE

  • The Senate plans to vote on Trump judicial nominees as well as two abortion-related measures.
  • Senate appropriators will hold hearings Tuesday with Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf.
  • The Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday will hold a hearing on surface transportation reauthorization.
  • The current list of Senate committee activity can be found here.

WHITE HOUSE

  • Trump is in India through Wednesday.
  • Thursday, he will attend an African American History Month reception.
  • Friday, he will hold a campaign rally in South Carolina – the day before the state’s Democrats vote in their presidential primary.

Capitol Hill Healthcare Update

SURPRISE BILLING PROGRESS DRIVES THE WEEK

Legislation to address surprise medical bills is moving forward this week, as two House committees mark up their own plans to protect patients.

After progress stalled at the end of last year, the House Ways and Means Committee jump-started it by announcing it would move forward with its proposal. The committee plans to take up the bipartisan bill Wednesday.

Tuesday, the Education and Labor Committee will enter the fray with its own bill. Chairman Bobby Scott, D-Va., and Ranking Member Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., released the proposal last week.

The key point of contention among the different plans is the mechanism used to resolve billing disputes. The Ways and Means approach relies on independent arbitration when insurers and providers cannot negotiate a solution on their own. A bipartisan agreement by the House Energy and Commerce and Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committees uses a benchmark payment rate. The new Education and Labor proposal appears to hew more closely to the Energy and Commerce approach.

House leaders want to work out the differences among the plans by May or earlier, ahead of a self-imposed deadline when several federal health programs expire. It’s not yet clear how they might reach that consensus, but policymakers do believe they will ultimately succeed. Continue Reading

The Weekly Hill Update

Washington D.C. The capitol, the seat of the government of the United States.Below is the Federal Policy team’s weekly preview, posted when Congress is in session.

HEADLINES

• Congressional committees will begin reviewing President Donald Trump’s fiscal year 2021 budget, out today.

• After acquitting Trump in his impeachment trial, the Senate will resume voting on his judicial nominees.

• Democrats in New Hampshire will choose their nominee to challenge Trump.

HOUSE

  • The House will be in session tonight through Thursday; the agenda includes legislation aimed at advancing an Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in order to heighten judicial scrutiny of sex-based discrimination.
  • The Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday will take up its plan to address surprise medical billing; the Education and Labor Committee tomorrow will take up its own plan.
  • Fed Chairman Jerome Powell will testify on monetary policy and the state of the economy Tuesday at the Financial Services Committee.
  • The full list of this week’s House committee activity can be found here.

SENATE

  • The Senate plans to vote on a slate of Trump judicial nominees.
  • Powell on Wednesday will testify on monetary policy at the Senate Banking Committee.
  • Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar on Thursday will testify on the department’s FY2021 budget.
  • The current list of Senate committee activity can be found here.

WHITE HOUSE

  • Tonight, Trump will hold a campaign rally in Manchester, New Hampshire, ahead of the Democratic primary tomorrow.
  • Wednesday, he will host Ecuadorian President Lenín Moreno at the White House.
  • Friday, Trump will attend a meeting with the National Border Patrol Council.
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