With Congress at the halfway point in its 2023 session it is a good time to review major initiatives that may pass before the end of the year. Here is a quick checklist of significant policy areas that will receive attention in the next six months.
- NDAA. The annual National Defense Authorization Act has passed Congress for 62 straight years, and we expect this year to be no different. The House Rules Committee will meet this week to decide which of more than 1,500 filed amendments will be made in order for floor debate.
- Appropriations / CR. Congress will try to pass 12 appropriations bills before federal discretionary funds run out on September 30. Although progress has been made in the House (six bills through full committee, two more through subcommittee) and Senate (two bills through full committee, three more scheduled this week), the two chambers are using spending targets that are $120 billion apart. There will likely be a series of short-term “continuing resolutions” in the fall to keep the government open, with hope for an overall deal before the end of December.
- Nominations. In late June, the Senate confirmed the 100th district court nominee of the Biden Presidency. The Senate has also confirmed 35 Biden appellate level judges and one Supreme Court nominee. However, more than 40 judicial vacancies remain. Senate Majority Leader Schumer is expected to continue to make this a high priority in the months ahead and throughout 2024.
Authorization Expires September 30
- Farm Bill. The last farm bill was not signed until December 20, 2018, more than ten weeks after the previous one expired. However, in 2018 the House Agriculture Committee finished its work in early May and the Senate Agriculture Committee finished in mid-June. This year neither committee has begun its markup yet. We expect considerable activity in the weeks ahead. Among other things, conservation, research programs, and additional work requirement proposals for nutrition programs will complicate the process.
- FAA. The House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee advanced an FAA reauthorization bill in June by a 63-0 vote, and House floor debate can be expected in July. The Senate postponed committee action in June as it remains bogged down over pilot training standards. We expect the legislation to move forward in July.
- PAHPA. On July 13 the House Energy and Commerce Committee is expected to mark up a reauthorization of the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act, although bipartisan agreement remains elusive. Last week Senate HELP Committee Chairman Sanders and Ranking Republican Cassidy, along with Sens. Casey and Romney, released draft legislation to reauthorize PAHPA. The committee hopes to mark up the bill in July. Disputes over adding drug pricing language and addressing drug shortages remain.
Has a Chance
- Fentanyl / Opioids. In May, the House passed the HALT Fentanyl Act by a 289-133 vote. It would permanently list fentanyl as a Schedule I drug. Last month the House Energy and Commerce Committee held a hearing on reauthorizing the 2018 opioid response law known as the Support Act, with markup activity expected in the weeks ahead. The Senate Banking Committee unanimously reported the FEND Off Fentanyl Act in June, which includes new sanctions authority and anti-money-laundering provisions. These and related proposals have bipartisan support and decent odds of advancing further.
- Trade. Congress may consider several “leftover” trade policy proposals that were dropped last year from the final version of the Chips Act. These include a Miscellaneous Tariff Bill, an extension of the Generalized System of Preferences program, modifications to the Customs de minimis exemption for Chinese imports, Trade Adjustment Assistance reforms, and legislation to regulate outbound investments in technology companies located in countries of concern.
- Permitting. The debt limit legislation included time limits for certain environmental reviews relating to energy and infrastructure, but many in Congress are still pushing for broader process reforms. The two West Virginia Senators – Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito – may be the key to developing a bipartisan package with enough votes to pass the Senate.
More House Interest Than Senate
- Taxes. On June 13 the House Ways and Means Committee reported the Tax Cuts for Working Families Act, the Small Business Jobs Act, and the Build It in America Act. These bills would increase the standard deduction, increase small business expensing, and extend research business expensing, interest deductions and bonus depreciation. Although the bills may pass the House, they are unlikely to advance in the Senate unless a broader deal can be reached that includes an expanded child tax credit.
- Stablecoins. The House Financial Services Committee is tentatively scheduled to mark up stablecoin legislation in mid-July. Thus far the Senate Banking Committee has shown less interest in stablecoin proposals or in broader cryptocurrency legislation.
More Senate Interest Than House
- Drug Pricing. Both the House and Senate have reported legislation at the committee level to regulate and increase disclosure by pharmacy benefit managers. The Senate will attempt to package these bills with others that cap insulin prices in private plans, modify patent regulation relating to generic drugs, and other bipartisan reforms.
- Banking Clawback. The bipartisan RECOUP Act cleared the Senate Banking Committee last month 21-2. The bill creates new authority for banking regulators to “claw back” compensation of senior executives at failed banks.
- Cannabis Banking. The SAFE Banking Act (bipartisan legislation to allow banks to work with authorized cannabis businesses) is supported by Majority Leader Schumer and has enjoyed stronger support in the Senate. It is possible that the Senate Banking Committee will consider this legislation later in the year.
More Likely in 2024
- Rail Safety. In May the Senate Commerce Committee reported rail safety legislation in response to the catastrophic Ohio train derailment in February. However, it is not clear if the bill will receive 60 Senate votes to move forward. House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman Sam Graves is waiting on the National Transportation Safety Board final report before developing legislation.
- Data Privacy / Online Safety. House Energy and Commerce Chairwoman McMorris Rodgers intends to move broad data privacy legislation. The bill will resemble the American Data Privacy Protection Act, which passed the committee last July 53-2. The Senate Commerce Committee may focus on narrower legislation designed to protect children and teens online.
- China Competitiveness. In March Senate Majority Leader Schumer launched the “China Competition 2.0” initiative, directing up to nine Senate committees to develop bipartisan proposals that can be combined into one bill. He is hoping to duplicate procedurally the success of the Chips Act from last year. We expect much Senate committee action over the coming months.
- Artificial Intelligence. Senator Schumer has also announced a procedural outline for developing comprehensive legislation to regulate artificial intelligence. The Senate announced three closed briefings on the topic, and Schumer plans to conduct “AI Insight Forums” where stakeholders will participate in roundtable discussions aimed at developing policy. We expect increasing committee activity on this topic into 2024.