What to expect from Congress in the next six-week session

When Congress returns this week, it will have a long agenda pending. The US House of Representatives is only expected to sit for six weeks before the election and the US Senate for eight weeks before November. Hurry up.

Here is an overview of this agenda.

Must go

  • Discretionary funding. About 25% of the federal budget is made up of discretionary spending, which Congress divides into 12 appropriation bills that must be passed each year. The federal fiscal year ends on September 30. In the last two weeks of June, the House Appropriations Committee reported all 12 bills and will attempt to pass them through the House by the end of July. The Senate committee has yet to act. To avoid a government shutdown, Congress must either pass each of these bills, combine them into a larger package, or pass a short-term extension of existing funding through a “continuing resolution.”

  • National Defense Authorization Act. Congress has passed an annual defense authorization bill for 61 consecutive years. The Senate Armed Services Committee completed its NDAA tagging on June 16, and the House committee followed a week later on June 23. Debate in the House is expected to begin this week and the Senate is expected to introduce its floor bill before the end of the month. So far, the Senate has authorized $44 billion more than the House, and disputes will have to be resolved in the fall.

Could pass

  • China’s competitiveness. The Senate passed its US Innovation and Competition Act more than a year ago, and the House passed a similar US competition law in February. The differences between these two bills are currently being negotiated by a House-Senate conference committee. The two bills provide $52 billion for semiconductor production and research, revamp federal research policies for key technology areas, and strengthen national supply chains. However, there are important differences, especially when it comes to trade policy. And in late June, Republican Senate Leader McConnell indicated there would be no bipartisan support for a final bill if Democrats continued to pursue a partisan approach on reconciliation legislation. A final China competitiveness bill will require at least 10 Republican votes to overcome a potential Senate filibuster. (Most bills require a three-fifths vote to limit debate in the Senate and reach final passage; the Reconciliation Bill described below is an exception to these rules that can be passed by a majority simple.)

  • Reconciliation / Build Back Better Act. On November 19, 2021, the House passed the Build Back Better Act, and it has languished in the Senate ever since. Senate Democrats are trying to push the bill through “budget reconciliation” procedures, which limit the content of the bill but avoid filibuster rules and require majority passage. Senate Democratic Leader Schumer tried to align all 50 Senate Democrats in favor, which forced him to pursue a bill much smaller than the House. He focused on negotiations with Sen. Joe Manchin, who could represent the 50th vote. The package is said to be in the $1 trillion range, and negotiations have focused on prescription drug price reform, clean energy incentives, corporate tax increases and deficit reduction.

  • FDA User Fee Reauthorization. The Food and Drug Administration relies on user fees to review and approve applications for prescription drugs, medical devices, generic drugs, and biosimilars. Current programs expire on September 30. On June 8, the House passed the 2022 Food and Drug Amendments to extend these programs. On June 14, the Senate Labor and Pensions Health Education Committee passed a broader version of this legislation (Food and Drug Administration Safety and Advancement Act). The House and Senate are now trying to informally negotiate a compromise bill to increase the chances of quick passage through the entire Senate.

  • Confirmation of Biden administration nominees. Awaiting the current Senate schedule are 20 judicial nominees, 78 executive branch nominees, and 23 other preferred nominees to various federal boards and commissions that require Senate confirmation before they can be sworn in. This does not include the many additional applicants that may be made before the end of the year. Knowing that the majority in the Senate could change parties next year, it will be a priority to confirm as many of these candidates as possible.

Expiring programs

  • Tax extenders. Several widely-supported tax provisions expire or are changed at the end of the year, including a full-load phase-out enacted in 2017, biodiesel incentives, an expanded business meal deduction, and multi-diet designations. employers.

  • The ACA has increased premium subsidies. The American Rescue Plan Act expanded ACA health plan subsidies to eliminate the “subsidy cliff” for those whose incomes are four times the poverty rate. This provision of ARPA expires on December 31. Extending the provision will have a fiscal impact of more than $20 billion a year, and it is being discussed as part of the reconciliation package.

  • Health insurance extenders. Several Medicare provisions expire at the end of the year, including the Medicare Access and CHIPS Reauthorization Act (MACRA), radiation oncology rules and physician premium payments.

  • Mother-Child and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program. The five-year program expires on September 30.

  • Temporary assistance program for needy families. Expires September 30.

  • National Flood Insurance Program. Expires September 30.

Other Notable Items

  • Data Privacy. On June 23, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce approved the US Privacy and Data Protection Act on a bipartisan basis. The legislation does not yet enjoy bipartisan support in the Senate, but the House compromise represents significant progress in an area that Congress has been trying to resolve for several years.

  • Mental Health. On June 22, the House passed the Restoring Hope for Mental Health and Wellness Act, a comprehensive package that reauthorizes and expands several major mental and behavioral health programs. The Senate Finance Committee released a “discussion draft” of its alternative in June and is expected to attempt to report on similar legislation in the coming weeks.

©2022 Greenberg Traurig, LLP. All rights reserved. National Law Review, Volume XII, Number 192

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