Capitol to Capitol | Aug. 21, 2017

Deadlines Foreshadow a Grueling September on Capitol Hill   

In 41 days, the federal government will shut down without passage of a new spending package. Also on Sept. 30, the current authorizations for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) will expire if Congress does not act. And, at some point in the early fall, the federal government will default on its spending obligations if the debt ceiling is not raised. Considering that the House and Senate are only scheduled to be in session for 12 days in September, expect the impending deadlines to eclipse all other issues in Washington until at least October.

DYK?

In 1801, after witnessing a speech denouncing his father, 19-year-old Philip confronted the New York lawyer who gave the speech and demanded a retraction. When the lawyer refused, a duel was set for Nov. 20 at the dueling grounds in Weehawken, N.J. The lawyer left unscathed, but Philip died the following day. Three years later, on the same dueling grounds, Philip’s father, Alexander Hamilton, suffered the identical fate as his son after being shot and mortally wounded by Vice President Aaron Burr in one of the most famous duels in American history.

The uncertainty of what will happen in September has cloaked the remaining portion of the 2017 congressional calendar in a penumbra of uncertainty. The White House and Republican leaders on Capitol Hill have signaled that they would like to begin comprehensive tax reform, but they have struggled to devise a package to fund lower tax rates ever since they took a controversial tax on imports off the table. In the end, Republicans may resort to temporary tax cuts or some combination of permanent and temporary tax changes if they lack the votes for comprehensive reform. That said, it is unclear if Republicans will have a legislative vehicle to enact a tax package without the support of Democrats.

At the beginning of the year, Republicans had planned to use the FY 2017 budget reconciliation, which bypasses the filibuster rules in the Senate, to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Subsequent passage of a health care bill, Republicans had planned to pass a FY 2018 budget and again employ budget reconciliation to enact comprehensive tax reform. When efforts to repeal the ACA died on the Senate floor on July 28, however, the road to tax reform became less certain. If not enough Senate Democrats join their Republican colleagues to bypass the filibuster, Republicans must either:

  • Repurpose the 2017 budget bill for tax reform rather than health care, which would be no small task by itself, and may not even be viable given that the Senate parliamentarian has yet to decide if passage of another 2017 budget bill after the end the fiscal year violates Senate rules; or
  • Pass a FY 2018 budget and use it as the vehicle for tax reform, which may be even more challenging given the divisions within congressional Republicans on spending.

In addition to tax reform, other priorities for the White House and Congress, such as infrastructure, remain in limbo, and a path forward may not emerge until after Sept. In sum, members of Congress should enjoy their remaining days of recess because September will be anything but relaxing inside the Beltway.     

NCSL ContactsMax Behlke, Jake Lestock

State’s Agenda Adopted at NCSL Legislative Summit

On Aug. 7, legislators from across the country met during NCSL’s Legislative Summit in Boston to consider almost 50 policy directives and resolutions. To be included in NCSL’s States’ Agenda, policy directives and resolutions needed to be adopted by at least three-fourth of the states during the business meeting. The adopted policy directives and resolutions guide NCSL’s advocacy efforts before Congress and the administration. See the full list of policy directives and resolutions adopted in Boston.

Read more on the NCSL Policy Process.

NCSL leadership also changed at the Legislative Summit. Senator Deb Peters of South Dakota became the 45th president of the National Conference of State Legislatures. Peters, a Republican, succeeds Democratic Senator Dan Blue of North Carolina, who became NCSL’s immediate past president. Chuck Truesdell, a fiscal analyst for the Kentucky Legislative Research Commission, was elected to the position of NCSL staff chair. Truesdell succeeds Raúl E. Burciaga, director of the New Mexico Legislative Council, who transitioned to the position of immediate past staff chair.

Additionally, Senator Toi Hutchinson (D-Ill.) was elected as NCSL’s president-elect, Speaker Robin Vos (R-Wis.) was elected as vice-president, and Jon Heining, general counsel of the Texas Legislative Council, was elected as staff vice chair.

See a full list of NCSL’s officers.

Legislator and legislative staff were also elected to NSCL’s Executive Committee. See the full list of Executive Committee members.

NCSL ContactsNeal OstenMolly Ramsdell

White House Commits to Funding Health Insurance Payments

Last week, the White House committed to paying cost sharing reduction (CSR) payments for the month of August. These payments are made to insurance companies to help offset costs for low-income individuals including deductibles, copayments and coinsurance. Insurance companies have pressed the administration for an answer to whether the payments would be made, not only so that they could calculate future premium rates, but also because of the upcoming enrollment deadline. Health insurers must decide by the Sept. 27 deadline if they will participate in the Affordable Care Act marketplace and not having CSR payments in August would affect that decision.

DYK?

We are always looking for interesting facts about states, legislatures, and American history. If you have any factoids about your state, let us know here and we may include it in a future edition of Capitol to Capitol! 

The White House deliberated on a final decision, and uncertainty seemed to grow after the Senate failed to pass a health care reform bill in July. Many senators and representatives acknowledged President Donald Trump’s frustration at not passing health care reform before the August recess, but pointed out that Americans should not suffer substantial premium hikes or lose insurance as a result. Additionally, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a report on Aug. 15 that found that not paying the CSR payments would increase the federal deficit. CBO stated that while most people would pay the same or less in premiums starting in 2020, the government would be forced to give out larger tax credits, adding $194 billion to the deficit in the long term. CBO also found that prolonging uncertainty over CSR payments eventually would increase premiums in some cases as much as 20 percent due to cost containment efforts by insurers.

When Congress returns in September, several leaders have stated they will take up measures aimed at fixing problems in health care, including dealing with CSR payments. The chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions Committee (HELP), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), is proposing that the administration make the payments through September while his committee works on legislation to have future CSR payments appropriated through Congress. Several bipartisan caucuses have also formed to address many issues within the Affordable Care Act including changing requirements for the employer insurance mandate, 1332 waiver flexibility, and building insurance networks across state lines. Of course, most of this will have to wait until after CHIP Reauthorization, which must be addressed before the end of September. Needless to say, health care reform is not falling by the wayside but comprehensive change will likely not be discussed again until October.

NCSL Contact: Haley Nicholson

NCSL’s Insurance Task Force’s Inaugural Meeting Held in Boston

Meeting of the NCSL Insurance Task Force

NCSL’s Executive Committee Insurance Task Force gathered in Boston for its inaugural meeting on Aug. 9 and 10.

DYK?

On this day, in 1959, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a proclamation admitting Hawaii into the Union as the 50th state. The president also issued an order for an American flag featuring 50 stars arranged in staggered rows: five six-star rows and four five-star rows. The new flag became official July 4, 1960. Aloha!

The Task Force welcomed 16 legislators, 24 speakers—including six insurance commissioners—and representatives from more than 50 organizations. Co-chaired by Rhode Island Representative Brian Patrick Kennedy (D) and North Dakota Representative George Keiser (R), the meeting explored challenging insurance issues facing states. With conventional insurance products and services being increasingly complicated by today’s modern financial markets and emerging technologies, task force members heard from speakers on issues ranging from health care and air ambulance transportation to autonomous vehicles and blockchain technology. The two-day programming offered legislator-members the opportunity to converse with fellow lawmakers and insurance policy experts. The Task Force’s second meeting will be held during NCSL’s Capitol Forum Dec. 10-13 at the Hotel Del Coronado in Coronado, Calif.

More information about the NCSL Insurance Task Force can be found here.

NCSL Contacts:  Ethan Wilson, Heather Morton

Read the July 31, 2017 Capitol-to-Capitol. 

If you have comments or suggestions regarding Capitol-to-Capitol, please contact Max Behlke.

NCSL's Advocacy in Washington

NCSL's Washington staff advocate Congress, the White House, and federal agencies on behalf of state legislatures in accord with the policy directives and resolutions that are recommended by the NCSL Standing Committees and adopted by the full conference at the annual NCSL Legislative Summit Business Meeting. As a result of the advocacy that is guided by these policies positions, NCSL is recognized as a formidable lobbying force in state-federal relations.

NCSL Staff in Washington, D.C.

  • Neal Osten | 202-624-8660 | Molly Ramsdell | 202-624-3584 | Directors
  • Max Behlke | 202-624-3586 | Budgets and Revenue
  • Danielle Dean | 202-624-8698 | Communications, Financial Services 
  • Ethan Wilson | 202-624-8686 | Commerce and Financial Services 
  • Rachel Morgan | 202-624-3569 | Health and Human Services
  • Jon Jukuri  | 202-624-8663 | Labor, Economic Development and International Trade
  • Susan Frederick | 202-624-3566 | Law, Criminal Justice, and Public Safety
  • Ben Husch | 202-624-7779 | Natural Resources and Infrastructure