Capitol to Capitol | July 29 2019














After protracted talks with the Treasury Department, the House passed a spending caps and debt limit bill that paves the way for Senate consideration and progress on its version of appropriations bills. Before leaving for its six-week August recess, the House also passed a pension rescue package. Mark Esper was confirmed as the next secretary of defense. The Senate remains in session this week.

Letter of Support for the State Cyber Resiliency Act

On July 24, the National Conference of State Legislatures, joined by the National Governors Association, the National Association of Chief Information Officers, and the Homeland Security Advisory Council, sent a letter of support for the State Cyber Resiliency Act. The bill, which has bipartisan support, would provide voluntary grants to states and localities to assist in preventing, preparing for, protecting against and responding to cyber threats. The grants would be administered by the Department of Homeland Security. Each state would be eligible to receive up to two planning grants to develop or revise a cyber resiliency plan and up to two implementation grants to implement that plan. These bills are in the early stages of introduction and NCSL will have the opportunity to fine-tune them to ensure the best outcome for states.

NCSL Contacts: Susan Frederick (LCJ) and Abbie Gruwell (CFI)


President John Adams signed a congressional act establishing the United States Marine Band in 1798. It is now the oldest active professional musical organization in the U.S. The band celebrated its 221st birthday on July 11 and has served all presidents except George Washington.

House Passes Spending Caps, Debt Limit Bill

After weeks of stop-and-start negotiations between House leaders and the Trump administration, House leaders mustered enough votes to pass a bill that increases the discretionary spending caps for two years (preventing sequester reductions mandated by the 2011 Budget Control Act) and suspends the debt limit bill through 2021. The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2019 (HR 3877) now heads to the Senate for consideration. If enacted, the bill would increase total defense discretionary spending from the current $716 billion to $738 billion in fiscal year 2020 and $740.5 billion in fiscal year 2021. Experts say this would be one of the largest defense budgets in history. Nondefense spending would increase from $605 billion during fiscal year 2019 to $632 billion in fiscal year 2020 and $634 billion in fiscal year 2021. According to economists, the net effect of the deal—adjusted for inflation and real per capita spending—would be to extend the current level of discretionary spending. The Senate is expected to consider the deal before the August recess and begin marking up their appropriations bills by the week of Sept. 9. 

Read more about BCA history.

Read NCSL's Blog about spending caps.

NCSL Contact: Erlinda Doherty

House Passes Multiemployer Pension Stabilization Package

The House passed (264-169) the Rehabilitation for Multiemployer Pensions Act (HR 397) to stabilize multiemployer pension plans. The $68 billion package would create a new Treasury agency to offer long-term, low-interest loans to multi-employer pension plans on the brink of insolvency. While Democrats revised the measure last week to offset part of the cost with an individual retirement account provision, the Republican-controlled Senate has already criticized the legislation as a bailout and seems unlikely to support passage.

NCSL Contact: Erlinda Doherty

Securing the 2020 Election

The Senate Intelligence Committee released a report last week containing recommendations for securing the 2020 elections. The report endorses the use of paper records of votes, buying more-secure voting machines and conducting post-election audits. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has rejected efforts to pass federal legislation in this area, citing the mid-term elections as having gone smoothly and saying he does not want to take away state and local authority over elections.

NCSL Contacts: Susan Frederick (federal) and Wendy Underhill (state)

USDA Releases Key Details for Second Round of Trade Aid


When the British burned down the U.S. Capitol and Library of Congress in 1814, Thomas Jefferson offered to sell his personal library to Congress. At the time it was the largest collection of books in the U.S. In 1815, Jefferson sold Congress 6,487 books from his collection for $23,950.

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced details of its $16 billion package that is the second installment in aid to ease the impact of retaliatory tariffs. Of this total, $14.5 billion in direct payments to farmers will be sent out in three installments. The USDA will also spend $1.4 billion to buy commodities and distribute them to food banks, school cafeterias and other nutrition programs. The first round of aid was established and implemented in 2018, although aid based on planted crops varied, with a significant majority being directed at soybeans.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth

Senate Committee Unveils Drug Pricing Reduction Package

On July 25, the Senate Finance Committee marked up the “Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act (PDPRA) of 2019.” The legislation has been six months in the making including multiple meetings with policymakers to negotiate terms. The Congressional Budget Office also scored the bill prior to the committee’s markup.

The bill proposes reforms to Medicare prescription drug pricing practices including:

  • Changes to the Medicare Part D negotiation process along with new inflation-rebate policies.
  • Increasing negotiations under Part D between prescription drug plans and manufacturers.
  • Calling for increased transparency between pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) and drug manufacturers.
  • Looking at ways to improve how Medicare calculates Part B prescription drug payment amounts and eliminating excess drug payments under the payment.

The legislation also addresses Medicaid prescription drug reforms including:

  • Making drug manufacturers more accountable to federal taxpayers.
  • Allowing Medicaid the ability to pay for gene therapies for rare diseases through a new risk-sharing value-based agreement system.
  • Requiring prescription drug manufacturers to lower drug list prices and report more accurate calculations of their rebate obligations.
  • Working to prevent spread pricing in the Medicaid program by PBMs.

Although the bill passed out of committee by a 19-9 vote, concerns among Republican members of the committee about the proposal on how to limit drug price increases under Medicare Part D could deter it from coming to the Senate floor for a vote without major changes. 

NCSL Contacts: Haley Nicholson and Margaret Wile

USDA Says Hemp Regulations Coming this Fall

The USDA confirmed at a Senate Agriculture Committee hearing that it plans to release its long-awaited proposed regulatory system for hemp this fall. Legalized as part of the 2018 Farm Bill, USDA has not yet established federal rules for growing hemp for states that do not establish a regulatory system on their own.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth

California and Automakers Reach Emissions Agreement

California and four of the world's largest automakers signed an agreement that revises existing state motor vehicle emission standards. The revisions reduce the increases currently required for future years but are well above what many expect to be a freeze of current federal standards that the administration will release later this year. (California has a waiver to establish its own emissions standards for vehicles, although in 2012 they agreed to align theirs with the federal government’s.) Automakers will reduce fleetwide emissions by 3.7% per year for model years 2022 to 2026 and up to 1 percentage point of those reductions can be achieved via extra credit for electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles sales. Those extra credits, which are set to expire after model year 2021, now last through model year 2024. It remains unclear how this will impact, if at all, the forthcoming update to federal standards.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth

2019 Summit Livestreaming

NCSL is livestreaming nine sessions from the Legislative Summit in Nashville, Tenn. You can watch the livestream on NCSL's Facebook page. The table displays the day, time and the title of the sessions that will be livestreamed.

2019 Summit Livestreaming

The Reading Room 

Read the July 22 Capitol to Capitol.

Capitol to Capitol will return Aug. 12, 2019, after NCSL’s 2019 Legislative Summit in Nashville. Hope to see you there!

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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.

  • Molly Ramsdell | 202-624-3584 | Director
  • Erlinda Doherty | 202-624-8698 | Budgets and Revenue
  • Susan Frederick | 202-624-3566 | Law, Criminal Justice, and Public Safety
  • Abbie Gruwell 202-624-3569 | Commerce and Financial Services
  • Ben Husch | 202-624-7779 | Natural Resources and Infrastructure 
  • Jon Jukuri  | 202-624-8663 | Labor, Economic Development and International Trade
  • Haley Nicholson | 202-624-8662 | Health and Human Services