Week Ending May 17, 2019

  • New White House Infrastructure Talks Scheduled
  • House Passes Bill to Lower Prescription Drug Prices and Strengthen Health Care Coverage
  • House Passage of Equality Act
  • Congress Extends Bulletproof Vest Program

New White House Infrastructure Talks Scheduled 

Democratic congressional leaders are gearing up for a follow-up meeting to resume talks about a new infrastructure package to invest in America’s crumbling roads, bridges, airways, schools, and energy and water systems.

  • $2 Trillion on the Table – At the meeting two weeks ago, Democrats successfully convinced the president to double the target investment level from $1 trillion to $2 trillion. They also pushed him to agree to direct investments instead of the previously proposed tax break schemes, which are corporate windfalls that are harmful to state and local governments and taxpayers. However, it’s not clear yet what the president will support.
  • House Committee Action Still Possible – House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chair Peter DeFazio (D-OR) intends to move a sweeping infrastructure package through his committee this year even if talks with the White House break down. 

What You Need to Know: Our nation’s infrastructure is crumbling. We commute on congested roads with hazardous potholes and over bridges in disrepair. Communities across the nation drink water from leaching lead pipes, while students and education professionals learn and work in unsafe, and outmoded facilities with inadequate resources. Traffic jams, overcrowded and unreliable subways, and expensive toll roads have become the new normal. A real infrastructure plan should also grow our economy, invest in our communities, promote public health and enable workers to have a strong voice on the job. 

House Passes Bill to Lower Prescription Drug Prices and Strengthen Health Care Coverage

The House passed legislation by a vote of 234-183 to lower prescription drug prices and reverse actions by the Trump administration to unravel the Affordable Care Act (ACA). 

  • Pushing Back on Drug Companies – The “Strengthening Health Care and Lowering Prescription Drug Costs Act” (H.R. 987) incorporated several bipartisan legislative proposals to halt drug company actions to delay and derail consumer access to lower-priced generic versions of drugs. These long-needed actions to rein in drug company abuses will benefit all Americans, whether they have prescription drug coverage through their job, Medicare, Medicaid or other plans. These actions are important steps to lower prescription drug prices. However, more still needs to be done to address the fundamental problem that drug companies can set prices as high as they want and raise prices anytime they want.
  • Trump Administration Threatens Veto – Despite strong House support, the Trump administration has threatened to veto the bill because of the provisions concerning the ACA. 

What You Need to Know: AFSCME supports these ACA provisions in the bill because they would undo the actions taken by the administration that have led to more uninsured Americans. The bill would reassert that short-term limited plans, which do not need to cover all ACA essential benefits and can discriminate based on health status, are limited to three months, not years as the administration has ruled. This bill is not expected to advance in the Senate with these ACA provisions.

House Passage of the Equality Act

The House approved landmark civil rights legislation, the “Equality Act” (H.R. 5), by a vote of 236-173 to keep LGBTQ+ individuals safe from all forms of discrimination. 

  • All People Treated Equally – H.R. 5 is grounded in the principles that all people in this country should be treated equally; 
  • Extends Non-Discrimination Protections of Law – It provides consistent and explicit non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ+ individuals; and
  • Helps Everyday Americans – It allows working families increasing support to fully participate in public life, including employment, housing and access to public spaces and services.

What You Need to Know: Without H.R. 5 most states lack non-discrimination policies that include sexual orientation and gender identity. The current patchwork of laws makes millions of LGBTQ+ individuals vulnerable to uncertainty and discrimination that impacts their safety. AFSCME supports the Equality Act because discrimination against LGBTQ+ individuals violates our core American values of equality and fairness. The Equality Act is an important step in our nation’s progress to make sure all people are treated fairly, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. The legislation now moves on to the Senate for consideration.

Congress Extends Bulletproof Vest Program

This week the House and Senate overwhelmingly passed legislation to permanently reauthorize the “Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant (BVP) Program” (H.R. 2379 / S. 1231).

  • Top AFSCME Priority – AFSCME lobbies for funding increases and expansion of BVP as a top legislative priority. The legislation, co-sponsored in the Senate by Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and 18 other bipartisan co-sponsors, also increases funding for the program by $5 million to $30 million each year. The House legislation, led by Reps. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) and Peter King (R-NY), offers a similar funding boost.
  • Helps Law Enforcement – The BVP program has provided more than 13,000 law enforcement agencies with matching federal funds to purchase 1.35 million vests.

What You Need to Know: The Senate and House consideration of the bill comes during National Police Week. The legislation now moves on to final passage before being sent to the White House for President Trump’s signature.

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