Week Ending October 25, 2019

House Vote on Bill to Lower Prescription Drug Prices Expected in November

  • House Moves Closer to Voting on Bill to Lower Prescription Drug Prices
  • Senate Considers Spending Package
  • Election Security and Voting Rights
  • State and Local Tax Bill to Overturn Trump Administration Treasury Rule Rejected by Senate
  • House Panel Questions Key Trump Official on Attacks to Health Care Law Protections

House Moves Closer to Voting on Bill to Lower Prescription Drug Prices

The House Ways and Means Committee advanced the “Lower Prescription Drug Costs Now Act” (H.R. 3) along party lines. Fighting to make medicines affordable is a priority for AFSCME because it improves the health and lives of workers and their families.

  • H.R. 3 Needed to Reduce Drug Prices: H.R. 3 would require the federal government to negotiate lower drug prices, including insulin, for all of us. The committee also directed the expected billions in savings from the government negotiations with drug corporations for lower prices into much-needed Medicare benefits for dental, vision and hearing.

What You Need to Know: H.R. 3 will help workers, retirees and their families keep more money in their wallets when they go to the pharmacy. Independent analysis says it will also help lower health care premiums and out-of-pocket costs over time. The House is expected to begin the debate on the “Lower Drug Costs Now Act” (H.R. 3) in November. It is time for AFSCME members and their families to speak up for lowering prescription drug prices. Drug corporations are fighting hard to keep the power to set prices as high as they want and raise them any time they want. They are spending millions on hiring lobbyists and running advertisements to get people to oppose the bill. We can’t let their voice be the only one Congress hears.

Call your Representative today at 1-866-957-9069

Tell Congress to Lower Drug Prices Now - and Pass H.R. 3.

Senate Considers Spending Package

Although the House and Senate have not agreed on its topline funding levels for fiscal year (FY) 2020 appropriations, the Senate is trying to advance a package of four appropriations bills.

  • Four Bill Package Could be Voted on Next Week: The funding package includes Commerce-Justice-Science, Agriculture, Interior and Transportation-HUD, which have already been passed by House and Senate Committees. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) hopes to bring the package to the Senate floor for a vote next week and then address two larger appropriations bills, Defense and Labor-HHS-Education. Due to contention with military money being used to fund a wall along the southern U.S. border, it is uncertain when the Defense bill will make it to the Senate floor.

What You Need to Know: Although the Senate is moving on its appropriations bills, there is still uncertainty about whether Congress will have to pass another short-term continuing resolution (CR) or a yearlong CR to continue to fund the government past November 21 in order to avoid a government shutdown. 

Election Security and Voting Rights

This week, the House of Representatives advanced a number of bills to secure America’s elections from foreign interference and protect the right to vote for all eligible citizens.

  • Election Security: In a 227-181 vote, the House passed the “Stopping Harmful Interference in Elections for Lasting Democracy (SHIELD) Act” (H.R. 4617). This legislation requires candidates and campaigns to report improper offers of assistance by foreign officials or their lobbyists. It protects our elections from foreign interference and disinformation campaigns. Last week the House Administration Committee cleared the bill by a 6-1 party-line vote for passage on the House floor.
  • Voting Rights: The House Judiciary Committee also passed the “Voting Rights Advancement Act” (H.R. 4) by a vote of 19-6. In the aftermath of the June 25, 2013 Shelby County v. Holder Supreme Court decision – which gutted key protections of the “Voting Rights Act” (VRA) – states and localities across the country jumped to enact restrictive voting laws, disenfranchising millions of American voters. H.R. 4 restores those preclearance measures and requires every jurisdiction in the country to get the clearance of a court or the Justice Department before implementing certain changes to voting systems. 

What You Need to Know: H.R. 4617 is the third vote on election security legislation the House has held this year. The first “For the People Act” of 2019 (H.R. 1), also addressed voting rights, money-in-politics, redistricting and ethics laws to make our democracy more inclusive. The second bill, the “Securing America’s Federal Elections (SAFE) Act” (H.R. 2722), helps to secure and update our nation’s voting systems.

All of these bills are a part of a larger effort to spotlight foreign interference in America’s elections; ensure that America has a healthy democracy built on transparency; protect the full participation and equal access of all citizens at the ballot box and fight back against discriminatory laws to make sure every vote counts.

AFSCME is encouraging the Senate to pass each of these House-passed bills.

State and Local Tax Bill to Overturn Trump Administration Treasury Rule Rejected by Senate

The Senate voted 43-52 along party lines to reject a resolution, S.J. Res 50, designed to help state and local government finances that permitted homeowners and taxpayers of state and local taxes (SALT) to retain their entire federal itemized tax deduction for their state and local government tax payments.

  • States Act to “Workaround” Cap Imposed: In June 2019, after several states, including New York and New Jersey, implemented state government “workarounds” to reduce taxpayers’ burdens, the Trump administration’s Treasury Department issued a new regulation in which the IRS disallowed taxpayers from using these workarounds to receive a larger federal tax deduction. This resolution, championed by Senate Democrats, was designed to revoke this rule and permit the state government “workarounds,” which states implemented in response to the $10,000 cap on SALT deductions added to the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act” (TCJA). Given the Senate rejected this resolution, the underlying Treasury regulation will stay in effect.

What You Need to Know: Many state government officials are concerned because this Trump administration rule creates an unfair financial penalty for taxpayers subject to the SALT cap and it concentrates this financial burden in certain states that tend to provide relatively robust public services and infrastructure for their residents. AFSCME opposes this SALT cap and the unbalanced impact on residents of affected states and on state and local government finances.

House Panel Questions Key Trump Official on Attacks to Health Care Law Protections

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit will rule any day on whether the Trump administration succeeds and every provision of the “Affordable Care Act” (ACA) is struck down. A court decision knocking down the landmark 2010 health care law would hit all households in America. Wiping out the ACA upends many gains made for work-based health plans. Thanks to the ACA, job-based health plans must cover a broad range of benefits. They cannot limit the amount of health claims they will pay annually or set lifetime caps on coverage. Health plans must also allow dependents up to age 26 to remain on their parents plans. Seniors would also pay more for medicines. These statutory improvements and health care coverage for millions of Americans rest on a court decision to, in effect, repeal the ACA.

  • House Action Intended to Safeguard ACA: With this sense of urgency, a House panel charged with oversight on health care called a hearing to focus on ACA health plans and its protections for people with pre-existing conditions, asking the top Trump administration official charged with implementation of ACA to testify. Members of the panel asked her repeatedly how the administration would replace ACA should it be repealed because of the administration-backed lawsuit. She offered no details on what would happen to the millions of Americans whose coverage would be eliminated. She only repeated one sentence: “The president has made clear we’ll have a plan in action to make sure Americans have access to affordable coverage.”

What You Need to Know: The administration is using a lawsuit to repeal the ACA and refuses to give details about how it will deal with the likely chaos in health care coverage should the court repeal the ACA. The decision by a federal appellate court is expected any day. The case will likely go to the U.S. Supreme Court.

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