Week of October 8-12, 2018

The Senate and House are now adjourned until after the midterm elections, and will return after Veterans’ Day.


  • Bipartisan Water Infrastructure Legislation Sent to President
  • Senate Fails to Block Trump Rule That Allows Discrimination on Pre-existing Conditions

Bipartisan Water Infrastructure Legislation Sent to President

The U.S. Senate overwhelmingly approved America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 (S. 3021), voting 99 to 1 to send the package to President Trump’s desk. The bill includes $3.7 billion for new Army Corps of Engineers civil works projects and $4.4 billion for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) drinking-water program. Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) was the lone no vote. The House passed the bill earlier in September by voice vote.

The legislation is approved every other year to grant the Army Corps of Engineers authority to move forward on dams, locks, reservoirs, and other mega-projects that require congressional approval. Beyond the Army Corps projects, the water infrastructure measure authorizes $4.4 billion over three years for EPA assistance to state revolving loan funds for drinking-water projects. It is the first reauthorization of the Safe Drinking Water Act in more than 20 years. In addition, the bill reauthorizes the EPA’s Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) loan program at $50 million annually for two years. EPA awarded the first WIFIA loans this year. This program gives states and water utilities highly subsidized financing to build water treatment plants, replace lead pipes, and other big-ticket projects. The bill also includes a provision that requires the government to prioritize low-income communities for lead testing programs.

What You Need to Know: An important victory for labor was the reinstatement of “Buy America” provisions, which requires all federally funded water infrastructure projects to use American-made iron and steel through at least 2023. Lawmakers stripped this requirement during the last round of negotiations in 2016. Lawmakers provided $175 million to fix beaches and drinking water systems damaged by severe storms.

Senate Fails to Block Trump Rule That Allows Discrimination on Pre-existing Conditions

By a vote of 50 to 50, the Senate failed to block a Trump administration rule allowing insurers to offer short-term health care plans that get around the consumer protections in the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  The vote on S.J. Res. 63 was mostly along party lines, with Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) voting with all Democratic and Independent senators to block the rule.  The Trump administration rule allows insurance corporations to offer short-term plans for up to one year (instead of three months) and renew or extend them repeatedly. In most states, these so-called short-term plans are exempt from pre-existing-condition protections and do not have to cover all the ACA’s essential health benefits, such as maternity and mental health care, substance use disorder treatment, and prescription drugs. This new rule gives insurance corporations an incentive to offer some healthier people lower premiums for skimpier coverage, which will increase costs for individuals who depend on individual and small-group markets.  The effort to block this Trump administration rule was triggered under the Congressional Review Act, which allows a group of at least 40 senators a limited time frame to force a vote to disapprove a new final regulation. Had the Senate adopted S.J. Res. 63, the House would have likely allowed a vote on the resolution. 

What You Need to Know:  The Trump administration rule to allow insurance corporations to offer short-term health care plans for up to one year with the possibility of being renewed will undermine the Affordable Care Act’s protections for pre-existing conditions.

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