General Legislative

This week, House Members return to their home districts for a District Work Week.

 

The Senate will not convene again until Monday, January 21 for the joint session for the Inaugural Ceremonies.     


Fiscal Cliff

On January 1, 2013, the House and Senate passed The American Tax Relief Act of 2012, a deal negotiated by Vice President Joseph Biden and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell. The bill was signed into law by the President on January 2, 2013. This fiscal cliff outcome reinforces the notion that on matters of deficit reduction, Congress and the Administration are resigned to incremental steps rather than deals of the grand bargain variety. Therefore, the Biden/McConnell compromise represents the second step in what many now see as a likely three-step deficit reduction process.

The first step, the Budget Control Act, agreed to in August 2011, was prompted by significant disagreement as to how to approach the last debt ceiling increase, and resulted in approximately $1 trillion in discretionary spending cuts along with the now much-discussed spending sequester cuts to defense and other domestic spending programs.

The Biden/McConnell compromise constitutes a second step of deficit reduction, and is almost exclusively focused on increased tax revenue of more than $600 billion according to the Administration’s scorekeeping. In actuality, the Biden/McConnell deal made permanent $3.9 trillion of tax cuts, but when measured against $4.5 trillion of current tax policy, the legislation yields roughly $600 billion in “savings.”  This $600 billion is roughly $1 trillion below the President’s initial revenue demand made shortly after the 2012 election, and is even below Speaker Boehner’s proposal to raise $800 billion in additional revenue through comprehensive tax reform (as part of a major spending reform package).

We may know whether there will be a third phase of deficit reduction relatively quickly as debt ceiling authority must be raised in the next few months. The need to raise the debt ceiling could provoke a fiscal fight that may result in similarly contentious negotiations. Congressional Republicans are promising to  insist upon significant long-term entitlement spending cuts in order to allow new debt ceiling authority, while the President, as he said in last Monday’s mid-afternoon fiscal cliff speech, will insist that additional tax revenue will be a part of any further deal.

While the fate of comprehensive tax reform may in part depend upon agreement between the President and Congress on the proper mix of spending cuts and revenue increases moving forward, the next step of deficit reduction presents an opportunity for bipartisan reform that has eluded the President and Congressional negotiators to date. It continues to be the case that both parties want a tax reform process, though they have not yet agreed to a revenue target that is critical for reform to become a reality. Republicans will also argue that because of where the line was drawn for what constitutes as “upper income” ($400,000 individual/$450,000 family), which was lower than most Republicans wanted, there may actually be a bit more “wiggle room” to horse trade credits, deductions and exclusions to not only raise net revenue, but also potentially lower rates in the context of a comprehensive tax reform process.

The President, in remarks looking forward to the debt ceiling, has said he plans to reform the tax code by removing loopholes and deductions that favor corporations and wealthy individuals in order to secure additional revenue for deficit reduction, while also lowering the corporate tax rate. For their part, Congressional Republicans would very much like to embark on tax reform, but, having now agreed to $600 billion in tax revenue, would prefer to do so on a revenue-neutral basis. It is entirely possible that in the next two months a revenue target for reform might be established as part of a third step of deficit reduction.

Contact Information

For additional insights about likely policy developments, please feel free to contact the author of this section: Joseph Urso at 202-457-5349 or jurso@pattonboggs.com.


Agriculture & Food

Legislative Activity

  • Farm Bill Extension. On Tuesday, January 1, Congress passed its fiscal cliff agreement, which included provisions extending the 2008 Farm Bill through FY 2013. Highlights include:
    • Dairy. The extension prevents the 1949 law from taking effect, which would have effectively doubled milk prices. Overall, dairy processors secured a win because the extension provisions do not include the dairy market stabilization program that the National Milk Producers Federation and House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN) supported in the Senate-passed and House versions of the Farm Bill.
    • Disaster Assistance. The extension provides $80 million for livestock indemnity payments, $400 million for the livestock forage disaster program and $50 million for emergency assistance for livestock, honey bees and farm-raised fish.
    • Supplemental Assistance Nutrition Program (SNAP). Overall, there are no significant changes to SNAP funding.
    • Research. The extension provides only discretionary funding authority (no mandatory spending) for research programs, including: (1) the Organic Agricultural Research and Extension Initiative; (2) Specialty Crop Research Initiative; (3) Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development; and (4) Biomass Research and Development. This means that these programs are now subject to annual appropriations. Based on last year’s Senate-passed Farm Bill and the House Agriculture Committee’s Farm Bill, both pieces of legislation set higher authorization levels for the research programs listed.
    • Farm Bill Timeline. Although the House Agriculture Committee leadership had announced that it will mark up the Farm Bill on February 27, Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK) stated that the markup will likely occur after February in order to account for the developments of sequestration-related spending cuts and debt limit that will take place in March.  Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) announced that she plans to move quickly on the Farm Bill this year, but has not provided a specific timeline given the anticipated fiscal conversations in March.

      On Thursday, January 3, House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN) sent a letter to both House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) that strongly criticized the leadership’s handling of the Farm Bill last year.  He also requested a written commitment that the Farm Bill will be scheduled for consideration on the House Floor this year and stated that he would not participate in a markup if the House leadership made no commitment.

Regulatory Activity

  • Food Safety Modernization Act. On Friday, January 4, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released advance notices of proposed rules on: (1) Current Good Manufacturing Practice and Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Human Food; and (2) Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing, and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption. These are the first major proposed rules issued under the Food Safety Modernization Act, and the release of the advance notices marked the two-year anniversary of when the Food Safety Modernization Act was signed into law. We expect FDA to publish the notices in the Federal Register on January 16. The deadline to submit comments is May 16, 2013.

Contact Information

For additional insights about likely policy developments, please feel free to contact the author of this section: Dana Weekes at 202-457-6307 or dweekes@pattonboggs.com.


Budget, Appropriations

Legislative Activity

Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Aid. After facing bipartisan criticism for cancelling a vote on the Senate-passed $60.4 billion emergency disaster appropriations bill during the final days of the 112th Congress, on Friday House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) brought up an initial package of aid for states impacted by Superstorm Sandy, which was quickly approved by both chambers. The measure (H.R. 41) will provide $9.7 billion for the National Flood Insurance Program. On January 15, the House will begin consideration of legislation comprising a slightly pared down version of the remainder of the Administration’s request. The House will likely utilize a two-pronged approach to allow Members to vote separately on disaster relief funding (approximately $17 billion) and longer-term mitigation funding (approximately $33 billion).

  • New Budget and Appropriations Committee Assignments and Leadership Selections:
    • Senate Budget Committee. New Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-WA) named three new Democrats to the Senate Budget Committee: Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Angus King (I-ME) (Senator King is an Independent but will caucus with the Democrats). Republicans also added new Members Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and Roger Wicker (R-MS).
    • Senate Appropriations Committee. Following the passing of Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HI), Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) was selected to lead the Senate Appropriations Committee, becoming the first woman in the 150-year history of the Committee to serve as Chair. New Democratic Members of the Committee include Tom Udall (D-NM), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR). New Republican Committee Members include Mike Johanns (R-NE) and John Boozman (R-AR). While not yet confirmed, Richard Shelby (R-AL) is expected to be voted in as Ranking Member, taking over the position for the term-limited Thad Cochran (R-MS).
    • House Budget Committee. The House Budget Committee includes several new Republican and Democratic Members: Jim Renacci (R-OH), Vicki Hartzler (R-MO), Scott Rigell (R-VA), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Jackie Walorski (R-IN), Barbara Lee (D-CA), David Cicilline (D-RI) and Danny Heck (D-WA).
    • House Appropriations Committee. Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) announced the House Appropriations Subcommittee Chairs: Agriculture and Rural Development – Chairman Robert Aderholt; Commerce, Justice, and Science – Chairman Frank Wolf; Defense – Chairman Bill Young; Energy and Water Development – Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen; Financial Services – Chairman Ander Crenshaw; Homeland Security – Chairman John Carter; Interior, Environment – Chairman Mike Simpson; Labor, Health and Human Services, Education – Chairman Jack Kingston; Legislative Branch – Chairman Rodney Alexander; Military Construction, Veterans Affairs – Chairman John Culberson; State, Foreign Operations – Chairwoman Kay Granger; and Transportation, Housing and Urban Development – Chairman Tom Latham.

Republicans also named new Committee Members Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA), Chuck Fleischmann (R-TN), Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), David Joyce (R-OH), Thomas Rooney (R-FL) and David Valadao (R-CA).

New Ranking Member Nita Lowey (D-NY) has not yet announced who will serve as the Ranking Members of the Subcommittees, but several new Democrats were added to the Committee, including Steve Israel (D-NY), Tim Ryan (D-NY), Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD) and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL).

Contact Information

For additional insights about likely policy developments, please feel free to contact the author of this section: Pam Welsh at 202-457-6493 or pwelsh@pattonboggs.com.


Cybersecurity

Legislative Activity

  • Cybersecurity in the 113th Congress. While House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX) and Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Carper (D-DE) have both named cybersecurity as a priority for the 113th Congress, it remains unclear how quickly the Congress will move on cybersecurity legislation in the coming months. Chairman McCaul recently named Representative Patrick Meehan (R-PA) as Chairman of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection and Security Technologies after former Subcommittee Chairman Dan Lungren (R-CA) lost his election in November.

Executive Branch Activity

  • Executive Order. One of the major factors that will determine the timeline of cybersecurity legislation will be if President Obama issues his much anticipated Executive Order (EO) this month prior to Congress getting started in earnest on legislative issues. Drafts of the EO have been circulating for several months. A number of Congressional Republicans have expressed concerns about the Administration releasing a cybersecurity EO, including a group of 46 House Republicans led by Representatives Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Steve Scalise (R-LA) who sent a letter to the President at the end of December urging him not to release an EO. The letter stated that the President should support the Republicans’ information sharing legislation, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Intelligence Act (CISPA), which House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-MI) is likely to reintroduce in some form in the next Congress. The CISPA bill has been a controversial issue with privacy groups and others who have expressed serious concerns with the bill. In 2012, the Obama Administration also issued a veto threat against the CISPA bill.

Contact Information

For additional insights about likely policy developments, please feel free to contact the author of this section: Amy Davenport at 202-457-6528 or adavenport@pattonboggs.com.


Education

Legislative Activity

  • Workforce Investment Act Reauthorization. While we do not yet know the specific timeline, we expect the House Education and the Workforce Committee to move quickly to reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act, which is long overdue. The Workforce Investment Improvement Act of 2012, which passed out of the Committee on a party-line vote last summer but was just reported out last month, is a likely starting point for the measure.
  • Higher Education Act (HEA) Reauthorization. In preparation for reauthorizing the Higher Education Act in 2014, the House Education and the Workforce Committee plans to hold an open call for suggestions from the higher education community in the coming weeks. Specifically, the Committee will be asking stakeholders to submit their priorities for the HEA reauthorization to inform the Committee’s drafting of the legislation. The Committee is looking to issue a draft bill before the end of the year, although this timeline could change depending upon legislative developments.     
  • Elementary and Secondary Education Reauthorization. We also expect reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education (ESEA) Act to be a priority for the House Education and the Workforce Committee early in the session. The Committee is likely to take a broader, more comprehensive approach to reauthorizing ESEA this Congress instead of the more piecemeal approach it took last Congress. Congressman Todd Rokita (R-IN), who was a freshman in the 112th Congress, will serve as Chair of the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education with jurisdiction over reauthorization.
  • Education Committee Assignments for the 113th Congress. Chairman John Kline (R-MN) named three new Republicans to the House Education and the Workforce Committee: Susan Brooks of Indiana, Richard Hudson of North Carolina and Luke Messer of Indiana. Democrats also added three Members to the Committee: John Yarmuth of Kentucky, Frederica Wilson of Florida and Suzanne Bonamici of Oregon. Congresswoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) will continue to serve as Chair of the Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training and will have great influence over reauthorization processes for both the Workforce Investment Act and the Higher Education Act.

    Senate Republicans on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee announced their new Committee assignments last week, which included a spot for Senator Tim Scott, who was appointed to Jim DeMint’s South Carolina seat. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) also announced last week that he plans to fill the Ranking Member slot on the Committee as expected, because Senator Michael Enzi (R-WY) is term-limited from the position. Senate leaders are expected to officially elect him to the position later this month. The three Democrats joining the HELP Committee for the 113th Congress are Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Christopher Murphy of Connecticut, and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

Contact Information

For additional insights about likely policy developments, please feel free to contact the authors of this section: Amy Budner Smith at 202-457-6154 or abudner@pattonboggs.com; Dana Weekes at 202-457-6307 or dweekes@pattonboggs.com.


Energy

Legislative Activity

  • Energy Taxes. Title IV of the “fiscal cliff bill” (H.R. 8, the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012) provides a host of short-term energy tax extenders, including an extension and modification of the wind Production Tax Credit for one year – for facilities where construction begins before January 1, 2014. The bill also includes tax credit extenders for certain plug-in electric vehicles, energy-efficient new homes and appliances, biodiesel and alternative fuels, and research and experimentation, among several others.
  • Senate Energy Committee. Three Republican Senators will join the Energy and Natural Resources Committee in the 113th Congress to accommodate shifts in committee assignments: Jeff Flake of Arizona, Tim Scott of South Carolina and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee.

Regulatory Activity

  • Keystone XL Pipeline. The Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality submitted its final report to Governor Dave Heineman on Thursday, January 3. The Governor has up to 30 days to review the report and inform the State Department of whether or not he approves the proposed Nebraska Reroute. The State Department will then complete its Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement and incorporate the Governor’s decision.
  • Offshore Wind. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is soliciting public input and any interest in a competitive lease for the New York Power Authority’s “Long Island-New York City Offshore Wind Project.” Comments and any indication of a competitive interest are due by March 5.
  • FERC. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) final rule on “Revisions to Electric Organization Definition of Bulk Electric System and Rules of Procedure” will become final on March 5. The commission approved modifications to the current definition of “bulk electric system” developed by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, as well as other proposed Nuclear Energy Regulatory Commission (NERC) revisions.
  • Nuclear. The Department of Energy/National Science Foundation’s Nuclear Science Advisory Committee will meet in Maryland January 28-29 regarding scientific priorities for basic nuclear science research

Contact Information

 

For additional insights about likely policy developments, please feel free to contact the author of this section: Tanya DeRivi at 202-457-6504 or tderivi@pattonboggs.com.


Environment

Legislative Activity 

  • Clean Air. Congressman Lamar Smith (R-TX), just prior to becoming the new Chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, co-authored a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the White House asking for the agency to make data sets publicly available that were used by the EPA in designing the new rule addressing fine particulate matter under the National Ambient Air Quality Standards established by the Clean Air Act (CAA). At issue is the claim that the new rule will produce $1.7 trillion, or 85 percent of the $2 trillion in total benefits resulting from the CAA between 1990 and 2020.

Regulatory Activity

  • EPA Administrator Stepping Down. Administrator Lisa Jackson has announced she is stepping down from the EPA. The two individuals reportedly in the running to succeed her are EPA Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe and Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, Gina McCarthy. Perciasepe led EPA’s water, air and radiation office under President Bill Clinton. Administrator Jackson has stated that she will wait until after the State of the Union to officially leave office. Even though the EPA Administrator is not a Cabinet Secretary position, her successor will need to be confirmed by the Senate.
  • Hydraulic Fracturing. EPA has issued a progress report on its study mandated by Congress, entitled “Study of the Potential Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing on Drinking Water Resources.” The agency acknowledges that “natural gas plays a key role in our nation’s clean energy future,” but continues to have concerns about the potential human health and environmental impacts of increasing use of hydraulic fracturing. The report only outlines progress made since September 2012 for 18 research projects now underway. Thus, according to the agency, the “information presented…cannot be used to draw conclusions about potential impacts to drinking water resources” from HF operations. Since the progress report provides only an overview of the agency’s efforts to date, with little or no analysis of the data it has collected, it is unlikely to provide an impetus for new regulatory requirements or legislation at the state or federal level.

Contact Information

For additional insights about likely policy developments, please feel free to contact the author of this section: Sarah Vilms at 202-457-5248 or svilms@pattonboggs.com.


Financial Services

Legislative Activity

  • New Republicans Join Senate Banking Committee.  Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) will join the Senate Banking Committee in the 113th Congress, filling seats previously held by Senators Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Jim DeMint (R-SC).
  • Chairman Hensarling Calls for Private Flood Insurance.  During the legislative debate for Superstorm Sandy relief funds, House Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) called for a transition to a private flood insurance market to replace the National Flood Insurance Program.  Chairman Hensarling indicated that the Financial Services Committee will consider a legislative proposal to accomplish this goal during the 113th Congress.
  • HFSC Designates Bachus as “Chairman Emeritus.”  House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) announced that outgoing Chairman Spencer Bachus (R-AL) will serve as the committee’s Chairman Emeritus.

Regulatory Activity

  • Media Reports Treasury Secretary Plans to Depart.  Recent media reports indicate that Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner will leave the administration by the end of the month.  The Administration has not issued a formal response, nor has it identified Secretary Geithner’s possible successor.  White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew is among the list of candidates likely to be nominated to replace Secretary Geithner.

Contact Information

For additional insights about likely policy developments, please feel free to contact the author of this section: Matthew Kulkin at 202-457-6056 or mkulkin@pattonboggs.com.


Health Care

Legislative Activity 

  • Fiscal Cliff Review. The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 included a few small wins for some health care providers, while the rest of the industry suffered cuts to pay for those Medicare extensions. Physician payments under Medicare were given a reprieve from anticipated cuts with a zero percent update for 2013, and other Medicare extensions offered relief for ambulance providers, low-volume hospitals, outpatient therapy services, work geographic adjustment, Medicare-Dependent hospital program, and specialized Medicare Advantage plans for special needs individuals. The law also extends Transitional Medical Assistance, the Qualifying Individual Program, the Medicaid and CHIP Express Lane option, Family-to-Family Health Information Centers and the Special Diabetes Program for Type 1diabetes and for Indians. Offsets totaling $30 billion hit hospitals particularly hard ($14 billion) through coding adjustments, cuts to radiology services and DSH rebasing. Other cuts include rebasing ESRD payments, imaging cuts, competitive bidding for diabetic supplies, repealing the CLASS program and rescinding all unobligated CO-OP funds.

    The biggest concern for the industry, however, is still to come. The fiscal cliff deal only offers a short 60 day reprieve from sequestration, and the next cliff deal must also address the debt ceiling all of which could mean much more severe cuts to the health care industry as Republicans fight to include additional savings from entitlements. Drug companies, insurers, physicians and hospitals are all at risk with a long list of savings proposals on the table. Those include, but are not limited to: bad debt, GME and outpatient cuts to hospitals, elimination of the recently implemented payment enhancement for primary care services in Medicaid, mandatory drug discounts/rebates for the dually eligible, penalties or banning first dollar coverage by Medigap plans, cuts to Medicare Advantage plans, and potential cost-sharing for post-acute care.
  • 113th Congress Committee Posts. Committee rosters are coming together with a few new faces filling leadership positions among the various committees of jurisdiction. Congressman Jack Kingston (R-GA) will chair the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education; Congressman Michael Burgess (R-TX) will serve as vice chair at the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Health and Oversight Subcommittees, with Congressman Tim Murphy (R-PA) taking over the Oversight Subcommittee gavel. On the Senate side, Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) will serve as Chairman to the Special Committee on Aging, with additional Senate committee decisions developing through this month.

Regulatory activity

  • Partnership Exchange Guidance. The Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight (CCIO) posted guidance on the State Partnership Exchange. The guidance is for states that wish to transition from a partnership with the federal government to running their own exchange. Those who wish to do so by 2015 can file a blueprint with Health and Human Services (HHS) by November 18, 2013.
  • Eligibility and Claim Status Operating Rules Enforcement Delay. The Centers for Medicare and Medicare Services’ Office of E-Health Standards and Services (OESS) announced that to reduce the potential disruption to the health care industry, it will not initiate enforcement of action until March 31, 2013 with respect to HIPAA covered entities (including health plans, health care providers and clearinghouses) that are not in compliance with the operating rules adopted for the following transactions as required by the Affordable Care Act: eligibility for a health plan and health care claim status. Notwithstanding OESS’ discretionary application of its enforcement authority, the compliance date for using the operating rules remains January 1, 2013.
  • FDA Guidance on Pharma Product Applications. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced the availability of draft guidance for the industry in accordance with the FDA Safety and Innovation Act (FDASIA) which amended the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) to require that certain submissions under the FD&C Act and Public Health Service Act (PHSA) be submitted in electronic format, beginning no earlier than two years after publication of the final version of the draft guidance.
  • IRS Rule on Shared Responsibility for Employers. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued a proposed rule implementing the Affordable Care Act’s provision on shared responsibility for employers regarding employee health coverage. The proposed regulation affects only employers that meet the definition of “applicable large employer” as described in the regulation. A public hearing on the proposed rule has been scheduled for April 23, 2013 (agenda to be released April 3), with comments due March 18, 2013.

Other Health News

  • MedPAC Meeting. The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) has scheduled a public meeting on January 10-11, 2012. The agenda includes discussion on the following topics: the Medicare Advantage Program: status report and recommendations on special needs plans; multiple sessions on Assessing Payment Adequacy for hospital inpatient and outpatient services, physician and other health professional services, ambulatory surgical center services, outpatient dialysis services, home health care services, inpatient rehabilitation facility services, long-term care hospital services, and hospice services; and a Status Report on Part D with a focus on the role of competition in Part D.
  • MACPAC Meeting. The Medicaid and Chip Payment and Access Commission (MACPAC) has scheduled a public meeting on January 15-16. A meeting agenda will be released in advance of the meeting.
  • IOM Meeting. The Committee on Sports-Related Concussions in Youth will hold its first meeting on January 7, 2013. The IOM is conducting a study on sports-related concussions in youth from elementary school through young adulthood, including military personnel and their dependents.

Contact Information

For additional insights about likely policy developments, please feel free to contact the author of this section: Eugenia Edwards at 202-457-5622 or eedwards@pattonboggs.com.


International, Defense, and Homeland Security

Legislative Activity

  • Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) Developments. In addition to the new Democratic SFRC members discussed in a previous edition, Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT), the Committee now also has significant turnover on the Republican side. Five Republicans have left the Committee; now split 10-8 instead of 10-9 in favor of the Democrats. They will be replaced by Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI), Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Senator John McCain (R-AZ), and Senator Rand Paul (R-KY). Senator Johnson will continue his skepticism regarding the Obama Administration’s multilateral approach to arms control and international environmental issues. Senator Flake, a former House Foreign Affairs Committee member, will express caution regarding Congressional efforts to advance unilateral U.S. sanctions against countries and individuals of concern. Senator McCain will continue to call for increased U.S. intervention in Syria and other global trouble spots. Senator Paul will escalate his crusade against U.S. foreign assistance to Egypt and what he sees as other uncooperative governments in the Middle East and globally.
  • House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC) Developments. Republicans will experience massive turnover on HFAC. Of the committee’s 25 GOP members, 15 did not serve on the panel in the previous Congress, and 11 were elected to the House for the first time in 2012. Several freshman Democrats will serve on HFAC as well, including Congressman Juan Vargas (D-CA), Congressman Joe Kennedy (D-MA) and Congressman Alan Lowenthal (D-CA).
  • Senate Finance Committee Trade Developments. Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) are the new Democratic members of the Senate Finance Committee, whose margin will remain at 13-11 in favor of the Democrats in the new Congress. Senator Brown is a longtime trade skeptic and can be expected to vote against most trade liberalization measures coming before the committee, whereas Senator Bennet has maintained a free trade-oriented voting record during his four years in office. The three new Republican members include Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) and Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA), all of whom are ardent free-traders. Senator Portman, a former U.S. Trade Representative, will be particularly assertive on trade issues.
  • House Ways and Means Committee Trade Developments. Among the new Ways and Means Committee Members, Congressman Tim Griffin (R-AR), Congressman Mike Kelly (R-PA), Congressman Todd Young (R-IN) and Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz (D-PA) have strongly pro-trade voting records, Congresswoman Linda Sanchez (D-CA) is considered a trade skeptic, and Congressman Danny Davis (D-IL) has a mixed voting record on trade issues.
  • Senate Intelligence Committee Developments. As previously mentioned, Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Senator Angus King (I-ME), both freshmen, are the Democratic Caucus’s new members on the Select Intelligence Committee. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) and Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) are the Committee’s two new Republican members, replacing former Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO). Senator Collins can be expected to be particularly active on counterterrorism-related matters. As required under committee rules, the Committee’s partisan ratio will remain at an 8-7 margin in favor of the majority Democrats.
  • Senate and House Armed Services Committee (SASC and HASC) Developments. As previously reported, the Democrats named Senator Kaine, Senator King, Senator Joe Donnelly (D-IN) and Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) to the SASC. Now the Republicans have followed suit, naming Senator Deb Fischer (R-NE), Senator Blunt, Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) and Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) to replace former Senator Scott Brown (R-MA), Senator Portman, Senator Collins and Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) as SASC members. The new GOP members move the SASC Republican caucus to the right, which combined with the ascension of conservative Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK) to the Ranking Member position, could further endanger the Committee’s already-declining bipartisan cooperation on missile defense issues, the annual defense authorization bill and other SASC matters. The committee remains set at a 14-12 Democratic margin.

Contact Information

For additional insights about likely policy developments, please feel free to contact the author of this section: Scott Thompson at 202-457-6110 or sthompson@pattonboggs.com.


Tax

Legislative Activity

  • Deal Reached on the Fiscal Cliff. Vice President Joseph Biden and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell spearheaded a compromise agreement that, among other things, permanently raised marginal rates on income more than $400,000 for individuals and $450,000 for joint filers. The deal makes permanent a maximum 15 percent long-term capital gains and qualified dividends rate for those with income up to $400,000 for individuals and $450,000 for joint filers; while it is a 20 percent rate for taxpayers above those thresholds. The agreement also included a two-month delay of the spending sequester, reinstated PEP and Pease limitations on income above $250,000 for individuals and $300,000 for joint filers, and extended a host of business, individual and Medicare tax extenders. Please see the Fiscal Cliff section above, for more detailed coverage of this topic.
  • Tax Hearings Next Week. There are no relevant tax hearings scheduled for next week.

Contact Information

For additional insights about likely policy developments, please feel free to contact the author of this section: Joseph Urso at 202-457-5349 or jurso@pattonboggs.com.


Transportation & Infrastructure

  • Priorities for the 113th Congress. With MAP-21 being a two-year bill, the 113th Congress will be tasked with reauthorizing or extending the nation’s surface transportation programs. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) will continue to take the lead in the Senate but the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will be under the leadership of incoming Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA). In addition to the highway and transit titles in MAP-21, this Congress will also have to address Federal passenger and freight rail safety programs, which are set to expire at the end of FY2013. Chairman Shuster published an Op-Ed on January 2 that outlined his priorities for the next two years. Among those priorities were the reauthorization of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) (which Chairwoman Boxer has also identified as a priority), oversight and proper implementation of MAP-21, reauthorizing rail and surface transportation programs, and addressing the financial footing of the Highway Trust Fund.
  • Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee Chairs: Chairman Shuster stated this week that he has not yet made decisions on the Subcommittee Chairs for the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Those announcements could come next week. 
  • New Starts/Small Starts Final Rule. The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) issued a final rule on December 27 announcing that in three months it will begin administering the New Starts and Small Starts programs based on criteria established during the rulemaking process.  FTA will undertake a subsequent rulemaking process for changes in MAP-21 not covered by this Final Rule. FTA is also accepting comments on Policy Guidance to accompany the Final Rule. A copy of the Final Rule can be found here: http://www.fta.dot.gov/documents/NSFNRULE.pdf. A copy of the proposed Policy Guidance can be found here: http://www.fta.dot.gov/documents/NSNOA.pdf
  • University Transportation Centers. The Research and Innovative Transportation Administration (RITA) announced on December 20 that $72.5 million in funding will be available to eligible institutions of higher education to establish and operate University Transportation Centers (UTCs). The UTC Program awards grants to universities to conduct transportation research and develop the next generation of transportation professionals. Selections are anticipated to be announced in mid-2013. A copy of the NOFA can be accessed here: http://www.rita.dot.gov/utc/sites/rita.dot.gov.utc/files/2013_grant_solicitation.pdf
  • Hurricane Sandy Supplemental Bill. As mentioned in the Budget/Appropriations section of this week’s Capital Thinking report, the House failed to vote on a Senate-passed emergency disaster appropriations bill before adjourning the 112th Congress. The Senate-passed legislation included $12.07 billion for the Department of Transportation and $5.3 billion for the Army Corps of Engineers for recovery, repair and mitigation efforts, and $17 billion for Community Development Block Grants administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has pledged that the House will consider emergency appropriations legislation on January 15.

Contact Information

For additional insights about likely policy developments, please feel free to contact the authors of this section: Jared Fleisher at 202-457-6341 or jfleisher@pattonboggs.com; and Jessica Monahan at 202-457-6302 or jmonahan@pattonboggs.com.