JAMUARY: On the heels of the sixth short-term spending extension, a high-stakes meeting between the bipartisan Congressional leadership and top Administration officials on a spending bill ended with some progress made and without dueling press conferences (and typical rancor) as the deadline to January 19 rapidly approaches. DACA/immigration remains one the major sticking points in the negotiations and Republican leaders will look to the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue today, where President Trump meets with Republican members of the Judiciary Committee, for direction on the issue that has dogged Capitol Hill for years. With legislators returning to Capitol Hill a week later than anticipated, a jam-packed January agenda awaits them with both Republicans and Democrats feeling the heat from their respective wings to score major policy points just ten short months before the Congressional midterms.
ALABAMA JONES: Newly-minted Democratic Senator Doug Jones instantly narrows Mitch McConnell’s already razor-thin margin and certainly changes the dynamics in that chamber. As evidenced by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s conversion to bipartisan-speak, hope for a conservative 2018 agenda will likely wither on the vine. That means welfare/entitlement reform, repeal of the ACA and other conservative priorities are highly unlikely. Instead, the Senate will focus on issues where compromises can be reached such as infrastructure, spending, and dare we say - immigration. Of course, being from Alabama, Jones will have to vote with the Republicans on occasion, but that won’t help McConnell fend off friendly fire from the other side of the dome.
DELAY OF PLAY: States are running out of funding for the CHIP, which expired at the end of September and was put on a limited lifeline during the December CR extension. Funding was only extended until March, with no permanent solution in sight. While the program has bipartisan support, Congress has been searching for a solution to fund it and Governors are warning Congress of the major costs of running out of money and are asking them to take concrete action. House Ways and Means Chair Kevin Brady (R-TX) put together a health reform bill, but it almost entirely focuses on delaying Obamacare taxes- medical devices for five years, health insurance for two years, and the "Cadillac tax" on high-cost health plans for one year to be taken up in Committee soon.
CHIP Spending by State according to The Kaiser Family Foundation
SOFTWOOD LUMBER: Canada is challenging the U.S. decision to impose tariffs on softwood lumber. The Administration claims that Canada unfairly subsidizes their industry making it difficult for U.S. lumbers to compete. However, Canada has won similar anti-dumping challenges with the International Trade Commission in the past. The tariffs are hurting the Canadian industry, but also raising the prices for U.S. importers. This is all unfolding in the midst of the NAFTA negotiations, which, needless to say, have been intense to date. The sixth round of NAFTA is set to begin at the end of January and Canada and the U.S. will likely loop this fight into compromises.
MEDICARE ADVANTAGE ADVANCE NOTICE PART ONE | CONTINUING SLOW ROLL TO REPLACE FFS - HUM, AET, UNH, ANTM: Our Senior Health Policy Analyst Emily Evans writes the unusually early notice implements risk adjustment for chronic disease and mental health diagnosis as required by 21st Century Cures Act. Read the full piece here.
REITS TO THE RESCUE? A TAX REFORM IMPACTS | HCA, THC, CYH, LPNT, HCN, MPW: Our Senior Health Policy Analyst Emily Evans writes the interest deduction limitation is bad news for most hospitals, but REIT exclusion offers a strategy of sorts. Read the full piece here.
TRUMP RAISES IRAN TOUGH TALK AS JAN 12 OIL SANCTIONS WAIVER DEADLINE APPROACHES: Iran protests raise the likelihood of Trump denying a waiver on Iran oil sanctions. A catalyst for U.S. sanctions on one million b/d of Iran crude exports. Read the full piece by Senior Energy Analyst Joe McMonigle here.