GAVEL DOWN: Closing out the Week in Congress

5 min read

The House was on recess and electoral politics ruled the headlines. Meanwhile in the Senate, a sweeping bill to combat opioid abuse passed 94-1, and an FAA reauthorization bill was introduced.

Top Search on POPVOX this week: "Gun"


Most active bill on POPVOX this week:

Senate passes opioid and addiction bill

Senate passed Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (S. 524) 94-1, with Sen. Ben Sasse [R, NE] in opposition saying he's "not convincing fighting addiction…is best addressed at the federal level."  The broad drug treatment and prevention bill is the largest of its kind in nearly a decade. 

SponsorSen. Sheldon Whitehouse [D, RI]

CARA includes provisions to:

  • Expand the availability of naloxone to law enforcement agencies and other responders to help in the reversal of overdoses
  • Expand disposal sites for unwanted prescription medicines
  • Launch an evidence-based opioid and heroin treatment and intervention program to promote best practices throughout the country
  • Increase resources to identify and treat incarcerated individuals suffering from addiction disorders 
  • Launch medication assisted treatment and intervention demonstration program
  • Strengthen prescription drug monitoring programs

So what's next?
Now the bill heads to the House.

FAA Reauthorization plan emerges


FAA authorization expires on March 31. A long-term bill from the House (AIRR Act) has stalled, prompting House members to introduce a short-term extension (until July 15, 2016) to allow for consideration of other approaches. This week, Senate Commerce will mark up its bill that would authorize the FAA until the end of FY 2017.

Short-term FAA Extension introduced in the House:
After a broader FAA reauthorization bill hit turbulence in the Senate over a proposal to privatize the air traffic controller system, House members this week introduced a short-term reauthorization (current authority expires on March 31). The bill (H.R. 4271) from Transportation Chairman Bill Shuster and Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady extends FAA authorization through July 15, 2016 (but would allow the agency to continue collecting excise taxes until the spring of next year.)

Senate Commerce to mark up FAA Reauthorization through 2017
"The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2016 (S. 2658) reauthorizes the Federal Aviation Administration and related programs through the end of fiscal year 2017 (September 30, 2017). The legislation updates the safety and privacy framework to further drone development, offers reforms to help our aerospace industry better compete in a global economy, improves aviation safety, and expands consumer protections for airline passengers. " according to the Senate Commerce Committee. Read the Section-by-Section summary.

Senate passed presidential transition bill

Senate unanimously approved House passed Presidential Transitions Improvements Act of 2015 (S. 1172). The bill is aimed at smoothing the presidential transition process by directing federal agencies to begin high-level preparations six months before the November election. The bill is in response to 15 year effort to improve the presidential transition process and would appoint a federal transition coordinator to work with candidates. The bill lengthens the amount of time for which transition services can be provided by the federal government from 30 days to 180 days after the president's inauguration. The bill is now headed for President Obama's desk.

Bill Updates

  • Senate HELP held second of three planned markups of medical innovation bills, designed to be companion legislation to House's 21st Century Cures Act. Several bills advanced: 






    • Warren bill to expand priority review voucher program for rare pediatric diseases
    • Burr bill to expedite the development and review of designated medical devices
    • Bennet bill re: medical device classifications 
    • Burr bill to amend the Public Health Service Act and the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act with respect to national health security
    • Isakson bill to amend the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act with respect to combination products
    • Wicker bill to require documentation of patient engagement to accompany approval of new drugs
    • Franken bill to add Zika virus to list of tropical disease under the priority review voucher program
  • Sen. Raul Paul [R, KY] is looking to force a vote on the State Department's approval of $700M worth of fighter jets to Pakistan, using an obscure Senate rule that allows any Senator to secure a floor vote to disapprove an arms sales. See the resolution, as well as companion resolution in the House.
  • Sen. Bill Nelson [D, FL] placed a hold on energy reform legislation and aid bill for Flint, Michigan, saying he supports the energy bill but "no negotiation part" is the possibility of drilling off of Florida.

New Bills on the Block



Legislative Lowdown: States Edition

  • PA Gov. Tom Wolf signed an executive order to raise the minimum wage for state employees from $7.25 to $10.15.
  • After 39-hour filibuster, Missouri Senate passed bill aimed at protecting faith-based groups from having to condone same-sex marriage.
  • California legislature approved a measure that would make CA the second state to raise the legal age to smoke tobacco from 18 to 21. Now it's off to Gov. Jerry Brown [D].
  • West Virginia legislature approved bill that would screen welfare applicants for drug use. If Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin [D] signs the bill into law, West Virginia would become the fourteenth state to pass a welfare drug testing bill in the last five years.
  • Georgia Senate panel advanced campus carry gun bill.

Weekend Reads

"Income Inequality, Social Mobility, and the Decision to Drop Our of High School" by Melissa Kearney and Phillip Levine, Brookings
"The Amicus Machine" by Alli Orr Larsen and Neal Devins, The Virginia Law Review

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