Opportunities for Bipartisan Legislation in the 115th Congress
Is it really true that Congress is hopelessly gridlocked? What would a bipartisan Congressional agenda look like? Will Democrats still have an opportunity to pass legislation with both Congress and the White House in Republican hands? Qorvis MSLGROUP set out to identify examples of bipartisan legislation that could pass in the next session of Congress.
By Wyeth Ruthven | Vice President
For our methodology, we selected bills that already had the co-sponsorship of a majority of the House of Representatives. Among bills with 218 or more cosponsors, we then narrowed our search to bills with broad bipartisan support, defined as bills having at least 100 Republican and 100 Democratic cosponsors.
Some of these bills may still become law in the lame duck session of Congress. Key provisions of other bills could be enacted unilaterally by their respective regulatory agencies. But as Washington looks ahead to a new Presidential administration and a new Congress, the bills discussed below represent the best possible chance for bipartisan consensus.
Disclosure: Qorvis MSLGROUP supported clients working on two of these bills in the 114th Congress — the HOPE for Alzheimer’s Act and the Pharmacy and Medically Underserved Areas Enhancement Act.
The Most Bipartisan Bill in Congress: Helping Vietnam Veterans
The bill we identified as having the broadest bipartisan support was H.R. 969, a measure to extend service-connected veterans benefits to those veterans exposed to Agent Orange while serving in the territorial waters of Vietnam.
Healthcare and Infrastructure Dominate the List of Bipartisan Bills
It may seem counterintuitive after seven years of wrangling over the Affordable Care Act, but healthcare is the largest source of bipartisan legislation on Capitol Hill. Of the 17 bipartisan bills we identified, 70 percent of them had to do with treating specific diseases or extending Medicare coverage to specific medical procedures. With respect to infrastructure, two bipartisan bills were introduced that extend tax credits for maintenance of short line railroad tracks and promote the manufacture of concrete masonry products.
Three Cheers for Beer
On a lighter note, we note the bipartisan appeal of H.R.2903: Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act of 2015. The bill makes it easier for craft breweries to file excise taxes, and reduces such tax rates on beer, wine, and distilled spirits produced in the United States. Such a bill demonstrates the power that a well-organized and geographically dispersed lobby can have on Congress. With craft breweries in all 50 states, every Member of Congress has a natural constituency they can appeal to with their co-sponsorship of H.R. 2903.
Full List of Bipartisan Bills Still Pending in the 114th Congress
H.R.969: Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2015
Sponsor: Rep. Christopher Gibson [R-NY]
335 Cosponsors (176 Democrats, 159 Republicans)
The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2015 includes as part of the Republic of Vietnam its territorial seas for purposes of the presumption of service connection for diseases associated with exposure by veterans to certain herbicide agents while in Vietnam. This would grant presumptive Agent Orange exposure status to U.S. service members who served in the territorial seas of Vietnam during the Vietnam War. Presumptive coverage would enable eligible veterans to receive Veterans Affairs benefits if they suffer from any of the diseases the U.S. government has linked to Agent Orange.
H.R.699: Email Privacy Act
Sponsor: Rep. Kevin Yoder [R-KS]
314 Cosponsors (118 Democrats, 196 Republicans)
The Email Privacy Act amends the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 to prohibit a provider of remote computing service or electronic communication service to the public from knowingly divulging to a governmental entity the contents of any communication that is in electronic storage or otherwise maintained by the provider. The bill updates the privacy protections for electronic communication information third-party service providers store in order to protect consumer privacy interests. H.R. 699 extends the Fourth Amendment protections to privacy that Americans receive from hard mail and other paper documents are extended to electronic correspondence and other content stored in “the cloud.” It requires the government to obtain a warrant from a court before requiring providers to disclose the content of such communications, regardless of how long the communication has been held in electronic storage by an electronic communication service or whether the information is sought from an electronic communication service or a remote computing service.
H.R.2903: Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act of 2015
Sponsor: Rep. Erik Paulsen [R-MN]
284 Cosponsors (112 Democrats, 172 Republicans)
The Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act of 2015 amends the Internal Revenue Code to allow taxpayers who are liable for not more than $50,000 per year in excise taxes on distilled spirits, wine, or beer to file and pay such taxes quarterly without the requirement of posting a bond. The bill reduces excise tax rates on beer, wine, and distilled spirits produced in the United States; modifies the definition of “hard cider” for excise tax purposes; and exempts home distillery establishments that produce distilled spirits solely for personal or family use.
H.R.721: Short Line Railroad Rehabilitation and Investment Act of 2015
Sponsor: Rep. Lynn Jenkins [R-KS]
262 Cosponsors (109 Democrats, 153 Republicans)
The Short Line Railroad Rehabilitation and Investment Act of 2015 amends the Internal Revenue Code, with respect to the tax credit for railroad track maintenance. The bill expands the types of maintenance expenditures eligible for such credit, and extends such credit through 2016. This tax credit can be used to redevelop track and track spurs critical to the first and last mile of connectivity to factories, grain elevators, power plants, refineries, mines, and other facilities. Short line railroads provide the key transportation link for rail customers employing more than one million Americans. H.R. 721 helps maximize private infrastructure investment and allows these railroads to provide their customers with more customized and competitively priced service.
H.R.985: Concrete Masonry Products Research, Education, and Promotion Act of 2015 Sponsor: Rep. Brett Guthrie [R-KY]
247 Cosponsors (113 Democrats, 134 Republicans)
H.R. 985 directs the Department of Commerce to issue orders for the promotion of manufacture of concrete masonry products. The Commerce Department would establish a Concrete Masonry Products Board to carry out a program of generic promotion, research, and education regarding concrete masonry products. The Board will be funded from quarterly assessments paid by manufacturers for any concrete masonry products manufactured at an initial assessment rate of $0.01 per concrete masonry unit sold, and not to exceed $0.05 per unit.
H.R.1559: Health Outcomes, Planning, and Education (HOPE) for Alzheimer’s Act of 2015
Sponsor: Rep. Christopher Smith [R-NJ]
307 Cosponsors (172 Democrats, 135 Republicans)
The HOPE for Alzheimer’s Act amends Title XVIII of the Social Security Act to cover comprehensive Alzheimer’s disease care planning services under Medicare. The bill provides coverage for comprehensive care planning services to Medicare beneficiaries and their caregivers following a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. H.R. 1559 requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to conduct provider outreach to inform practitioners about the services under the HOPE benefit; and requires HHS to report to Congress on barriers Medicare beneficiaries face in accessing the services.
H.R.592: Pharmacy and Medically Underserved Areas Enhancement Act
Sponsor: Rep. Brett Guthrie [R-KY]
293 Cosponsors (133 Democrats, 160 Republicans)
The Pharmacy and Medically Underserved Areas Enhancement Act will enable Medicare beneficiaries access to pharmacist-provided services under Medicare Part B by amending Section 1861(s)(2) of the Social Security Act. These services would be reimbursable under Medicare Part B if they are provided in medically underserved communities and consistent with state scope of practice laws. H.R. 592 seeks to increase access and improve quality by enabling pharmacists to provide patient care services in areas designated as medically underserved by the Department of Health and Human Services. Pharmacists would provide services consistent with their education, training and license.
H.R.1220: Removing Barriers to Colorectal Cancer Screening Act of 2015
Sponsor: Rep. Charles Dent [R-PA]
285 Cosponsors (156 Democrats, 129 Republicans)
H.R. 1220 amends Title XVIII of the Social Security Act to waive coinsurance for colorectal cancer screening tests (in order to cover 100% of their cost under Medicare Part B. Coinsurance would be waived regardless of the code billed for a diagnosis as a result of a test, or for the removal of tissue or other procedure furnished in connection with, as a result of, and in the same clinical encounter as the screening test.
H.R.1197: Accelerating the End of Breast Cancer Act of 2015
Sponsor: Rep. Kathy Castor [D-FL]
273 Co-Sponsors (169 Democrats, 104 Republicans)
The Accelerating the End of Breast Cancer Act of 2015 directs the President to establish the Commission to Accelerate the End of Breast Cancer to help end breast cancer by January 1, 2020. The Commission will identify opportunities and ideas within government and the private sector that are key components in achieving the end of breast cancer and which have been overlooked, yet are ripe for collaboration and investment. The Commission will recommend projects to leverage such opportunities and ideas in the areas of the primary prevention of breast cancer and the causes and prevention of breast cancer metastasis; and ensure that its activities are coordinated with and not duplicative of existing programs.
H.R.1427: Medicare CGM Access Act of 2015
Sponsor: Rep. Tom Reed [R-NY]
269 Cosponsors (152 Democrats, 117 Republicans)
The Medicare CGM Access Act of 2015 amends Title XVIII of the Social Security Act to provide Medicare coverage of continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) devices furnished to a CGM qualified individual. The Department of Health and Human Services must establish a fee schedule and ensure that CGM qualified individuals are furnished with appropriate device components.
H.R.3381: Childhood Cancer STAR Act
Sponsor: Rep. Michael McCaul [R-TX]
266 Cosponsors (157 Democrats, 109 Republicans)
The Childhood Cancer Survivorship, Treatment, Access, and Research (STAR) Act amends the Public Health Service Act to permit the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to provide support to collect the medical specimens and information of children, adolescents, and young adults with cancer to improve the understanding of these cancers and of the effects of treatment. It reauthorizes the National Childhood Cancer Registry and requires the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to award grants to states to improve tracking of childhood cancers. H.R. 3381 also amends the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to require manufacturers and distributors of investigational drugs to publish policies for compassionate use of the drugs.
H.R.842: Huntington’s Disease Parity Act of 2015
Sponsor: Rep. Adam Kinzinger [R-IL]
264 Cosponsors (153 Democrats, 111 Republicans)
The Huntington’s Disease Parity Act of 2015 directs the Commissioner of Social Security to include Huntington’s Disease for purposes of determining cognitive, behavioral, and physical disability under Title II (Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance) and Title XVI (Supplemental Security Income) of the Social Security Act. It amends specified Listings of Impairments by providing medical and evaluation criteria for Huntington’s Disease. The bill waives waive the 24-month waiting period for Medicare coverage for individuals diagnosed with Huntington’s Disease.
H.R.1608: Lymphedema Treatment Act
Sponsor: Rep. David Reichert [R-WA]
249 Cosponsors (140 Democrats, 109 Republicans)
The Lymphedema Treatment Act amends Title XVIII of the Social Security Act to extend Medicare coverage to certain lymphedema compression treatment items as durable medical equipment. The bill closes a Medicare coverage gap for equipment and therapies (including compression garments) used to treat the nearly 6 million Americans suffering from lymphedema.
H.R.775: Medicare Access to Rehabilitation Services Act of 2015
Sponsor: Rep. Charles Boustany [R-LA]
237 Cosponsors (133 Democrats, 104 Republicans)
The Medicare Access to Rehabilitation Services Act of 2015 amends Title XVIII of the Social Security Act to repeal the caps on Medicare outpatient rehabilitation physical therapy services and speech-language pathology services. The therapy cap was first enacted in 1997, but was suspended 13 times as part of the so-called “doc fix” to the Sustainable Growth Rate. Following the permanent repeal of the SGR formula, the arbitrary cap on outpatient therapy was merely suspended through December 31, 2017. H.R. 775 would permanently repeal the therapy cap.
H.R.6: 21st Century Cures Act
Sponsor: Rep. Fred Upton [R-MI]
230 Cosponsors (121 Democrats, 109 Republicans)
The 21st Century Cures Act establishes a Cures Innovation Fund within the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to fund biomedical research and provide new incentives for the development of drugs for rare diseases. This includes high-risk, high-reward research and research conducted by early stage investigators. H.R. 6 directs NIH to develop and implement a strategic plan for biomedical research, removes barriers to increased research collaboration, and incorporates the patient perspective into the drug development and regulatory review process. The bill also modernizes clinical trials through the use of personalized medicine allows greater use of patient generated registries that speed the recruitment of participants.
H.R.1192: National Diabetes Clinical Care Commission Act
Sponsor: Rep. Pete Olson [R-TX]
229 Cosponsors (126 Democrats, 103 Republicans)
The National Diabetes Clinical Care Commission Act amends the Public Health Service Act to establish within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) the National Diabetes Clinical Care Commission to evaluate and recommend solutions regarding better coordination of federal programs that relate to clinical care for people with pre-diabetes, diabetes, and the chronic diseases and conditions that are complications of or caused by diabetes.
H.R.546: ACE Kids Act of 2015
Sponsor: Rep. Joe Barton [R-TX]
222 Cosponsors (119 Democrats, 103 Republicans)
The Advancing Care for Exceptional (ACE) Kids Act amends Title XIX (Medicaid) and Title XXI (Children’s Health Insurance) of the Social Security Act to allow a state, at its option, to elect to provide medical assistance for items and services furnished to eligible children with medically complex conditions enrolled in a Medicaid Children’s Care Coordination (MCCC) program. The bill creates nationally designated children’s hospital networks to serve these children. These networks would coordinate the full range of home, primary, ambulatory, acute and post-acute care/providers. Based on the health needs and family preference, each eligible child will be matched with a network. Children’s hospitals would anchor these networks because of their expertise and experience in treating the unique and highly specialized needs of these children. The hospital networks would enable the gathering of national level data on rare and complex conditions to determine best practices and drive continued improvement in care.