Week in Review
As the government shutdown persists, the Senate will vote this afternoon on dueling amendments to a $12.1 billion House-passed emergency disaster aid bill, though neither is expected to get enough support to move forward. The Republican amendment, dubbed the End the Shutdown and Secure the Border Act, would reopen and fund the departments and agencies currently subject to the shutdown through the end of the fiscal year, fulfill the President’s request for $5.7 billion to build a border wall, and implement a number of immigration-related initiatives that Democrats generally oppose. The Democratic amendment, which passed the Senate in December, is a continuing resolution through February 8 to allow more time to reach a longer-term deal. The votes are the first the Senate will take to reopen the government.
The House continues to pass bills this week to reopen the government, including measures to fund the Department of Homeland Security at current levels through February 28 and the remaining agencies subject to the shutdown through September 30. None of the bills have reached the Senate floor amid veto threats from the President for failing to fund a border wall.
On Wednesday, the President hosted a roundtable on healthcare pricing transparency with patients who unexpectedly received large medical bills. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar, Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta, and National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow were among the other officials in attendance. The roundtable preceded two hearings scheduled for next Tuesday during which the Senate Finance and House Oversight and Reform Committees will examine drug pricing.
Upon taking office on January 3, Speaker Pelosi (D-CA) invited the President to deliver the State of the Union this coming Tuesday, January 29, but later wrote to Trump suggesting that he postpone the address until the government reopens. This week, the President wrote to Pelosi that he would give his address as planned. Pelosi responded that she will not bring up a resolution to authorize the President to deliver an address from the House chamber, prompting the President to say he is exploring alternative options. Last night, he announced he would postpone plans to deliver his State of the Union until the government reopens. In the meantime, the House Republican conference also postponed plans to hold a retreat at the end of the month due to the shutdown.
House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee to Hold Hearing on Net Neutrality
This week, House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology Chairman Doyle (D-PA) announced he will convene a hearing in early February to examine the impact of the FCC’s 2017 decision to repeal net neutrality rules. Democratic regulators and lawmakers strongly criticized the Restoring Internet Freedom Order for endangering consumers’ access to the internet.
Doyle led efforts during the 115th Congress to restore net neutrality rules through a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution. The Senate passed its own CRA resolution in the spring of 2018 with support from three Republicans, but actions stalled in the House as Democrats - then in the minority - were unable to secure enough support for a discharge petition to bring the measure to the floor. Now in the majority, House Democrats will renew efforts to pass net neutrality legislation during the 116th Congress. Doyle suggested this week that he is working on a bill. However, with Senate Republicans adding to their majority during the 2018 elections, it remains to be seen whether Senate Democrats will be able to move another net neutrality measure.
DOT Extends Window to Comment on Connected Vehicle Communications
The Department of Transportation will consider submissions to its request for comments on connected vehicle communications received after the January 25 comment deadline due to the partial government shutdown. While the deadline officially remains in place, DOT will consider all comments received within the following 30 calendar days.
DOT published the request for comments on December 26 seeking input on the development - and the Department’s role in integrating - connected vehicle communications, including vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V), vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I), and vehicle-to-pedestrian (V2P) communications, or V2X, collectively.
To date, DOT has focused on dedicated short-range communications (DRSC) in the 5.9 GHz band for connected vehicles. For example, a 2017 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) notice of proposed rulemaking suggested that DSRC should be the primary communication medium for new light-duty vehicles, but that other mediums could be viable options provided they meet performance and interoperability standards. The new request for comments notes that developments in Cellular-V2X (C-V2X) and 5G communications could present new opportunities and seeks input on innovation in these areas, including timelines for deployment.
Consumer Privacy at Remains at Forefront of State, Federal Policy Debates
Today, the California Department of Justice hosted the third of six public forums on the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) soliciting public feedback to inform forthcoming rulemaking under the sweeping state consumer privacy law. The listening sessions, which California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced in December, provide an opportunity for the public and private sector to share input, either by presenting at the forums or by submitting written comments, on the regulations. To date, a number of company representatives and lawyers have attended the sessions to offer comments on a range of topics, including interpretation of the law, the role of the California Department of Justice versus District and City Attorneys in enforcing the regulations, and lessons learned from the EU’s rollout of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Department officials have encouraged interested stakeholders to both submit written comments and propose specific regulatory language for consideration. The California DOJ must adopt by July 1, 2020 specific regulations based on key requirements established under the June 2018 law. Of note, California lawmakers are expected to introduce a number of measures aimed at carving out specific stakeholders from CCPA requirements. A number of states across the U.S. are also slated to introduce and consider consumer privacy measures throughout this legislative period.
Meanwhile, policymakers in Washington have resumed discussions on the development of a federal consumer privacy framework, despite the ongoing government shutdown. Since the beginning of the 116th Congress, a number of lawmakers have introduced consumer privacy legislation. Sen. Rubio (R-FL) introduced the American Data Dissemination (ADD) Act, legislation that would establish a national consumer data privacy law pulling from the Privacy Act of 1974. Sens. Klobuchar (D-MN) and Kennedy (R-LA) reintroduced the Social Media Privacy and Consumer Rights Act, legislation aimed at protecting the privacy of consumers’ online data by improving transparency, expanding consumers’ recourse options in the event of a data breach, and requiring companies to comply with privacy policies that protect consumers.
Discussions also continue between Senate Commerce Committee members and staff. Just this week, Chairman Wicker (R-MS) held a closed-door meeting for members and staff to discuss consumer data privacy with three former FTC commissioners, including former Democratic Chairman Jon Leibowitz; former Democratic Commissioner Julie Brill; and former Republican Commissioner Maureen Ohlhausen. A draft consumer privacy measure is expected to be the first major legislation introduced out of the Senate Commerce Committee this year. In the lower chamber, privacy legislation remains near the top of the agenda for new House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Pallone (D-NJ).
The Administration, through the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), is also exploring a potential federal framework, though bipartisan leaders in both chambers have made clear their belief that Congress should use its authority to drive the process.