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More than five months remain in 2019, but U.S. congressional leaders are already running out of time as they face a long list of must-pass bills before year’s end. Although some of these bills do not affect the electronics industry, some of them do, and the overall agenda does affect the opportunities and risks we face.
Twelve annual appropriations bills, providing funding for various government agencies and programs, top the list of must-pass legislation. But first, Congress needs to approve new budget caps. Without such a deal, automatic budget cuts known as sequestration could take effect on October 1. The White House and congressional leaders have reportedly agreed on a two-year budget deal and hope to have it approved before the August recess.
The package to raise the budget caps is related to an effort to increase the nation’s debt limit. The U.S. Treasury is currently taking extraordinary measures to finance U.S. government operations and cover debt obligations, although most experts believe the Treasury can manage the situation through the end of this fiscal year, September 30.
Once the budget caps are established, congressional appropriators can get back to finalizing their spending bills. IPC is pushing for passage of regular, full-year spending bills for 2020, both for the certainty they provide and because we want Congress to carve out funding for lead-free electronics R&D.
On another front, the Trump administration is pressing Congress to act on the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Like many other industry associations, IPC is urging Congress to approve the USMCA because it would help our industry grow by expanding market opportunities and supply chain integration.
The U.S. Trade Representative is working with Congress to address various concerns, and I believe the agreement may come to a vote in November or December. However, House Speaker Pelosi is unlikely to give President Trump a win on USMCA without concessions on a budget deal and/or other issues.
Here’s a rundown of congressional priorities that could see action this fall:
• National Defense Authorization Act: Expect passage this fall, including several provisions of interest to the electronics industry.
• Taxes: A hodgepodge of leadership-supported, tax-related bills are floating around, which could come together and create momentum to get a bill done.
• Healthcare/Drug Prices: Congressional leaders are negotiating a bill to address surprise medical bills, pay-for-delay, Medicare negotiations, rebates, and more. Piecemeal reforms have bipartisan support, but any such bill could easily be derailed by partisan divisions.
• Immigration: We could see enactment of legislation to adjust or eliminate the per-country caps on “green cards.” The House has already passed such a bill, and a bipartisan companion bill has been introduced in the Senate. But we should not expect to see anything more ambitious on immigration given the chasm between the White House and congressional Democrats.
• Infrastructure: There is plenty of bipartisan support for the idea of an infrastructure bill, but differences on financing are likely to derail this effort as they have in the past.
• Higher Ed Reauthorization: This effort is moving slowly, but bipartisan negotiations are taking place, and this is the kind of bill that Congress could take up next year despite election-year tensions.
Congress also needs to deal with several “must-pass” items just to maintain the status quo, including:
• September 30, 2019 Deadline:
- Flood insurance
- Ex-Im Bank
- Highway rescission
- Secure Rural Schools program
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
- Delaying cuts in the Medicaid Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) program
- Community health center funding, and other public health programs
• December 31, 2019 Deadline:
- Health insurance tax
- Medical device tax
- Alcohol Beverage Tax
- Paid family and medical leave tax credit
- New Markets and Work Opportunity tax credits
- Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act Authorization expires
As always, your IPC Government Relations team will continue to monitor all policy developments that affect the electronics industry and will keep you informed.