Welcome to Overnight Regulation, your daily rundown of news from the federal agencies, Capitol Hill, the courts and beyond. It’s Tuesday night, and we’re two days into the tax reform markup. Tune into our coverage for the rest of the week. And catch up here.
THE BIG STORY:
The House on Tuesday evening passed a bill that would overturn an Obama-era National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruling that made companies potentially liable for labor law violations committed by their subcontractors.
The Save Local Business Act, sponsored by Rep. Bradley ByrneBradley Roberts ByrneBill to change joint-employer definition advances in House House votes to ensure gun restoration rights Boehner rebels replaced on committee MORE (R-Ala.), was approved 242-181 despite pushback from Democrats, who argued the bill gives a free pass to unscrupulous companies that steal wages, fail to pay overtime and break child labor laws.
Republicans say the activist labor board under the Obama administration created massive confusion when it ruled in 2015 that an employer is considered a joint employer with a subcontractor if it has “indirect” control over the terms and conditions of employment or has the “reserved authority to do so.”
The bill would change that definition under the National Labor Relations Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act to state a company is only considered a joint employer if it “directly, actually and immediately” has control over essential terms and conditions of employment.
“The legislation simply restores a common-sense joint-employer standard,” House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairwoman Virginia FoxxVirginia Ann FoxxBill to change joint-employer definition advances in House Reporter beats lawmakers to win charity spelling bee America’s workers, job creators need the Save Local Business Act MORE (R-N.C.) said on the floor.
“And it does so in a way that upholds vital worker protections and ensures all employers know their responsibilities to their employees,” she said.
But Rep. Bobby ScottBobby ScottDems aim to boost black turnout in Virginia governor’s race Overnight Regulation: Trump issues order to ease ObamaCare rules | NRA opposes bill banning bump stocks | Dems propose writing campus sex assault guidance into law Dems unveil bill to write campus sexual assault guidance into law MORE (D-Va.) said the legislation provides no guidance as to how many of the nine essential terms and conditions of employment an employer must control to be considered a joint-employer.
ON TAP FOR WEDNESDAY:
The House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee will hold a hearing on the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act, titled “MACRA and Alternative Payment Models: Developing Options for Value-based Care” at 10 a.m.
A House Financial Services Subcommittee will convene for a hearing titled “Administration Priorities for the International Financial Institutions” at 10 a.m.
The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will consider nominations at 10 a.m.
The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will also consider nominations at 10 a.m.
The Senate Judiciary Committee will convene for a hearing titled “The Impact of Lawsuit Abuse on American Small Businesses and Job Creators” at 10 a.m.
Health: After months of waiting, states received the official word from a top Trump official: The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will approve work requirements for certain Medicaid beneficiaries.
The remarks by CMS administrator Seema Verma Tuesday are a significant departure from the Obama administration’s approach to such requests.
Several states have already proposed work requirements, and Verma’s comments indicate a willingness to fast-track those approvals.
The Obama administration repeatedly said work requirements were inconsistent with Medicaid’s mission of providing health care to low-income people.
According to Verma, allowing states to impose work requirements is an essential part of granting them more flexibility. Making Medicaid beneficiaries work will ensure they bring themselves out of poverty.
“Let me be clear to everyone in this room, we will approve proposals that promote community engagement activities,” Verma said. She defined “community engagement activities” as working, receiving job training, going to school or volunteering.
The speech was Verma’s most detailed explanation of the direction she wants to take the program. She also sharply criticized the Obama administration’s opposition to work requirements.
Context: Eight states — Arizona, Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, New Hampshire, Maine, Utah and Wisconsin — have submitted requests to CMS seeking to require nondisabled Medicaid enrollees to either work or provide community service, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Health/Defense: The FDA chief wants to keep medical device and drug approvals under the agency’s purview.
Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said the agency should retain control over medical device and drug approvals after a provision in the defense policy bill would give this power to the Defense Department for soldiers.
Gottlieb pointed to an alternative proposal he supports that, he said, would accelerate drug and device approvals at the FDA for the battlefield.
“That’s important because we think we provide a level of oversight that helps ensure the safety of products, helps follow-up to make sure that if there are adverse events we’re monitoring them, we’re collecting that information,” Gottlieb said at The Hill event Tuesday on opioid prevention sponsored by the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association, a trade group for pharmacy benefit managers.
At issue is a provision of the Senate’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) now going through conference committee. The measure would allow the Pentagon to sign off on unapproved medical devices and drugs to be used on military personnel for emergency use, which Politico first reported Monday. Approving drugs and devices is currently FDA’s responsibility.
The Senate Armed Service Committee’s conference report defended the proposal, saying quick approval of medical products that the Pentagon says could help save lives on the battlefield, has been difficult.
Gottlieb said alternative language has been shared with both chambers’ Armed Service Committees and that he is willing to make modifications to this language.
Environment: A group of mostly Democratic lawmakers on Tuesday slammed a new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) policy designed to overhaul the agency’s scientific advisory panels.
In a letter to EPA Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott Pruitt19 sens question EPA methodology behind Clean Power Plan repeal Overnight Energy: House panels open probes into Whitefish power deal with Puerto Rico Trump’s Senate oversight holiday must end MORE, 62 members of the House said his new policy blocking scientists who receive EPA grants from serving on the agency’s science panels is an “arbitrary and unnecessary limitation to disqualify preeminent experts” from advising the agency.
“We are alarmed at the signal this sends about the EPA’s willingness to seek out objective, independent scientific expertise in fulfilling its mandate to protect the environment,” the members wrote in their letter.
Rep. Bill FosterGeorge (Bill) William FosterHouse GOP’s new challengers: Scientists mulling campaigns Dems crowd primaries to challenge GOP reps Lawmakers talk climate for Earth Day, Science March MORE (D-Ill.) led the letter, which included one Republican — Rep. Brian FitzpatrickBrian K. FitzpatrickHouse adopts Senate budget, takes step toward tax reform MORE (R-Pa.).
Energy: A coalition of 20 energy groups and companies argued Tuesday that the supporters of Energy Secretary Rick PerryJames (Rick) Richard PerryA renaissance to reverse US strategic minerals imports: Dig, Baby, Dig Week ahead: Senate to vote on disaster relief bill Perry is safeguarding America’s energy grid against next Polar Vortex MORE‘s proposal to prop up coal and nuclear plants haven’t proven a need for the regulation.
The coalition, which includes strange bedfellows representing natural gas, oil, wind energy and solar energy, asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to scrap the proposal, saying the comments filed by supporters don’t show a legal justification for it.
“The record in this proceeding, including the initial comments, does not support the discriminatory payments proposed” by Perry, the groups wrote.
Finance: The Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday unanimously approved new financial sanctions targeting North Korea and the businesses who help finance Kim Jong Un’s government.
The Banking panel voted to recommend the Otto Warmbier Banking Restrictions Involving North Korea (BRINK) Act after a Tuesday markup. The bill’s namesake was a college student from Ohio who died earlier this year after being imprisoned and tortured by North Korean officials while visiting the country.
What it does: The bill targets the network of front companies, bank accounts, and private businesses the North Korean government uses to fund its military and operations.
Gun background checks: Sen. John CornynJohn CornynAdvocates pan Trump effort on opioid crisis Dallas Morning News: Cornyn ‘betrays’ GOP by backing Roy Moore Overnight Finance: House adopts Senate budget, taking step to tax reform | GOP worries Trump feuds will endanger tax plan | Trump talks NAFTA withdrawal with senators | Treasury calls for looser oversight of insurers MORE (R-Texas) said on Tuesday that he will introduce legislation aimed at strengthening the gun background check system in the wake of a deadly mass shooting in his home state.
“I plan to introduce legislation … to ensure that all federal departments and agencies, including the Department of Defense, upload the required conviction records into the national database,” Cornyn said.
The Texas Republican, citing the Justice Department, added that the number of records currently being shared with the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) is “staggeringly low.”
“That is unacceptable and it must change.”
Technology: The European Union’s competition chief said that she has asked Apple for information about its current tax structure as the regulator seeks to recover billions in back taxes from the tech giant.
“I have been asking for an update on the arrangement made by Apple, the recent way they have been organized, in order to get the feeling whether or not this is in accordance with our European rules but that remains to be seen,” Margrethe Vestager said during a news conference in Lisbon, Portugal, on Tuesday, according to Reuters.
Vestager, the European competition commissioner, ruled last year that Ireland had been granting Apple illegal tax benefits and ordered the iPhone maker to pay about $15 billion in back taxes. Last month, she said that regulators would be taking Ireland to court for failing to collect the money.
More technology: Waymo, a subsidiary of Google parent company Alphabet, has started to test fully autonomous cars on public roads.
Since October, Waymo has been testing fully autonomous cars on roads in and around Phoenix without a safety driver, unlike other companies who have been conducting their tests on predetermined routes or on a demo track.
The company says that over the next few months it will begin to offer self-driving car rides to members of the public in Phoenix as it expands its testing of the technology.
In Congress, efforts to ease regulatory restrictions that allow driverless cars have been moving forward — in September the House passed legislation on the matter. The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee reached a deal to approve of the legislation later that month, and it’s now waiting to be taken up by the Senate for a vote.
IN THE NEWS
Uber, rival apps join forces in Brazil to stem tide of regulation (Reuters)
Regulation can’t solve cybersecurity problems, Fed official says (Bloomberg)
Fed’s new regulatory point man: Everything is on the table (The Wall Street Journal)
China aircraft exports cleared for takeoff under FAA deal (The Wall Street Journal)