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Ways and Means offers its own plan on surprise medical bills
New proposal could complicate efforts to enact a rival bill before year’s end

Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., and ranking member Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, said the committee would take up the proposal early next year. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Study shows growing ocean damage as protection bills languish
Finds most ocean acidification, which harms marine life and coastal economies, has been triggered by 88 companies, including Exxon Mobil

A slide shows growing acidification of the world’s oceans during a presentation of data at a climate conference in Spain earlier this month.  (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

As lawmakers push legislation to protect the nation’s coastal waters, scientists are placing much of the blame for degrading ocean conditions on emissions from large energy companies including Exxon Mobil Corp., which was cleared Tuesday in a long-running climate court case.

A study published Wednesday in the scientific journal Environmental Research Letters found that carbon emissions from the largest energy and cement companies are responsible for more than half of a damaging side effect: increasing acidity in the planet’s oceans, which harms marine life and coastal economies.

Stakes high as long-awaited drug pricing vote nears in House
Parties, president could seek broad compromise before 2020 election as signal to voters

Ways and Means Health Subcommittee Chairman Lloyd Doggett is pushing for amendments to the Democratic drug pricing bill that would extend Medicare prices to uninsured individuals and give Medicare the ability to negotiate for all drugs, not just the most expensive products. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

When House Democrats vote Thursday on their signature drug pricing negotiation measure, they will be seeking to show that they are addressing an issue that prompted voters to give them the majority and demonstrate that impeachment isn’t stopping them from legislating. 

The political power of the drug price issue isn’t lost on either party. House Republicans unveiled their own drug pricing bill Monday, soon after Senate Finance Chairman Charles E. Grassley of Iowa announced changes to his own version on Friday. The Democratic National Committee and five state parties are launching new web videos and hosting several events aimed at drawing a contrast on health care with Republicans, according to plans shared first with CQ Roll Call.

Craft distillers, retailers wait anxiously for tax extenders
Stakeholders predict layoffs, hiring freezes if deal is not struck by end of year

Rep. Denver Riggleman says it would be “disastrous” for his wife’s Virginia distillery if a 2017 provision that cut excise taxes is not extended past its Dec. 31 expiration date. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Republican Rep. Denver Riggleman says a looming tax increase on small craft distillers will lead to layoffs at the distillery his family operates in Afton, Virginia, where they make a handful of spirits with colorful names like Strange Monkey Gin and Blackback Bourbon.

And Jeff Quint, a Swisher, Iowa, distillery owner who makes bourbon from corn grown on his family farm, says the demise of the small distillers’ break will force him to rethink new hires he’d been planning.

Deal banning surprise medical bills also ups tobacco purchase age to 21
The agreement raises the odds of Congress passing legislation meant to lower some health care costs this year

Chairman Greg Walden, R-Ore., left, and Ranking Member Frank Pallone, D-N.J., talk during a House Energy and Commerce Committee markup in 2017. Walden, Pallone and Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., announced a tentative deal to ban surprise medical bills Sunday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Key House and Senate committee leaders announced a bipartisan agreement Sunday on draft legislation to prohibit surprise medical bills and raise the legal age to purchase tobacco to 21.

The agreement raises the odds of Congress clearing measures intended to lower some health care costs before the end of the year.

Senators renew drug price push ahead of House Democrats' vote
Congress “needs to show courage and finally act,” Grassley says

The renewed push on drug pricing legislation by Senate HELP leaders Charles E. Grassley, right, and Ron Wyden comes ahead of a planned House vote on Democrats’ signature drug price negotiation bill. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Leaders of the Senate Finance Committee on Friday unveiled an updated version of their bipartisan drug pricing bill, though it’s unclear if the changes will appease skeptical Republican senators.

The renewed push for Republican support by Chairman Charles E. Grassley of Iowa and the committee’s ranking Democrat, Ron Wyden of Oregon, comes ahead of a planned House vote next week on Democrats’ signature drug price negotiation bill.

Photos of the Week
The week of Dec. 6 as captured by Roll Call’s photojournalists

The Capitol Christmas Tree was lit on the West Front of the Capitol on Wednesday evening. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

Senate confirms Brouillette to succeed Perry as Energy secretary
Republican donor and former business executive will take over one of the most technically complicated departments in the federal bureaucracy

Brouillette before his confirmation hearing in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Nov. 14. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The Senate voted 70-15 Monday evening to confirm Dan Brouillette to succeed Rick Perry as Energy secretary. 

President Donald Trump nominated Brouillette, a long-time Republican donor and former business executive for Ford Motor Co. and USAA who worked at DOE during the George W. Bush administration, after Perry said in October he would step down.

Disputed butane tax credit could cost nearly $50 billion
Estimate from Joint Committee on Taxation could give stalled tax extenders talks new urgency

Thomas Barthold, chief of staff to the Joint Committee on Taxation, told two committees that refiner claims to tax credits for butane blends could cost nearly $50 billion. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Treasury now stands to take a $49.9 billion hit if oil refiners prevail in their claims that gasoline mixed with butane qualifies as an alternative fuel eligible for a 50 cents per gallon federal tax credit.

The new estimate was revealed in a letter sent Wednesday from Thomas Barthold, chief of staff to the Joint Committee on Taxation, to attorneys for the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance committees.

‘Remain in Mexico’ policy faces internal critiques at House hearing
Migration Protection Protocols spurs human rights violations, an asylum officer told Homeland Security panel

A Customs and Border Protection agent processes migrants who recently crossed the border in the Rio Grande Valley Sector of Texas in August. (Jinitzail Hernández/CQ Roll Call)

The Migrant Protection Protocols, a program that has so far forced more than 57,000 migrants to wait in Mexico while their immigration cases wind through the court, is illegal and enables human rights abuses against the vulnerable, a Department of Homeland Security employee told lawmakers Tuesday.

“These policies are illegal, they’re immoral, and they’re the basis for human rights abuses on behalf of our nation," Michael Knowles, president of a union that represents U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services employees and a longtime asylum officer, said in his testimony to a House Homeland Security panel.