September Washington Report

In September, Congressional Leaders continued to work on a number of ‘must-pass bills’ as deadlines approach. The Senate passed legislation that would authorize the Federal Aviation Administration for five years and implement a number of policy changes. This week the Senate is expected to take up a number of items including a large water resource bill. The House is out of session until after the November election.

Supreme Court Nominee Justice Kavanaugh

With the retirement of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy at the end of July, President Donald Trump announced the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to fill Kennedy’s seat. Judge Kavanaugh has served as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit since 2006 and has offered more than 300 opinions, including 11 that have been affirmed by the Supreme Court. Before his time as a judge, he served in the George W. Bush administration, first as an Associate Counsel and then Senior Associate Counsel and then Assistant to the President and Staff Secretary. Confirmation hearings for Kavanaugh took place in the Senate Judiciary Committee on September 4th and lasted throughout the week. On Saturday, October 6 Kavanaugh was confirmed by the Senate to the Supreme Court by one of the slimmest margins in American history, 50-48.

Justice Department, DEA propose significant opioid manufacturing reduction in 2019

The Department of Justice and U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration have proposed a reduction for controlled substances that may be manufactured in the U.S. next year. The proposal decreases manufacturing quotas for the six most frequently misused opioids for 2019 by an average of ten percent as compared to the 2018 amount. The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking marks the third straight year of proposed reductions, which help reduce the amount of drugs potentially diverted for trafficking and used to facilitate addiction. On July 11, 2018, the Justice Department announced that DEA was issuing a final rule amending its regulations to improve the agency’s ability to consider the likelihood of whether a drug can be diverted for abuse when it sets annual opioid production limits. In setting the aggregate production quota, DEA considers data from many sources, including estimates of the legitimate medical need from the Food and Drug Administration; estimates of retail consumption based on prescriptions dispensed; manufacturers’ disposition history and forecasts; data from DEA’s own internal system for tracking controlled substance transactions; and past quota histories. The DEA has proposed to reduce more commonly prescribed schedule II opioids, including oxycodone, hydrocodone, oxymorphone, hydromorphone, morphine, and fentanyl.

Opioids Package in the Senate

The Senate sent a wide-ranging package of opioid measures to the President’s desk to be signed into law. The compromise bill (H.R. 6) would approve new grants for treatment programs and expanding Medicaid. The legislation is a compromise reached between Members of both parties in both Chambers after months of deliberation on how best to combat the opioid epidemic. The bill cleared the Senate by a 98-1 vote, with Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) opposed. The measure passed in the House Sept. 28 by a wide margin, with only eight lawmakers opposed. The White House has signaled President Trump will sign the bill into law.

The legislation includes $8 billion in funding for grant programs, including targeted-response grants for states, grants for residential treatment programs for pregnant women with substance use disorders, and grants to support tracking and treating hepatitis C infections reimbursement for inpatient drug rehabilitation services. The legislation would also require the Postal Service to screen international packages to prevent the illegal importation of fentanyl under a measure in the package introduced by Senator Rob Portman (R-OH). Additionally, doctors would be allowed to provide medication-assisted treatment (MAT) to as many 275 patients, up from the current starting cap of 30 patients per doctor, under one provision in the package. The Department of Health and Human Services would be instructed to issue regulations allowing doctors to remotely prescribe MAT, meaning their patients wouldn’t have to come to a doctor’s office to get the medication. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) announced that three of her bipartisan bills to combat the opioid epidemic have been included as part of the Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment (SUPPORT) for Patients and Communities Act. The Synthetic Abuse and Labeling of Toxic Substances (SALTS) Act, which Klobuchar introduced with Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), would make it easier to prosecute the sale and distribution of “analogue” drugs, which are synthetic substances that are substantially similar to illegal drugs.

Justice Department Awards $32 Million Through the “Improving the Criminal Justice Response Program”

The Justice Department’s Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) announced 54 grants totaling $32 million through its Improving the Criminal Justice Response to Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, and Stalking Program. These grants will help fund state, local, and tribal governments and courts’ efforts to ensure that the crimes of sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking are treated as serious violations of criminal law through the coordinated involvement of the entire criminal justice system and community-based victim service providers. The recipients of these grants will work collaboratively with the justice system and victim service provider partners to identify problems and share ideas that will result in enhanced responses that support victim safety and offender accountability. In Minnesota, recipients of awards under OVW’s improving the Criminal Justice Response to Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, and Stalking Program are the Judiciary Courts of the State of Minnesota.

Selected Michigan Delegation Updates

  • Congressman Dan Kildee (D-MI-05) along with Education and Workforce Committee Ranking Member Bobby Scott (VA-03) and more than 170 House Democrats sent a letter to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos calling on the Department of Education to issue formal guidance prohibiting the use of federal education funding to buy guns for teachers and school staff.
  • Congressman Fred Upton (R-MI-6) supports the H.R. 6 The Patients and Communities Act, which passed the U.S. House and includes two bipartisan provisions authored by Upton: H.R. 5002, the ACE Research Act, co-authored alongside Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (D-MI-12) and H.R. 5800, the Medicaid IMD ADDITIONAL INFO Act.
  • Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence (D-MI-14) is a member of the Congressional Black Caucus that recently introduced the Jobs and Justice Act of 2018, an omnibus piece of legislation that addresses a wide range of issues, from comprehensive criminal justice reform to policies that promote economic empowerment. The “Justice” portion of the Jobs and Justice Act presents bold reform for our nation’s criminal justice system, from improving the way police interact with the communities they serve, to expanding access to social services for individuals who have paid their debt to society.

Related Read: March 2018 POAM Washington Report

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