Overnight Regulation: Senate passes key FDA funding bill | The Supreme Court moves toward digital era | Dems press FCC to extend net neutrality comment period

Overnight Regulation: Senate passes key FDA funding bill | The Supreme Court moves toward digital era | Dems press FCC to extend net neutrality comment period
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Welcome to Overnight Regulation, your daily rundown of news from the federal agencies, Capitol Hill, the courts and beyond. It's Thursday night, and welcome to recess, folks.

 

THE BIG STORY 

Did the Senate... just pass a bipartisan healthcare bill?

Yes, yes, it did. And with only one defector at that.

It's no surprise, really, that the Senate voted 94 to 1 Thursday to pass a key Food and Drug Administration funding bill, sending it to President Trump's desk. The FDA user fee reauthorization is generally a bipartisan affair, but it's noteworthy that the contentious fight over ObamaCare repeal didn't hurt the process.

The major players in the Senate: The five-year reauthorization was spearheaded by Sens. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderSeveral GOP lawmakers express concern over Trump executive orders The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the Air Line Pilots Association - Negotiators 'far apart' as talks yield little ahead of deadline Trump-backed Hagerty wins Tennessee GOP Senate primary MORE (R-Tenn.) and Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayPelosi huddles with chairmen on surprise billing but deal elusive House approves two child care bills aimed at pandemic GOP, Democratic relief packages B apart on vaccine funding MORE (D-Wash.), the top lawmakers on the Senate Health Committee.

What the legislation does: The bill renews the FDA's authority to collect fees from the prescription drug and medical device industries, which will account for $8-9 billion over five years and is over a quarter of all FDA funding.

The fees help speed up the approval of new drugs and devices. The funding reauthorizations are based on recommendations from industry groups and the FDA after a public process, and come about a month before the current user fee agreement is set to expire.

Will Trump sign it? The White House hasn't said if it will sign the user fee bill. In a statement of administrative policy issued in July after the bill passed the House, the White House expressed concern with some minor provisions, though it did not threaten a veto.

Nathaniel Weixel has the story here.

 

REGULATORY ROUNDUP

Supreme Court: Court watchers are hailing the Supreme Court for making a surprising, but welcome, jump into the 21st century.

That's because the court announced Thursday that case documents will soon be made available online for the first time.

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The electronic filing system will launch Nov. 13 that will make "virtually all new filings" accessible to the public via the court's website for free.

"Look, there's no reason in 2017 the American people should not be able to go on the court's website and view filings and court documents that will directly impact millions of people without a cost to the public or the legal community," Dan Goldberg, legal director for the liberal Alliance for Justice, said.

Read more from Lydia Wheeler here.

 

Technology: Democratic senators are urging the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to extend the public comment period on its proposal to scrap the net neutrality rules.

Fifteen Democrats led by Sen. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeySanders offers bill to tax billionaires' wealth gains during pandemic Senate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic Budowsky: Why I back Kennedy, praise Markey MORE (Mass.) in a letter Thursday to Republican FCC Chairman Ajit Pai asked that he provide more time for comments, citing an unprecedented public response.

"This volume of comments underscores the tremendous interest the public has in this proceeding," the senators wrote. "Given the unprecedented number of comments, we urge the FCC to extend the reply comment period to allow sufficient time for the public to ensure their views are reflected in the record."

Just how many comments has it received so far? To date, Pai's "Restoring Internet Freedom" proposal to roll back Obama-era net neutrality measures aimed at creating a level playing field for internet companies has received over 16 million comments, more than any other FCC item in history.

The previous record: It happened during the FCC's last net neutrality proceeding in 2014, in which the public filed about 4 million comments on the matter.

Ali Breland has the story.

 

Taxes: Senate Democrats are pushing to update the tax code for same-sex marriages.

The entire Senate Democratic Caucus on Thursday introduced a bill that would take gender-specific references to marriage out of the tax code.

The legislation follows the Supreme Court's ruling in 2015 that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide, as well as Treasury Department guidance finalized last year that allows same-sex married couples to file joint federal tax returns.

Read the rest from Naomi Jagoda.

 

Immigration: The Department of Justice (DOJ) is threatening to withhold funding from cities struggling with violent crime unless they cooperate with federal efforts to crack down on illegal immigration.

In letters on Thursday, the DOJ warned Albuquerque, N.M.; Baltimore, Md.; San Bernardino, Calif.; and Stockton, Calif. that they would be ineligible for funding unless they give federal immigration officials access to detention facilities.

The DOJ also wants the cities to notify the Department of Homeland Security at least 48 hours before releasing an immigrant in custody and honor written requests from federal officials to hold immigrants in custody for up to 48 hours beyond their scheduled release.

The DOJ said that "a commitment to reducing crime stemming from illegal immigration" is now a prerequisite to receive funding through the department's Public Safety Partnership Program.

Read Lydia again here.



Tech: The Senate voted on Thursday to confirm two new commissioners to the remaining open seats at the Federal Communications Commission.

The FCC will now return to its full quorum after the confirmations of Republican Brendan Carr and Democrat Jessica Rosenworcel. Three Republicans and two Democrats now sit on the FCC.

Rosenworcel is returning to her post as commissioner after serving in the same capacity from 2012 to 2017. She was appointed to the FCC by former President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaWhy payroll tax cut opponents may want to reconsider Michelle Obama, Sanders, Kasich to be featured on first night of Democratic convention: report Graham says he appreciates Trump orders, but 'would much prefer a congressional agreement' MORE. She will serve a five-year term.

Senate Dems argued that Carr should only be approved for a single 1 1/2 year term, while Republicans argued he should serve a 5-year term. He was ultimately confirmed Thursday to a single 1 1/2 year term.

Ali Breland has the story.

 

Before the jet fumes took over... A Senate panel also approved five of President Trump's nominees for senior roles in the Interior and Energy departments after a delayed vote.

The approval from the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee occurred during a brief meeting in the Capitol between votes in the upper chamber.

The committee had planned to vote on the nominees last week. But Chairwoman Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiOn The Money: Pessimism grows as coronavirus talks go down to the wire | Jobs report poised to light fire under COVID-19 talks | Tax preparers warn unemployment recipients could owe IRS Pessimism grows as coronavirus talks go down to the wire Hillicon Valley: Facebook removes Trump post | TikTok gets competitor | Lawmakers raise grid safety concerns MORE (R-Alaska) postponed the vote, the same day that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke called her reportedly to threaten not to make numerous pro-Alaska decisions she wants because of her votes against repealing ObamaCare.

Both Murkowski and Zinke later denied that the Interior chief's call was a threat. The Energy Committee rescheduled the votes shortly after Zinke tweeted a photo of the two drinking beer.

Timothy Cama has the story.

 

But hold on... The Interior Department's Office of the Inspector General (OIG) says it has begun a "preliminary investigation" into reports that Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeTrump flails as audience dwindles and ratings plummet OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Senior Interior official contacted former employer, violating ethics pledge: watchdog | Ag secretary orders environmental rollbacks for Forest Service | Senate advances public lands bill in late-night vote Senior Interior official contacted former employer, violating ethics pledge: watchdog MORE made phone calls pushing Alaska's senators to support a GOP healthcare bill or risk losing federal support of economic development efforts in their state.

"The OIG is undertaking a preliminary investigation into this matter," Deputy Inspector General Mary Kendall said in a letter to two House Democrats on Thursday.

"We will advise you about what further action the results of this inquiry lead the OIG to take."

Devin Henry has more here.

 

More nominees... The Senate on Thursday confirmed Dan Brouillette, a former Energy Department official in the George W. Bush administration, to return to the agency as deputy secretary.

Brouillette was confirmed on a 79-17 vote. He is one of a few fairly noncontroversial energy or environment nominees to come before the Senate so far during the Trump administration.

Brouillette worked as the Energy Department's assistant secretary for congressional and intergovernmental affairs from 2001 to 2003. He also served as a member of the Louisiana State Mineral and Energy Board from 2013 to 2016, and is a onetime chief of staff for the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Here's the rest from Devin Henry.

 

Want more nominees? The Senate also confirmed a new TSA chief. Melanie Zanona has that story. And senators also confirmed ten Trump financial regulatory nominees, including the chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) and key Treasury Department officials. Sylvan Lane has more on that here.

 

ELSEWHERE IN THE NEWS

Congress is heading for a confrontation with Sessions over marijuana (Bloomberg)

Fed weighs changes to reduce bank boards' regulatory role (Reuters)

Singapore, like US may regulate initial coin offerings (Tech Crunch)

 

Send tips, story ideas and cheers that it's August recess to rroubein@thehill.com and follow me on Twitter @rachel_roubein.