The Latest from Washington
by Dani Kehoe, Counsel to NAIFA
By now, we’re all used to legislative roller coaster rides here in DC, but this one is unique. Last week we went from slow progress towards a coronavirus crisis aid bill, to a “no negotiating” order to an issue-by-issue separate bill strategy, back to full package negotiations, to “do a bill even bigger than Congressional Democrats want,” to intense push-back on a big bill from Senate Republicans. And there’s no end in sight.
Coronavirus aid bill: There’s little change in the status of the issues of significant import to NAIFA members and their clients. Efforts to win inclusion of the provision to recharacterize insurer-held bonds as ordinary rather than capital assets continue. Some key lawmakers are sympathetic, but so far, there’s no word that the negotiators are considering adding the provision to an agreement. The section 7702 definition of life insurance (for tax purposes) appears to be in the package as it is currently shaped (but that’s very much subject to change). Senate Republicans objected strenuously to a new open enrollment period for Obamacare health insurance (to help the pandemic-created unemployed), but Democrats are insisting on at least that much help for people who are losing their health coverage as a result of pandemic-caused unemployment.
Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)—who controls Senate floor activity—says there’s virtually no hope for a vote on a new coronavirus crisis aid bill prior to the November 3 elections. But others involved in the process think it’s possible—not probable, mind you, but possible—that there will be an agreement ready for House and Senate votes before November 3, even if the votes themselves don’t happen before then.
Bottom line: This is an incredibly fluid legislative situation. There’s really no way to predict accurately what will happen. But we will keep working on advancing our issues and interests and will keep you informed.
Other issues: This upcoming week, most of the big-picture focus will be on the hearings on the Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett. There are four days of hearings planned—today through Thursday. So far, it appears that while Democrats plan a deep dive into Barrett’s record and likely united opposition to her nomination, there won’t be procedural hurdles (failure to provide a quorum, for example) thrown in the way of the hearing process. But that too could change.
There will also be continuing focus on the state of President Trump’s health (on Saturday, he was cleared to come out of isolation by his doctors, but lack of medical details—like whether and when he tests negative for the coronavirus—are keeping the scrutiny very high). And of course, with the elections just three weeks away, there will be more and more focus on campaigning and politicking, both by the President and by Senators and House Members who also face the voters on November 3. It’s going to be quite the month. We’ll keep you posted.