Three questions with John Cahill, Vice Chairman, Federal Relations

webres_120403_oneill_johncahill-0108In the State of the Union, President Trump called for “at least 1.5 trillion in investment.” Is there a path forward for his plan?

The framework of an infrastructure plan was shared in the media a few weeks ago and the reaction to it was quite reserved on both sides of the aisle. Historically, infrastructure is one area that gets bipartisan support, but that will prove difficult in the current political environment. The framework would leverage $200 billion in direct federal dollars over 10 years with the remainder of the $1 trillion plus investment coming from states, municipalities, and the private sector. In practical terms, most Congressional authorizations don’t extend 10 years. Furthermore, most cities and states don’t have these extra dollars available. Mayors and Governors would have to raise tolls or other fees to find the revenue. Rural states with smaller populations and fewer users of highways or transit systems would be disproportionally affected. The formula doesn’t really make sense in its current form – what governor is going to raise fees in order to get a smaller share of federal infrastructure dollars? We will be monitoring the Committees and Subcommittees as they work to craft actual legislation. With 2018 being an election year and so much partisanship around federal spending already, it’s difficult to see a comprehensive infrastructure package moving forward.

We are quickly approaching the next deadline to fund the government. Will we have another shutdown?

The upcoming deadline to reach a new deal to keep the government open is February 8. There is increasing talk of another stopgap measure that would fund the government for another 30 days – and the possibility that this one-month-at-a-time plan may be what the Republicans continue to do going forward. There’s discord over this within the Republican majority, however. Freedom Caucus members want more on the table to strengthen budget caps and restrict immigration. Another shutdown is possible, but it’s more likely that we will see a short term deal instead. Another factor is the impact of tax reform on the debt ceiling. The revenue shortfall will likely require action to raise the debt ceiling in addition to finding agreement on a Continuing Resolution.

There’s talk of the House of Representatives possibly restoring the practice of earmarks. What’s happening here?

Recently there’s been a flurry of comments and activity on whether it’s time to bring back earmarks or Member-directed spending. The House eliminated earmarks in 2011 following several instances of excesses and political pressure to reduce federal spending. Some believe that the elimination of earmarks contributed greatly to partisan divide as Members were no longer compelled to make deals with one another in order to secure funding for projects in their districts. It’s too soon to tell what will happen, but we expect that the possible return of earmarks will get serious consideration before the November elections. Even so, the outcome is uncertain.

Abiomed Heart Recovery Patients Visited Capitol Hill to Advocate for Life Saving Cardiovascular Technology

abiomed logo 2

Massachusetts is a global center for biopharma innovation. Life science and healthcare technology companies leverage the region’s talented workforce, world-class hospitals and research institutions to create advanced medical devices and discover new drugs. It’s important for these companies to make sure Congress fully understands how these advances are improving patient treatment and care. In June, medical device manufacturer Abiomed worked with the O’Neill and Associates federal relations team to host a patient advocacy event in Washington, DC.  Abiomed patients from around the country, now Heart Recovery Advocates, convened on Capitol Hill to help raise awareness of the burgeoning field of heart recovery.

Abiomed, headquartered in Danvers, Massachusetts, manufactures the world’s smallest heart pump, a line of devices called Impella. The company’s products are the only FDA-approved devices for heart recovery. The groundbreaking technology not only drastically increases the chance of survival for heart attack patients, but also improves their quality of life by helping them keep their native heart tissue.

On June 8th, nineteen patients who benefitted from treatment with Abiomed’s Impella heart pumps traveled from all over the United States sharing their stories of survival with their representatives in Congress.  These patient advocates explained how Impella has helped their lives, as well as the importance of supporting the field of heart recovery. Each patient advocate represented living proof that progress is being made in treating the number one cause of death in the United States: heart failure and coronary artery disease (CAD).

“It is important for companies to step back and let their good work speak for itself,” said O’Neill and Associates CEO Tom O’Neill. “It’s easy to get bogged down in policy minutia, particularly in a highly-regulated industry like healthcare.   Abiomed personalizes policy for Congress when it provides a platform for their patients to tell their stories in the first person. Those stories are tremendously powerful.”

The fly-in was a packed two-day event.  It began with an advocacy training session, in which O’Neill and Associates team members AmyClaire Brusch and Anthony DeMaio worked with Abiomed’s staff to prepare the patient advocates for their meetings on Capitol Hill. Equipped with their personal stories, talking points on heart failure and CAD, and, most importantly, confidence, the patient advocate teams fanned out across the halls of Congress. The lunch hour featured a briefing on advancements in heart recovery hosted by the House Medical Technology Caucus. The Caucus Co-Chair, Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), addressed congressional staffers, patients, and industry representatives attending the briefing. Following afternoon meetings in congressional offices, Abiomed joined other medical technology companies to showcase their devices at an event sponsored by the Advanced Medical Technology Association, an industry trade group. The event’s brief speaking program featured AdvaMed CEO Scott Whitaker and a particularly compelling story from one of Abiomed’s patient advocates.  It was a fitting way to close out a long day on Capitol Hill.

As awareness of the Impella technology continues to grow, more and more lives around the world will be helped by Abiomed. Last year, Abiomed reached a major milestone having treated enough patients to fill Fenway Park. Their next marker, Gillette Stadium, is approaching on the horizon. For O’Neill and Associates’ teams in Boston and Washington, it is a privilege to help Abiomed and its thousands of patients tell their stories.

American Hotel & Lodging Association Legislative Action Summit 2017

By: Jennifer Krowchun

Last week members of Massachusetts Lodging Association (MLA) attended the Annual American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA) Meeting.  The summit concluded with a day on Capitol Hill advocating and lobbying for important issues both federally and in the state of Massachusetts.  The theme of this year’s AH&LA summit was “Dreams Happen Here”, a national awareness campaign to showcase the career advancement opportunities, community commitment, and economic importance of the hotel and lodging businesses.  The chance to have a lifetime career in a fast moving and exciting industry was evident by our group which included a number of folks who first started out in hotel restaurants or back of house operations before moving up the corporate ladder.  The key issues the group focused on during the Legislative Action Summit were short term rentals, drive-by lawsuits, protecting consumers from online booking scams and H2B visas.


Figure 1 MLA members meeting with legislative staff.

The MLA asked offices to support and cosponsor the Stop Online Booking Scams Act (S.1164/ HR 2495).  The bill will help protect consumers from online hotel booking scams by prohibiting websites from pretending to be the hotel and requiring these websites to prominently display that information. In meetings arranged by O’Neill and Associates, the MLA asked members of the Massachusetts Delegation to consider signing on as co-sponsors of the ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017 (H.R. 620) which would provide a “Notice and Cure” provision that would give small business owners time to address an ADA violation before any legal proceedings can move forward. Paul Sacco, President of MLA, led our largest group by far which included Chris Burgoyne, Director Political and Government Affairs at AH&LA and 6 other members.


Figure 2 MLA members meeting with Congressman Bill Keating.

Included in the 10 meetings scheduled, the group met with Congressman Keating (see Figure 2), a long time champion and leader for MLA regarding H2B visas. As the representative for the Cape and Islands and member of the House Committee on Homeland Security he is well aware of the challenges facing many hotels this year in MA and nationally as they scramble to fill seasonal positions with limited visas. The Congressman was able to share his own personal frustrations with short term rentals as homes near his residence on the Cape are often rented out, becoming a neighborhood annoyance and presenting real safety concerns. As well as the impact short term rentals have on the rental market on the Cape, hard enough to get seasonal employees, and often they are unable to find affordable housing.

Overall the 10 meetings on the Hill were a success as they were extremely informative and educational for both attendees, staff and members of Congress.


Figure 3 Members of MLA meeting with Patrick O’Connor, Office of Congressman Neal in the halls of Congress.


Figure 4 members of MLA in front of Capitol Building.

The Path to Tax Reform Will Go Through Massachusetts

By: Anthony DeMaio

Washington is working overtime this week to characterize the president’s first 100 days following the April 29th milestone. With the spotlight on the White House, it is easy to ignore Capitol Hill. As the 115th Congress reconvenes after a two-week recess, many Members will be smarting from tough town halls and other public appearances back in their districts. Pressure on Speaker Paul Ryan and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to pass legislation is mounting. With the president having outlined his vision for tax reform, it looks like a much-anticipated tax bill will be the next policy item on Congress’ agenda.

If the goal of re-writing the federal tax code seems ambitious, it’s because it is. The last time a tax reform bill was enacted was 1986 – three days before the ball rolled through Buckner’s legs – a lifetime ago (in both politics and sport). Despite a divided government then, Washington was less polarized. Democrats in the House including Speaker Tip O’Neill and Ways and Means Chairman Dan Rostenkowski worked with Republicans like Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, Finance Chairman Bob Packwood, and President Ronald Reagan to pass the first comprehensive changes to the tax bill code in 32 years.

There is no doubt that politics is more partisan today than during the Reagan-O’Neill era. And with Republicans in control of Congress and the White House, one would expect the Democrats’ role to be insignificant. But as we learned during the recent attempt to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, House Republicans are deeply divided. So if congressional leadership is serious about passing a tax bill, they will need rank and file Democrats to support it, especially Congressman Richard Neal of Massachusetts.

Mr. Neal has served on the House Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over the tax code, for over 20 years. He is now the top or Ranking Democrat on the panel. It will be up to Mr. Neal and Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) to hash out the details of a viable tax bill.

Among President Trump’s campaign promises and early proposals was a border adjustment tax, or BAT, which would impose a steep tax on goods coming into the United States from abroad. In theory, the BAT would encourage corporate investment at home and create jobs in the manufacturing sector. But as the president found out, tax proposals often make strange bedfellows and while the BAT has some bipartisan support, it also has bipartisan opposition. It appears that the vocal opposition from key Republican senators prompted Trump to shelve the BAT proposal. As other suggestions are considered and tweaked, Mr. Neal will be responsible for determining their viability within his caucus.

In recent history, the medical device tax has been the key tax issue for Massachusetts, thanks to the booming medtech industry. But with a comprehensive bill up for consideration, and a critical seat at the table, Massachusetts interests will play a more central role. Changes to the corporate tax rate will not only affect the 13 Fortune 500 companies based in Massachusetts, but the thousands of small businesses and startups in bio, tech, and other sectors. Consolidating tax brackets and changing eligible deductions should get the attention of the state’s growing millionaire class and the thriving middle class alike. And if Congress is serious about paying for lower taxes by creating savings in the healthcare system, Massachusetts’ research facilities and its dominant healthcare sector will need to sit up and take notice.

While not the low-hanging legislative fruit that would count as an easy win, tax reform is certainly high on Speaker Ryan’s agenda. As the focus turns to legislative action, and the Speaker seeks a win after an early failure on healthcare, we expect to see a tax bill move. There is a narrow political path for the legislation to tread, and it goes right though the Commonwealth.

March Madness: American Health Care Act

“I’m just a bill, sitting here on Capitol Hill..” 

Schoolhouse rock Bill

The American Health Care Act of 2017 was pulled before a probable defeat on the floor of the House of Representatives today. Here’s a recap of its journey.

After months of anticipation and secrecy, the American Health Care Act of 2017 plan was released by House Republicans on March 6th consisting of two bills. One bill was introduced into the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the other to the House Ways and Means Committee.  The bills passed both committees the next day on a party-line vote and without a Congressional Budget Report (CBO) cost analysis.  It wasn’t until March 13th that the CBO released its budget estimates. The CBO report is often used as a tool for debate prior to any votes. On March 16th the bill passed the House Budget Committee with a vote of 19-17.  It’s important to note that three Republicans on that committee joined the Democrats in opposition.  The bill, HR 1628, then went to the House Rules Committee which sets the terms for the final debate when the bill comes to the House floor for a vote.  The committee approved a provision that allows for the “same-day” rule (or often referred to as martial law), essentially allowing the bill to be voted on the same day even as it is still having changes made to it before being voted out of committee.

In contrast to the fast movement of the American Health Care Act, the Affordable Care Act during the Obama Administration underwent months of negotiations, markup, and debate before its final passage.   It was introduced by Speaker Pelosi in July of 2009 and passed in the House November 2009 and was ultimately not signed into law by then President Obama until March 23, 2010.

Here’s a visual recap of its journey:

AHCA HR 1628.png

The President’s Budget: An O’Neill and Associates Education/Refresher on the Federal Budget Process

As we continue to assess the Trump administration’s policy initiatives, there is growing anticipation surrounding President Trump’s first budget. As we approach this milestone, we thought it would be helpful to share this review of the federal budget process.

Every year the President of the United States submits a budget request to Congress that is drafted in close coordination with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The budget request outlines funding levels for all federal departments and independent agencies, including spending and revenue proposals as well as any new policies and initiatives with significant budget implications.

The Budget and Accounting Act of 1921 says that “the President submit the budget between the first Monday in January and the first Monday in February.” More recently, Presidents have traditionally sent a budget request to Congress the first week of February for the coming fiscal year, 2018 in this instance, which begins on October 1st. The budget submission is typically delayed in a new President’s first year in recognition of the complexities of transition.  Before the inauguration, the transition team indicated that we might anticipate a draft proposal or “skinny budget” from President Trump in the first 100 days. However, recent reports suggest that the Trump administration may be preparing a full budget request for as early as mid-March to late spring. This timing is not really surprising as the President’s nominee for OMB Director, South Carolina Representative Mick Mulvaney’s was only approved by the full Senate on February 16th – the longest confirmation wait for an OMB director ever according to RollCall.

More information on the agenda and funding priorities of the Trump administration will likely be revealed when the President addresses a joint session of Congress on February 28th.  President Trump’s speech will not be a formal State of the Union address. Newly inaugurated president’s often deliver a speech on their agenda and goals rather than an assessment on the state of the country. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said at a press briefing today that we can expect the President’s speech to include broad policy initiatives, focused on defining success, as well as look back at what he has accomplished the last month. Additionally the President will share some of his goals to work with Congress on healthcare, tax reform, and infrastructure.  O’Neill and Associates’ federal lobbyists will be live tweeting the speech. You can follow along at #OAPolitics and a follow up analysis will be posted to our blog as well.

Once the President’s Budget request is finally released, it is referred to the House and Senate Budget Committees and to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) for an analysis and scoring of the proposal to project the budgetary impact of policies.  With the budget request and CBO budget report, the committees each submit a budget resolution in the House and Senate, respectfully.  Budget resolutions have traditionally been submitted in early April, but we anticipate a later timeframe this year. The House and Senate each considers its own resolution before voting on and passing the resolution.  Once passed, the House and Senate each names a handful of members to a joint conference committee to negotiate a conference report – a reconciliation of any differences between the House and Senate budget resolutions. The final joint budget resolution must be approved by both the House and Senate to be binding. Interestingly, the budget resolution is not a law and does not require the President’s signature. However, it is a guide for Congress in the appropriations process. In a future blog post, we will take a more in-depth look at the appropriations process and the role of Congress, the President and even the role clients can play with former House Appropriations Committee staffer, O’Neill and Associates Vice President AmyClaire Brusch.