BCA's Washington Briefing

follow us on facebook follow us on twitter follow us on youtube February 13, 2015



Please join us for a conference call at 11 a.m. CST Friday, February 27, to discuss reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank of the United States. The call features Erin Gulick, senior vice president for congressional affairs at the Export-Import Bank.


Unless Congress acts, on June 30, 2015, the Bank's charter will expire and with it the aid that many Alabama exporting companies depend on. "The Ex-Im Bank provides needed financing for overseas transactions for Alabama companies that employ 4,000 people," Business Council of Alabama President and CEO William Canary said.


Passage of long-term reauthorization of the Bank is a legislative priority of the BCA. The BCA is a part of the broad-based Exporters for Ex-Im Coalition and the Alabama-based Export Alabama Alliance. Both coalitions seek long-term authorization of the bank's charter. 


The February 27 conference call will give Alabama stakeholders the opportunity to hear directly from the Export-Import Bank on the realities of Congress passing long-term reauthorization. Participants will also learn what more they can do to let Alabama's delegation know how important this issue is to Alabama's small businesses.


Joining Gulick on the call will be BCA's Canary; Bill Cummins, Export-Import City/State Partner for Alabama Small Business Development Center Network and the state director for the Alabama SBDC Network; Hilda Lockhart, chair of the Export Alabama Alliance and director of the International Trade Division of the Alabama Department of Commerce; and, Ken Tucker, director of government operations, The Boeing Company.


To register for the call, visit BCA's website at www.bcatoday.org.



The Business Council of Alabama has signed a letter to the federal Medicare program administrator urging stable funding of important employee and employer retirement plans.


The BCA signed the joint letter from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers urging a restoration of funding to Medicare Advantage health plans for more than 16 million Medicare-eligible employees and retirees.


The letter was sent Wednesday to Marilyn B. Tavenner, the administrator for CMS at the Department of Health and Human Services.


"These Medicare Advantage plans are a valued form of coverage on which employees and employers alike rely," the letter states. "To protect this preferred form of health care coverage, we urge you to restore funding to the MA program.


"We urge CMS and Congress to protect America's senior employees from any further coverage harm that will undoubtedly occur if additional Medicare Advantage cuts are made during the upcoming rate setting process," the letter states.


The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services next week is expected to set payment rates for 2016 for Medicare Advantage plans. The fear is the government-sponsored plan will be further reduced, affecting premiums, coverage, or both.


Medicare Advantage plans are a substitute for the traditional Medicare parts A and B. The Obama Administration has cut Advantage plans by about 14 percent since 2010, including 10 percent in the last two years. The decreases are in addition to the cuts mandated by Obamacare as the White House is forcing a shift of entitlement funding.

Medicare Advantage is a valued benefit option among employers and employees and more than 2.7 million retirees. They are being used more and more by employers and unions to offer comprehensive health coverage for their Medicare-eligible retirees at lower cost than traditional employer retiree coverage.



The House on Wednesday passed the Senate's Keystone XL pipeline bill and sent it to President Obama who has vowed to veto the legislation that would kick-start the needed pipeline that is popular with Americans.


"Keystone has been reviewed and approved several times ... instead of listening to people, the president's standing with a bunch of left-fringe extremists and anarchists," House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said.


The 270-152 vote in the House included 29 Democrats and every GOP House member except one.


The vote caps a 4-year Republican effort to force Obama to approve the Canada-to-Texas oil artery, but the weeks of debate in the Senate and two votes in the House this year on the $8 billion project are likely be little more than a political exercise, Politico reported. Keystone backers lack the votes to override the veto.


Following the expected veto, the fate of Keystone will remain in the hands of Obama who has stalled it for six years. Opponents say the pipeline will only create a handful of jobs while ignoring the fact that the pipeline would transport millions of gallons of oil needed to reduce dependency on foreign sources.


Because the Senate version is headed to the president, the Senate would have first shot at Obama's veto. Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) said Republicans were considering a vote to override a veto. "We may very well want to test to see if there is support to override," he said.


Poll: Majority of Americans back Keystone pipeline

CNN Bradner (1/15) "A majority of Americans favor the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline - a result that could give Republicans a boost as they move toward a showdown with President Barack Obama over the project - a CNN/ORC poll has found. The 1,179-mile Canada-to-Texas pipeline is backed by 57% of the 1,011 Americans surveyed on Dec. 18-21. Just 28% oppose it, while 15% say they are unsure.


"The controversial project has become the subject of a battle between liberal environmentalists who argue it would contribute to global warming and conservatives who say it would create jobs and help the United States break away from Middle Eastern oil. President Barack Obama has threatened to veto a measure that the Senate is set to vote on as soon as next week, which would end the State Department's six-year-old review of the project and authorize its construction immediately. Obama has said he objects to the decision-making process being removed from the executive branch.


"The poll found that support for the pipeline is strongest in the South, where it's backed by 65% of those polled, and in the Midwest, where it has 63% support. The pipeline also stokes a divide along party lines, with 80% of Republicans backing it compared to just 39% of Democrats, and different age groups, with support strongest at 67% among those 65 and older and weakest at 47% among those between 18 and 34."



US Chamber of Commerce   National Association of Manufacturers
Sixth District
 U. S. Rep. Gary Palmer