With the 118th Congress picking up steam, the Biotechnology Innovation Organization’s (BIO) Federal Government Relations team shared what to expect in health care and agriculture policy over the coming months.
The key takeaway is that with new members in both the U.S. House and U.S. Senate, a focus on educating freshmen will be essential.
On health care, ‘look to bipartisan solutions’
With Republicans taking control of the House and Democrats controlling the Senate, “we must look to bipartisan solutions,” said Aiken Hackett, BIO’s Vice President of Federal Government Relations.
“Divided government can be good,” she added, citing her hope it will ultimately prevent the legitimization of “non-starter” policy proposals and empower “productive members of Congress who champion bipartisanship, resulting in thoughtful and lasting policy outcomes.”
Other important priorities include the reauthorization of the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Reauthorization Act (PAHPRA), which builds on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ work to advance national health security, and the SUPPORT Act, which addresses the opioid epidemic.
“We will also continue our efforts to further educate Congress—especially the 84 freshman members—on the adverse impact of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) to innovation and future biopharmaceutical investment,” said Hackett. In addition, BIO will “emphasize how the IRA prevents the innovation needed to create future cures for patients.” At the same time, bipartisan interest is expected in looking at pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) and the vertical integration of health plans—and the impact their business practices have on patient affordability.
It’s important that members of Congress, particularly new ones, “understand biotechnology as an industry and that we highlight the exciting work of our member companies across the sector,” Hackett concluded.
On agriculture and environment: educating new members
“With so many new members on the House Agriculture Committee, it will be critical for BIO to educate them,” said Erick Lutt, Senior Director of Federal Government Relations at BIO. “But it also provides an opportunity to find new champions who recognize the potential of ag biotech to address climate change and strengthen food security.”
But it won’t be easy. The House Agriculture Committee has many new members on both sides: 12 new Republicans and 11 first-term Democrats. Plus, there could be clashes between conservative House Members seeking to slash spending on food assistance and climate initiatives, which are non-starters in the Democrat-controlled Senate.
Initiatives that BIO plans to further engage on are the implementation of the executive order on biotechnology and biomanufacturing to incentivize the adoption of innovative, sustainable technologies and practices; and streamline and expedite regulatory pathways for breakthrough agricultural technology and bio-based manufacturing.
Ahead of the Oct. 1 expiration of the Farm Bill, BIO will advocate for strengthening key programs during the reauthorization, including improvements to the BioPreferred and biorefinery programs in the energy tile and recognition of the importance of biotech as a solution for climate change and food security. BIO will continue to lead industry efforts to address Mexico’s disregard for a science-based regulatory process for ag biotech, particularly its plan to restrict imports of biotech corn. BIO plans to work with Congress to ensure the administration gets Mexico to adhere to its U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) commitments.
It’s important that the House and Senate collaborate to produce legislation that tackles climate change, champions American farmers, and bolsters biotech innovation.