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The Top 10 Public Policy Issues for 2024

May 13, 2024

2024 started with Congress averting two spending deadlines and a government shutdown. With lawmakers aiming to make progress on other big-ticket items they didn’t get to in 2023, including the farm bill, lobbyists and public affairs professionals are wondering what Congress can get done in an election year.

Many lobbyists say that an election year can mean a legislative slowdown, because elected officials are focused on their campaigns and there’s more congressional gridlock. However, we expect 2024 to be a busy year for lobbyists – both in the near term with government funding deadlines looming, as well as setting the stage for longer-term priorities as they look to avoid an election-year lull.

Below, Bloomberg Government experts break down what to expect this year on important policy fronts to help inform your lobbying and public affairs strategy.

2024 congressional legislative priorities

Major deadlines will drive action throughout the year, while congressional leaders will also be working on their legislative priorities. Congress will be dealing with a mix of deadline-driven work and items selected by each chamber’s leadership.

Relatively few laws were signed in 2023, reflecting divided control of government and narrow majorities in both the House and Senate.

Republicans in the House and Democrats in the Senate will need to forge compromises to get legislation signed into law.

Turnover in the House earlier this year has narrowed the Republican majority even more, making it tougher for party leaders as they figure out how to address their legislative agenda. Packed policy agendas and shorter legislative sessions due to the presidential election mean 2024 is shaping up to be a fraught time for policymakers and government affairs professionals on Capitol Hill.

FY24 appropriations

Congress spent the early part of 2024 finishing the appropriations bills for the fiscal year that began Sept. 30, 2023. A top-line spending deal and short-term stopgap measures helped them move toward full-year spending packages.

As they were wrapping up that work, Congress also turned its attention to fiscal year 2025, which begins Oct. 1, 2024. Because of the spending cap already in place, leaders will need a side deal to cover spending beyond the limits written into law.

Lobbyists will be advocating for funding levels, report language, and earmarks for the measures, which Congress may not finish until after the election.

Supplemental security funding

Congress has been working on separate national security funding packages with aid to Ukraine, Israel, and partners in the Indo-Pacific region.

The package has been slowed by a dispute over whether to include changes to immigration law as well as funding for the U.S.-Mexico border. Some Republicans have opposed further aid to Ukraine, while some progressive Democrats have been pushing back on aid to Israel without concessions from Israel or limits on that assistance.

FAA reauthorization

Congress is continuing to work on a reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) along with the ticket and cargo taxes that help finance its operations. The House passed a five-year reauthorization by a wide margin in 2023, while the Senate version was delayed for months in the Senate Commerce Committee over disagreements on several issues, including pilot training and retirement age.

Farm bill five-year renewal

The farm bill is a critical piece of legislation that bundles a wide range of policy priorities: farm subsidies, nutrition programs, crop and farm insurance, rural development, and conservation efforts. The farm bill is typically passed every five years.

After neither the House nor Senate produced a bill in 2023, lawmakers agreed to extend the programs until the end of the current fiscal year on Sept. 30, 2024. Because some of the programs are tied to crop years, the extension effectively runs until later in the year.

Agriculture committee leaders have said they are committed to passing a five-year bill in 2024.

Key sticking points in farm bill negotiations are likely to include:

  • Work requirements for SNAP recipients
  • Climate-smart agriculture funding
  • Crop insurance funding, specifically over assistance to larger growers

Regulating artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) and how to regulate it without stifling innovation will be a key policy debate on the Hill. A bipartisan Senate working group has been drafting legislation that will seek to protect Americans from threats or harms associated with AI, such as mass unemployment and discrimination, while also promoting the technology’s innovative potential in industries like health care and energy.

Cannabis industry banking access

Members of both parties support legislation allowing the burgeoning legal cannabis industry to access banks, especially as additional states have legalized recreational marijuana use. Senate leaders plan to schedule a vote on a bill to eliminate penalties for financial institutions that work with state-approved cannabis businesses, however it remains to be seen whether Republican leaders in the House would support the measure.

Insulin prices

After capping the price of insulin for Medicaid patients, lawmakers are eyeing a similar curb for those with private health insurance. The Senate is considering two main proposals that would cap the out-of-pocket cost of insulin at $35 per month for patients with private insurance. Part of the debate will be whether a price cap should be paired with broader changes to drug pricing, such as pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) practices.

Top priorities for lobbyists

Because they don’t expect a robust amount of legislation to be passed this year, lobbyists say they’re looking for the few legislative vehicles that are moving to help advance their priorities, including funding and appropriations bills early in the year – and even the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in the fall.

Specifically, our experts have identified tax credits, credit card fees, and prescription drugs as policy areas with the most potential for bipartisan legislative action – and where they expect lobbyists and public affairs professionals to focus their efforts.

Tax credits

Efforts to renew expired and expiring tax credits are a promising area of congressional compromise and action: Democrats are in favor of renewing the child tax credit, and the business community and many Republicans support renewing business tax credits such as the research and development (R&D) tax credit.

The House passed a package with bipartisan support early in 2024, but Senate action and the fate of the proposal is unclear.

The debate has offered a test run of the highly anticipated 2025 tax debate, when the Trump-era tax cuts are set to expire.

Tax law lobbyists and their clients are already working both behind the scenes and publicly to set the stage for 2025.

Credit card fees

A bipartisan group of senators is looking to restrict credit card “swipe fees,” also known as interchange fees, that merchants pay when customers buy something with a credit card. Merchants and retailers are supportive of the bipartisan bill (S. 1838), while credit card companies, banks, and other financial industry players are getting involved to fight it. The legislation has already been the focus of a flurry of lobbying activity, including a multimillion-dollar ad campaign.

Pharmacy benefit managers

Legislation targeting PBMs has turned into a major fight on Capitol Hill. As lawmakers consider bipartisan legislation to prohibit PBMs from engaging in certain drug-pricing practices, pharmaceutical companies have been taking on PBMs with high-profile ad campaigns. Both sides have focused direct lobbying activities aimed at helping shape policy outcomes.

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