Business Stories of the Week: May 5

by May 5, 2017
Congressional GOP leaders passed a sweeping plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act on Thursday, less than two months after the first effort failed. The proposal now heads to the Senate, where its future is unclear, according to the New York Times. (Image "Obamacare" by Kevin Simmons via Flickr, CC license by 2.0)

Congressional GOP leaders passed a plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act on Thursday, less than two months after the first effort failed. (Image “Obamacare” by Kevin Simmons via Flickr, CC license by 2.0)

House passes health care overhaul

President Trump and Congressional GOP leaders managed to pass a sweeping plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act on Thursday in the U.S House of Representatives, less than two months after the first effort failed to even make it to that same chamber’s floor. The GOP overhaul package cleared the chamber by a razor-thin margin of five votes. The New York Times reports that players in the private-sector health care industry remain, as they were a few months ago, divided over the Obamacare repeal effort, with the biggest blow-back coming from hospitals, doctors and other health care providers—groups that would rather see fixes to existing problem areas than a total repeal, especially to Medicaid expansion policies. Other groups subject to ACA taxes, such as drug makers, high-income earners and insurance companies—some of which have been dropping out of state-run health exchanges as profits in those markets shrank—applauded Thursday’s passage.

Dodd-Frank overhaul clears Senate

As some sectors in the health care industry were celebrating the GOP’s success with the Obamacare repeal in the U.S. House, other key players in the financial industry were reveling in their own victory Thursday in the same chamber. In a party-line vote by the Republican-dominated House Financial Services Committee, a proposal to gut much of rules and regulations on banks and financial institutions imposed by the Dodd-Frank law now heads to the House floor where, like the Obamacare repeal, it’s expected to be approved. According to this Associated Press article posted by the Washington Post, the GOP effort would rescind roughly 40 Great Recession-era regulations on the financial industry so long as they’re meeting certain thresholds in their capital reserves to cover unexpected losses.

Battle for Trib Media heats up

21st Century Fox and Sinclair Broadcast Group are going head-to-head in a takeover fight for Tribune Media’s portfolio of 16 Fox affiliate stations. Sinclair may be a lesser-known name than its media giant rival, but its presence in more than a quarter of U.S. households and one of the few right-leaning networks in its industry has Fox gearing up for a fight, according to the Washington Post. Bids for Tribune’s 16 Fox affiliates were due Thursday, sources told the Tribune. Should Sinclair, which already owns about 28 percent of Fox’s local affiliate stations nationwide, come out on top, it’d be largest owner of Fox stations nationwide—a move particularly intriguing for Sinclair as looser TV ownership rules under the Trump administration are anticipated.

Congress cracks down on airlines

As health insurers, drug makers and banks were set to cap off a celebratory week of milestones on Capitol Hill, the nation’s airlines—namely United Airlines—were experiencing the opposite. Scott Kirby, president of United, testified before the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on Tuesday and again on Thursday before the Senate Aviation Subcommittee. Both times, he apologized for the early April incident in which a doctor was dragged off a plane awaiting takeoff. United has since changed some of its rules after widespread outrage over the incident, according to the Chicago Tribune, and some of those new policies are being turned into proposals for new federal laws aimed specifically at boosting airline customers’ personal rights.

Interest rate hike stalls

Responding to a more tepid economic performance during the first quarter than expected, the Federal Reserve concluded its two-day meeting Wednesday without any adjustments to interest rates. Back in March, the Fed enacted its third rate hike since the agency dropped the rates to near-zero levels during the economic downturn. The agency still plans to enact two additional rate hikes this year, the first of which will likely come in June during the Fed’s next two-day quarterly meeting, according to Bloomberg. Until then, economists and analysts are focusing their attention on Friday when federal data on job creations in April are slated for release.

Subscriptions soar at NYT

It’s been speculated for months that, given President Donald Trump’s persistent blasting remarks against the media, there may be a silver lining for the journalism industry’s years-long financial woes and upheaval of its old business model. The New York Times bolstered that sentiment earlier this week when it reported gaining roughly 350,000 new subscribers during the first quarter—its best quarterly performance in the newspaper’s history, according to the Wall Street Journal. The Times is among many news outlets that reported notable audience growth since the 2016 election cycle, although executives say they’re unsure what might happen once people settle into new Trump era.

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