Jurisdictional infighting and intense lobbying from industry ultimately scuttled Congress' efforts to deal with surprise medical bills this year.

Why it matters: Surprise bills were about as close to a slam-dunk as Congress gets in health policy, and lawmakers' failure to get such an easy thing across the finish line doesn't bode well for other, harder priorities.

What happened: Key lawmakers — Sen. Lamar Alexander and Reps. Frank Pallone and Greg Walden, who lead the Energy and Commerce Committee — announced a deal on the issue earlier this month.

  • Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer was concerned about the impact on New York hospitals, but he told other congressional leaders that he wouldn't oppose the deal's inclusion in the year-end spending bill.

After that deal was announced, House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal announced a separate agreement with Ranking Member Kevin Brady.

  • That put the two committees with jurisdiction over surprise bills on different pages.
  • Democratic leaders opted not to pick a side by including surprise bills in a year-end legislative package.

“There’s nothing diabolical about it, or nefarious," Neal told Axios. "We were simply saying, 'time to vet it.' The idea that you were just going to attach this to a spending bill and send it over without that opportunity? I mean, I think that would have been ill-considered.”

What's next: A House leadership aide said they'll try again, with another must-pass bill next spring.

The bottom line: "In an environment where all constituents of all parties are demanding relief from health care cost and complexity, the Democrats should be wary about singing the song of affordability concerns without delivering the goods," said Democratic health consultant Chris Jennings.

Go deeper

Biden raises $141 million more than Trump

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden speaks during a September campaign event in Wilmington, Delaware. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Joe Biden's campaign, the Democratic National Committee and joint fundraising committees raised $466 million cash on hand, the presidential candidate's team announced late Sunday.

Why it matters: President Trump's campaign raised $325 million, his campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh announced Friday. In the spring, Biden was $187 million behind Trump and the Republican National Committee.

Virtual Emmys address chaotic year for American TV and society

Emmy Host Jimmy Kimmel during rehearsals Friday for the 72nd Annual Emmy Awards at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Photo: Al Seib/ Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The Emmy Awards Sunday night addressed the major U.S. issues this year — including the protests on systemic racism and police brutality, the wildfires engulfing parts of the West Coast, the census, the pandemic, essential works and the election.

Why it matters: Award shows have always addressed wider cultural issues, but this year — amid unprecedented stress and uncertainty — that trend has accelerated.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 11:30 p.m. ET: 30,919,638 — Total deaths: 959,332— Total recoveries: 21,152,996Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 9:30p.m. ET: 6,799,141 — Total deaths: 199,474 — Total recoveries: 2,590,671 — Total tests: 95,108,559Map.
  3. Politics: Testing czar on Trump's CDC contradictions: "Everybody is right" Ex-FDA chief: Career scientists won't be "easily cowed" by political vaccine pressure.
  4. Education: What we overlooked in the switch to remote learning.
  5. Health: The dwindling chances of eliminating COVID-19 — 7 states set single-day coronavirus case records last week.
  6. World: England sets £10,000 fine for breaking self-isolation rules — The countries painting their pandemic recoveries green.