Congressional Corner

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March 30, 2017

Following negotiations last week, leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives determined there was not enough support to bring the American Health Care Act to a vote and decided to remove it from consideration. Nevertheless, discussion regarding ACA repeal continues, although specific proposals remain uncertain.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, the White House submitted to Congress $18 billion in proposed funding cuts to the FY17 appropriations bills, set to expire under the current continuing resolution at the end of April. Regarding these proposed budget cuts, ASTHO staff met with Rep. Tom Cole, chairman of the House Labor-HHS appropriations subcommittee, who advised ASTHO that the administration submitted these funding reductions after the deadline. Cole said that the FY17 Labor-HHS appropriations bills are complete, echoing the general consensus that these reductions face little chance of seeing approval. Chairs of both the House and Senate Labor-HHS subcommittees have publicly stated that they are not willing to renegotiate their bills to include these funding cuts.

While the proposed funding cuts may be a non-starter for this fiscal year, they may provide a roadmap of what the budget will look like for FY18, which the administration is expected to release in May. ASTHO expects much deeper cuts than those proposed in FY17, with additional programs likely facing reductions. ASTHO will release a detailed breakdown of the full budget once it is sent to Congress.

On Wednesday, President Trump signed an executive order establishing a commission to “combat the scourge of drug abuse, addiction, and overdose (drug addiction), including opioid abuse, addiction, and overdose (opioid crisis).” The executive order states that the commission’s mission is to identify federal funding to combat addiction and the opioid crisis, assess the availability of treatment services, identify best practices for addiction prevention and the use of state prescription drug monitoring programs, evaluate educational messages for youth, identify and evaluate current federal programs to prevent and treat addiction, and make recommendations to improve these programs and responses to the opioid crisis. The commission has 90 days to submit its interim recommendations, and until Oct. 1 to submit final findings and recommendations. The commission is chaired by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. ASTHO will continue to monitor the commission’s progress, as well as any potential impacts on state public health efforts to combat the opioid crisis. It is currently unclear whether state public health representatives serve on the commission.