Congressional Corner

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Aug. 3, 2017

Appropriations Update 
The House of Representatives passed a minibus, a package of four spending bills that are mostly security themed. The total cost of the package is $790 billion. It is unclear when this package will reach the floor for a vote. As a reminder, these proposed funding levels exceed funding caps set by the Budget Control Act.

Senate ACA Repeal Efforts 
Last week, Senate efforts to repeal ACA did not succeed. The Senate voted on a number of amendments to the underlying legislation and none of these proposals garnered enough votes to proceed. On the final day, the Health Care Freedom Act, better known as the “skinny repeal,” failed by a 49-51 vote, with Sen. McCain, Sen. Murkowski, and Sen. Collins voting against the legislation.

The White House continues to push the Senate for ACA repeal. However, on Tuesday, Sen. Lamar Alexander, Chairman, and Sen. Patty Murray, Ranking Member, of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions announced a bipartisan healthcare hearing with the goal of stabilizing the insurance markets. These hearings will begin the week of Sept. 4 and are likely to include state insurance commissioners, patients, governors, healthcare experts, and insurance companies. Insurance companies must sign contracts with the federal government to sell insurance on the federal exchange by September 27, 2018.

FDA Tobacco Policy Update 
Late last week, FDA announced a “new comprehensive plan which places nicotine, and the issue of addiction, at the center of the agency’s tobacco regulation efforts.” Read ASTHO’s memo on this policy, which includes opportunities for state input and background, here.

Updates on September CHIP Extension, Debt Ceiling, and Senate LHHS Bill 
According to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the debt ceiling must be raised by Sept. 29. The timing of this deadline is tricky given the fact that the federal fiscal year ends the next day as well as the expiration of funding for key health programs such as the Children’s Health Insurance Program, maternal and infant programs, the Early Childhood Home Visiting program, community health centers, and the National Health Service Corps.

This is important because some members of Congress do not want to raise the debt ceiling without accompanying spending cuts.

The House of Representatives is currently on recess, with members back in their districts. These issues will be addressed when they return in September.

Senate Republicans have discussed the possibility of a debt limit vote before recess, but no plan has emerged. The Senate remains in session this week and potentially next week.

The Senate is not likely to work on the Labor, HHS bill until September. Both chambers are set to return on Sept. 5.