As members of Congress return to D.C. this month, they face formidable budget challenges. There are only 12 days in September when both chambers are in session; yet, by September 30, 2017 they must: 1) pass and secure the president’s signature on an FY18 budget bill; 2) increase the debt limit; and 3) potentially pass supplemental spending to assist Texas in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. Congress will also be under significant pressure to stabilize the individual insurance market by shoring up the Affordable Care Act. It is likely that Congress will limit its consideration of ACA-related matters to this aspect of reform, and will not address repeal of the medical device tax in September.
One of the first items on the Senate Appropriations agenda is marking up the FY18 LHHS bill. One troubling rumor is that the Senate bill may not only include restrictions on fetal tissue research, similar to the House bill, but that it will also place new restrictions on embryonic stem cell research.
The House plans to unveil a 12-bill omnibus when they return in early September that incorporates the four-bill, security-focused minibus that passed the House in July, along with the other eight appropriations bills that have passed their respective appropriations subcommittees. However, it is unlikely that the House and Senate will coalesce around a final FY18 spending package by September 30. The most likely budget scenario is that Congress will pass a short-term Continuing Resolution temporarily sustaining FY17 funding levels.
It remains critically important to make the case for a bipartisan budget deal that raises FY18 “sequestration” caps on discretionary spending. On August 30, Research!America hosted an alliance members call to set the stage for a two-day digital #RaiseTheCaps initiative on September 11 and 12.
Research!America also hosted an in-person alliance members meeting on August 29 with Majority and Minority staff of the Senate HELP Committee. The Committee staffers shared their FDA and NIH priorities for the remainder of 2017 and fielded questions about 21st Century Cures implementation, indirect costs, a standing fund for public health emergencies, hearings on the topic of drug pricing, the possibility of a hearing exploring AHRQ’s role in advancing health and health care, and other salient issues.