President Trump signed an executive order (EO) that imposes a 90-day hiring freeze on federal agencies. It exempts positions deemed necessary to “meet national security or public safety responsibilities.” Key unanswered questions include whether FDA will use this exemption to fill some of its numerous (1000+) open positions, and whether positions financed through industry user fees are included in the freeze. We are working with partner organizations to reinforce the importance of staffing FDA to meet its existing obligations and those associated with 21st Century Cures.
Another EO to note is the order that banned citizens of seven countries from entering the U.S. for 90 days, and banned refugees for 120 days. Research!America issued a statement calling for the ban to be rescinded.
The Senate HELP and Finance Committees held hearings to vet Congressman Tom Price (R-GA-06) for the role of HHS Secretary. During the HELP hearing, Dr. Price made a positive comment about the importance of NIH-funded research, but otherwise said little on research-related topics. The Senate Finance Committee approved Congressman Price’s nomination to move to the full Senate floor without any Democrats participating in the vote.
Funding for most of the government is operating on a continuing resolution (CR) that will expire on April 28, 2017. Congressional leadership is allegedly finalizing a “CRomnibus” bill. Research!America made the case via a public letter to leadership urging Congress to make use of the FY17 appropriations bills that passed each House last year to craft final FY17 legislation. Our letter also asks leadership to ensure the 302(b) subcommittee allocation process for FY18 provides sufficient funding for our federal research agencies. In terms of FY18, it is rumored that President Trump will submit a budget in April, and Congress is moving ahead with the appropriations process prior to garnering the President’s priorities.
Drug pricing continues to receive significant attention in the press and in Congress, due in part to President Trump’s decision to target pricing during and after his campaign. Research!America continues to make the case that this issue should be part of a broader discussion about health care costs to ensure the solutions do not inadvertently stifle innovation that can bend the cost curve and save lives.