When Congress comes back into session post-election on November 14, the House is in session for just six days and the Senate for eight days. Congress has three potential options to avoid a government shutdown by passing some sort of appropriations bill before the current continuing resolution (CR) expires on December 9. This legislation could take the form of: 1) a short-term CR that flat-funds government until February or March of next year; 2) a long-term CR that locks in status quo funding until Fiscal Year 2018 begins October 1, 2017; or a “CRomnibus”-a hybrid bill that provides FY17 budget increases for priorities like defense and NIH.
A bipartisan letter is being circulated in the House requesting that NIH receive no less than $34 billion in FY17. The letter is sponsored by Reps Suzan DelBene (D-WA), David McKinley (R-WV), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Peter King (R-NY) and has received signatures from 151 House members.
Additionally, advocates hope the “lame-duck” Congress will consider and pass a 21st Century Cures bill within their short working period. Legislative staff have said that the major policy provisions of the compromise Cures legislation have been finalized, and that key provisions, such as those improving the regulatory pathway for combination products and facilitating the use of existing data to speed the approval of products for unmet medical needs, remain intact. Key House and Senate legislators behind the Cures initiative have also indicated that funding for the Cancer Moonshot funding be an important component of the final Cures bill.
It is also possible that the 114th Congress will attempt to pass landmark mental health legislation before adjourning in December. The Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act (HR 2646) passed the House in July, and the Mental Health Reform Act (S.2680) passed the Senate HELP Committee in April. The House and Senate bills would help expand access to treatment.