1.7.19 – 1.11.19 Health Wrap Up

1.7.19 – 1.11.19 Health Wrap Up

1.7.19 – 1.11.19 Health Wrap Up

Please find below a summary of the latest major health policy developments in Washington this week. Please let us know if you have any questions.


FY19 Appropriations

The partial government shutdown hit the three-week mark today and is set to become the longest ever this weekend. The Senate is in session today, but no votes are planned, and the chamber remains at a standstill as Democrats block any legislation that Republicans seek to consider, instead calling for action on spending bills. The House this week passed the Transportation-HUD, Agriculture-FDA, Financial Services, and Interior-Environment spending bills as individual measures, all of them virtually identical to bills the Senate passed in the last Congress in a four-bill package, as well as the minibus passed by the House last week. The bills are still unlikely to advance through the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said members won’t vote on measures they don’t expect President Trump to sign into law. In addition, Trump has said he won’t sign any spending legislation into law until there’s a border wall deal and the White House on Wednesday promised to veto the measures should they reach Trump’s desk. On Thursday, Speaker Pelosi said that the House could vote on more spending bills next week.

On Tuesday night, President Trump delivered the first Oval Office address of his presidency making the case for an emergency at the border. Following the address, on Wednesday, congressional leaders met at the White House, which ended with the President leaving the room after Speaker Pelosi reportedly said that even if the government is reopened she still won’t provide any money for a border wall.

There have been some signs of pressure in the Senate this week, however, with Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) telling Trump in a meeting Wednesday that while she supports measures to increase border security, she wants votes to end the shutdown. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) also urged Trump to cut a deal to reopen the government. Collins and Murkowski remain a minority in the caucus for now, but other senators this week sought a way out of the stalemate, including Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) who hosted a Republican meeting Wednesday to see if there was a broader immigration deal that could be achieved between Trump and Democratic leaders. The group tried to jump start bipartisan talks before Trump declares a national emergency to get his wall, but the president rejected their idea to allow congressional committees to sort out his border wall request while the government reopened. Following the rejection, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), said he thinks negotiations are “stuck” and doesn’t see path forward right now.  In the proposed plan the Senate Appropriations Committee will take up legislation meeting the president’s $5.7 billion border wall request. That bill would be open to amendment in the committee and then come to the floor; meanwhile most or all of the shuttered government would be reopened while the Senate begins a broad immigration debate aimed at passing a bipartisan bill.

As the shutdown drags on, the president is becoming more vocal about the possibility of declaring a national emergency to without congressional approval use military funds to secure the border. Many lawmakers feel that such a move would surely be challenged in court, although many agree that such a move would end the shutdown.

** As a side note since there have been questions about the status of meetings on the Hill during the shutdown, Congress is funded as part of the Legislative Branch Appropriations bill and therefore was funded for a full fiscal year when that bill was signed into law at the end of September. In short, Hill offices are open during the shutdown.  

 Bipartisan budget process reform bill introduced

On Wednesday, Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Roy Blunt (R-MO) introduced a bill to reform the budget and appropriations process. The bipartisan legislation comes after the work of the Joint Select Committee on Budget and Appropriations Process Reform blew up late last year without a path forward in the Senate.  The measure would require Congress to pass a budget every two years, instead of annually, and it removes the president from the congressional budget timeline so Congress could begin working on the budget before the president’s request. It would also require an annual hearing on the fiscal state of the nation, and add the chairmen and ranking members of the Senate Finance and Appropriations panels to the Senate Budget Committee.


This week, the House passed three health policy bills of note.  They include:

  • Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness and Advancing Innovation Act of 2019 (HR 269)
  • Medicaid Extenders Act of 2019 (HR 259)
  • A resolution (H.Res.6) authorizing the House general counsel to intervene in the Affordable Care Act lawsuit

As you may recall, the House passed both the pandemic preparedness and Medicaid extenders bills before the end of the 115th Congress but they were not passed by the Senate and sent to the President.  With the start of the 116th congress, the House was required to vote again.

Whether the stalemate around the pandemic preparedness bill can be broken anytime soon remains unclear.  Sen. Burr (R-NC) renewed his hold on the legislation and said he is opposed to the creation of new user fees for drug makers, which was added to the pandemic legislation as part of provisions overhauling the regulatory framework for over-the-counter (OTC) drugs.  Burr said he would prefer a standalone preparedness bill.  The OTC provisions are similar to HR 5333, which the House passed by voice vote last July.

Prescription Drug Legislation

On Thursday, Democrats in the House and Senate introduced major legislation reforming the prescription drug industry.  Senator Bernie Sander (I-VT) and Reps. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) and Ro Khanna (D-CA) introduced three bills:

  • Prescription Drug Price Relief Act would impose price controls which do not exceed the median price of the same drug in Canada, France, Germany, Japan, and the United Kingdom.
  • Medicare Drug Price Negotiation Act authorizes CMS to negotiate prescription drug prices under Medicare Part D with pharmaceutical manufacturers.
  • Affordable and Safe Prescription Drug Importation Act would allow for the importation of prescription drugs manufactured abroad.

It is yet to be seen whether these concepts—some long championed by progressive groups—are compatible with some of the efforts underway by HHS to pursue their own prescription drug price reduction efforts.  But sponsors of the legislation believe these bills could serve as the basis for a larger bipartisan bill to address the issue.


The following upcoming health care hearings of note have been noticed as of press time:

  • January 29
  • House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on drug pricing


Committee Membership

This week, House Democrats announced new members for some of the key House Committees.  Members joining the House Ways and Means Committee include:

  • Beyer (D-VA)
  • Boyle (D-PA)
  • Evans (D-PA)
  • Horsford (D-NV)
  • Kildee (D-MI)
  • Moore (D-WI)
  • Murphy (D-FL)
  • Panetta (D-CA)
  • Schneider (D-IL)
  • Suozzi (D-NY)

Members joining the House Energy and Commerce Committee include:

  • Barragan (D-CA)
  • Blunt Rochester (D-DE)
  • Kelly (D-IL)
  • Kuster (D-NH)
  • McEachin (D-VA)
  • O’Halleran (D-AZ)
  • Soto (D-FL)
  • Veasey (D-TX)

Members joining the House Appropriations Committee include:

  • Bustos (D-IL)
  • Case (D-HI)
  • Crist (D-FL)
  • Frankel (D-FL)
  • Kirkpatrick (D-AZ)
  • Lawrence (D-MI)
  • Torres (D-CA)
  • Watson Coleman (D-NJ)

In addition, on Wednesday Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) announced the majority and minority subcommittee leaders for the 116th Congress following approval by the full Senate.

Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies

  • John Hoeven (R-N.D.), chairman
  • Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), ranking member

Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies

  • Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), chairman
  • Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), ranking member

Department of Defense

  • Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), chairman
  • Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), vice chairman

Energy and Water Development

  • Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), chairman
  • Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), ranking member

Financial Services and General Government

  • John Kennedy (R-La.), chairman
  • Chris Coons (D-Del.), ranking member

 Department of Homeland Security

  • Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), chairman
  • Jon Tester (D-Mont.), ranking member

Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies

  • Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), chairman
  • Tom Udall (D-N.M.), ranking member

Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies

  • Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), chairman
  • Patty Murray (D-Wash.), ranking member

Legislative Branch

  • Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), chairman
  • Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), ranking member

Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies

  • John Boozman (R-Ark.), chairman
  • Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), ranking member

State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs

  • Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), chairman
  • Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), ranking member

Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies

  • Susan Collins (R-Maine), chairman
  • Jack Reed (D-R.I.), ranking member

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