This Week: To shut down or not to shut down the issue as Congress tries to wrap up and leave; opioids back in the news; Alexander says he will not run for reelection in 2020.


House Adds Border Security and Disaster Aid to Senate Continuing Resolution
After the Senate passed a continuing resolution to fund the government until Feb.8, the President announced he would not sign it. The House then voted 217-185 to send the continuing resolution back to the Senate after adding $5.7 billion for border security and $7.8 billion for disaster relief.

At this writing, it was unclear the Senate could pass the House version. In the event of a shut down, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is funded. However, the Food and Drug Administration is not because it was not included in the previously passed funding. The agency might have to furlough approximately 40 percent of its staff.


Continuing Resolution Passes Senate, but Trump wants Changes
On Dec. 20, the Senate passed a Continuing Resolution, based upon an agreement with the House, Senate and White House.  After passage, the President announced he would not sign the package without funding for the wall.  The CR funding would run through Feb 8. The Senate passed resolution left the debate over the wall and other issues to the new Congress.  Included in the CR:

Continued funding

  • Continues appropriations through Feb. 8, 2019, for FY19 appropriations measures that have not yet been enacted (Agriculture, Commerce-Justice-Science, Financial Services, Homeland Security, Interior-Environment, State-Foreign Operations, Transportation-HUD).

Temporary extensions included in previous CRs of expiring authorities

  • The National Flood Insurance Program, extended for duration of the CR.
  • The Violence Against Women Act, extended for duration of the CR.
  • The Pesticide Registration Improvement Act, extended for duration of the CR.
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, extended for duration of the CR.
  • Immigration extensions (EB-5, E-Verify, Conrad 30 program for international medical school graduates, special immigrant religious workers program and H2B returning worker authority for DHS), extended for duration of the CR.

New temporary extensions of expiring authorities

  • The Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards Act, extended for duration of the CR.
  • Two expiring provisions of the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act, extended for duration of the CR.
  • Medicaid Money-Follows-the-Person and Spousal Impoverishment, extended through March 31 (longer extension necessary for program integrity), with offsets.
  • Statutory PAYGO scorecard balance debited to following year.

HELP Chairman Will Not Seek Reelection in 2020
On Dec. 17, Sen. Lamar Alexander, who chairs the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, announced he will not run for reelection in 2020. He will remain chair in the next Congress. Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY) is next in line to chair the HELP committee, although he would have to give up being chair of the Senate Budget Committee. Sen. Alexander was part of a working group of GOP senators that failed to pass an Affordable Care Act replacement bill last year. Days before announcing his retirement, Sen. Alexander said that the committee would be open to considering a revival of the bill.

Sen. Wyden Asks FCC to Adopt Three-Digit Number for Mental Health and Suicide Support
On Dec. 17, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) asked the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to adopt a new three-digit phone number for those needing mental health and suicide support. Sen. Wyden noted in his letter to the FCC that suicide rates are rising nationally with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reporting more than 40,000 Americans died by suicide last year.

Read the letter here.

Sen. Booker Will Introduce Legislation on Medicaid Drug Transparency
On Dec. 17, Sen. Corey Booker (D-NJ) announced he will introduce the “Medicaid Drug Decisions Transparency Act” this week, requiring more transparency surrounding states’ Medicaid drug decisions. The bill requires pharmaceutical companies to disclose their payments to pharmacists and others who serve on state Medicaid drug boards. The bill also increases penalties for companies that fail to comply with reporting requirements and requires the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to provide states with summaries of drug company payments made to members of their Medicaid drug committees.

Read more about healthcare policy on the McGuireWoods Consulting website.