This Week in Washington: House Speaker and Senate Majority Leader reach topline appropriations deal; OCR releases final rule on conscience rights; Senate HELP Committee Democrats launch investigation into cost of asthma inhalers; State of the Union scheduled for March 7.



House Speaker and Senate Majority Leader Reach Topline Appropriations Deal

On Jan. 7, House of Representatives Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) reached an agreement on topline appropriations levels for fiscal year 2024. The Speaker and Senate Majority Leader agreed to a topline amount of $1.59 trillion, of which $886 billion would go to defense and $704 billion would go to non-defense discretionary spending.

Due to the tight turnaround before the approaching Jan. 19 funding deadline, the Senate Majority Leader has already taken the first procedural step on creating a short-term continuing resolution (CR) to allow for more time to work on the specifics of the agreement and avoid a partial government shutdown. However, it remains unclear whether the House would pass a CR.


Senate HELP Committee Democrats Launch Investigation into Cost of Asthma Inhalers

On Jan. 8, Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Sens. Baldwin (D-WI), Luján (D-NM) and Markey (D-MA) sent letters to the chief executive officers of AstraZeneca, Boehringer Ingelheim, GlaxoSmithKline and Teva, concerning the prices they charge for asthma inhalers.

The chairman and senators are concerned over the tactics used on inhaler product patents and are seeking information on the costs involved in inhaler manufacturing and asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease research and development. This investigation piggybacks on the Federal Trade Commission’s work on improperly listed patents in the Food and Drug Administration’s Orange Book.

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Read more on healthcare policy in McGuireWoods Consulting’s Washington Healthcare Update.