Both chambers have completed their legislative business for the week and will reconvene on Monday. Lawmakers are hoping that next week will be the last before a two-week recess for Easter, but the looming deadline to fund the government by Apr. 28 and an anticipated floor vote on Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to the Supreme Court could keep Members around Washington beyond next Friday.
An Obama-era rule to keep federal family-planning money flowing to Planned Parenthood is the latest target of Republicans in Congress who seek to bar the abortion provider from receiving government funds. As Congress runs short on legislative days before the April 28 deadline to avoid a government shutdown – during which funding for Planned Parenthood is anticipated to be a key sticking point – the Senate will look to send President Trump a House-passed measure (H.J.Res.43) that would (again) allow states to deny public-health grants to providers because they perform abortions. The Obama administration issued the regulation in response to moves by Republican-controlled states to restrict federal grants to Planned Parenthood. The Senate plans to vote on a motion to proceed to the measure, which would be followed by as many as 10 hours of debate and a passage vote.
Following up on an executive order signed by President Trump yesterday, the House will consider a bill (H.R. 1430) today curtailing the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ability to promulgate regulations without justifying those regulations through publicly published research. While yesterday’s executive order rolled back EPA rules published during the Obama Administration designed to limit carbon emissions, the bill under consideration today would take a broader approach by requiring the EPA to use “the best available science” and to specifically identify the data used to create the regulation. Democrats have opposed the bill as a measure that would cripple the environmental watchdog.
The dust will continue to settle in Congress as lawmakers slide back into regular business following last week’s excitement. House lawmakers will consider a Senate-passed resolution (S.J. Res. 34) today that would undo privacy rules for internet service providers enacted under the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) last year. Specifically, the rules require providers to receive an “opt-in” commitment from consumers before sharing their information with other companies for marketing purposes. Internet rights advocates fear that the resolution would undermine consumer privacy and encourage the selling of their information, while proponents say that the rules would confuse internet users and limit a vital source of revenue for providers. The resolution was passed on a 50-48 party-line vote in the Senate, meaning that House passage today would send the resolution to the president’s desk for enactment.
Today, Thorn Run’s Billy Wynne published a post on the Health Affairs blog gleaning lessons from the demise of American Health Care Act and envisioning steps forward.
The blog post challenges the narrative of inevitability on repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), considers the essential role of stakeholders, looks at the ACA’s original incorporation of some conservative ideas, and highlights how the locus of control is gravitating to Secretary Tom Price and the Department of Health and Human Services’ regulatory authority. Finally, the post suggests possible bipartisan approaches — both legislative and regulatory — that could chart a path forward on health policy.
Late in 2016 – right after President Donald Trump was elected president and Republicans gained full control of Congress – many beltway-watchers were quick write about the inevitable demise of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). But as Thorn Run’s Billy Wynne wrote in a December 2016 article for Health Affairs Blog, “the repeal and replace ‘two step’ [was] fraught with difficulty, bolder than the ACA itself, and far from certain to succeed.”
After last week’s healthcare debacle, Republicans are turning to the administrative functions that often consume Congress’s time in the spring, namely funding the government. Lawmakers have begun discussions on the legislative packages necessary to fund the government for the remainder of fiscal 2017 and the president’s proposed budget for fiscal 2018. The former issue is quickly becoming urgent as the continuing resolution (CR) currently providing for government spending will expire on Apr. 28 and Congress will be out for two weeks in April for the Easter recess. Most observers are expecting that fiscal 2017 spending will be finished through an omnibus package that essentially maintains fiscal 2016 spending levels, with an additional supplemental package for the Pentagon.
The Week in Review
At the start of last week, House Republicans were planning a floor vote on their health care package, the American Health Care Act (AHCA), and expecting to take a monumental step towards fulfilling their long-held goal of rolling back the Obama healthcare legacy. But by the end of the week, that goal appeared more elusive than ever. The bill was withdrawn from consideration indefinitely on Friday as intraparty differences on policy spoiled the first major legislative effort of the Trump era and left Republicans with a remarkable political defeat. What follows in our policy roundup is a summary of how the bill evolved in an attempt to placate both the moderate and conservative wings of the party, why that effort was ultimately unsuccessful, and with a considerable degree of uncertainty, our analysis on what will happen next in health policy.
The Republican health care plan, known as the American Health Care Act (AHCA), faces its watershed moment today after Republican opponents of the bill (H.R. 1628) held firm last night, forcing the vote to be postponed. While some analysts expected a drawn-out renegotiation process, the White House pressed Republican leaders to have a do-or-die vote on the package today. Speaking to the press last night, White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney suggested that President Trump is prepared to leave the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in place and move on to other priorities if the package is voted down today by the House. That posture may encourage House Freedom Caucus members to vote in favor of the package, particularly after receiving another policy concession last night in the form of a substitute amendment that would remove many of the essential health benefits (EHB) required of health insurance plans under the ACA. While those provisions are not budgetary and would likely need to be stripped in the Senate in order to conform with the Byrd Rule, including the EHB repeal in the House package may provide additional political cover for conservatives fearing backlash for approving what some conservatives have dubbed “Obamacare-lite.”