Here's the scoop on what's happening this week in Congress.
It looks like another Continuing Resolution will be passed in the next few weeks—one that could possibly extend into 2018—as the deadline to pass a 2018 fiscal year spending bill nears. The current continuing resolution (CR) expires on December 8th. If another CR is not passed by December 8th, the government will shut down. A CR at current levels into January 2018 (or later) would trigger across the board cuts because the current levels exceed the sequestered spending caps for FY18 unless Congress enacts a bipartisan deal to raise the caps before then.
Two weeks ago, the Trump Administration declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency. With fewer than two dozen days left on the 2017 legislative calendar, a tax cut plan pending, and the possibility of a government shutdown, Congress is unlikely to create a major new stream for funding before the new year. While the administration has pointed to vague, Senate-inspired plans to dedicate $45 billion over a decade to the crisis, it has not spelled out where that money would come from or how it would be spent. Nor has the administration put in an explicit request to Congress.
Lawmakers could find themselves having to cut federal spending to programs, including health, to pay for increased deficits that would result from the proposed House Republican tax plan. The House Ways and Means Committee approved (along party lines), the Republican tax plan yesterday and is expected to go to the House floor late next week. The summary of the House bill can be read here.
Senate Finance Committee Chair Orrin Hatch (R-UT) unveiled more details of the Senate’s tax reform proposal—not yet a bill. Rumors are that the committee will hold a “conceptual markup” to amend and rewrite the proposal next week. That would the Senate Finance committee to pass the legislation out of committee heading into Thanksgiving and head to the floor as soon as they return after the holidays. Vox.com has a good summary of the Senate’s plans.
Last Friday, the Act, which was coupled with the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) reauthorization, passed the House 242-174. Fifteen Democrats supported the hill with its offsets that would cut $6.35 billion over 10 years from the Prevention and Public Health Fund. The Prevention Fund makes up roughly 12 percent of the CDC’s budget and losses in the Fund will have ripple effects throughout HHS.
The ball is now in the Senate’s court. The upper chamber has its own bipartisan version which does not yet include offsets. Last Thursday, 22 Democrats wrote a letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer voicing their opposition to the use of the Prevention Fund as an offset. That letter can be found here.