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  • Washington Highlights

    Congress Sends President Short-Term Spending and Debt Extension, While House Considers FY 2018 Spending Package

    Tannaz Rasouli, Sr. Director, Public Policy & Strategic Outreach
    Matthew Shick, Sr. Director, Gov't Relations & Regulatory Affairs

    The House Sept. 8 voted, 316-90, to send an emergency aid and continuing resolution package (H.R. 601) to the president, one day after the Senate approved the measure, 80-17.

    The bill provides $15.25 billion in disaster relief, and temporarily suspends the debt ceiling and extends discretionary funding at 0.6791 percent below their fiscal year (FY) 2017 levels through Dec. 8.

    Additionally, Section 138 of the bill prohibits the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) from reducing support for facilities and administrative (F&A) expenses reimbursed by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The AAMC and numerous other organizations representing patients, scientists, clinicians, and research institutions, have expressed concern over the president’s FY 2018 proposal to drastically reduce F&A support [see Washington Highlights, May 26]. The AAMC has expressed support for the language, which is also included in the FY 2018 spending bills approved by the House and Senate Appropriations Committees.

    The continuing resolution gives lawmakers additional time beyond the end of the federal fiscal year Sept. 30 to complete work on the FY 2018 spending bills. The House approved a four-bill “security” package in July, and Sept. 6 began consideration of H.R. 3354, the “Make America Secure and Prosperous Appropriations Act,” an “octo-bus” of the remaining eight FY 2018 appropriations bills reported from the House Appropriations Committee.

    H.R. 3354 contains the FY 2018 Labor-HHS-Education spending bill (H.R. 3358, H.Rept. 115-234) approved by the House Appropriations Committee in July, which provided a $943.4 million increase in funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), but made cuts to other HHS agencies, including the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and workforce programs administered by the Health Resources and Services Administrations (HRSA) [see Washington Highlights, July 21].

    During a statement on the House floor Sept. 6, Appropriations Committee Chair Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.) spoke in support of the appropriations bill, saying, “This legislation today represents the House priorities and shows the American people that this chamber is moving forward, governing effectively, and getting things done in Washington.”

    The White House also weighed in on the package, expressing support for the measure overall through a Sept. 5 Statement of Administration Policy, but noting it is “disappointed” with language that “prohibits changes to the method the National Institutes of Health (NIH) uses to pay grantee institutions for administrative and facilities costs,” noting strong opposition to “any attempts to prohibit NIH or any other Agency staff from developing strategies to make government programs more effective and efficient.”

    The House Committee on Rules held hearings the week of Sept. 4 to determine which amendments submitted by members of the House would be considered as “made in order.”

    While three amendments focused on Title VII and Title VIII programs were originally introduced to the appropriations omnibus, the Committee on Rules only approved two amendments to be considered on the House floor: Rep. Suzanne Bonamici’s (D-Ore.) Title VIII nursing workforce development amendment, objects to the House bill’s consolidation of the Title VIII nursing programs into one larger program, and  Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s (D-N.M.) Title VII Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training (BHWET) program amendment, which would increase the program’s funding by $5 million from the House proposed allocation of $25 million.