The House June 12 began debate on a $985 billion four-bill spending package (H.R. 2740) that includes the fiscal year (FY) 2020 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS) Appropriations bill approved by the House Appropriations Committee May 8 with increased funding over FY 2019 for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other health care priorities [see Washington Highlights, May 10].
The House spent June 12 and 13 considering nearly 80 amendments to the Labor-HHS portion of the bill, of nearly 200 that were filed. Lawmakers approved, 225-193, an AAMC-supported amendment offered by Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) and nine Democrats to prevent implementation of a June 5 HHS policy on extramural fetal tissue research [see Washington Highlights, June 7].
The AAMC June 12 joined over 65 organizations in a letter to Rep. Pocan expressing support for the amendment, noting, “We are deeply concerned about the delayed development of new therapies and the loss of scientific knowledge that will result from this policy, and strongly support your attempts to prevent its implementation.”
The AAMC also supported an amendment offered by Reps. Bill Johnson (R-Ohio) and Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.) to provide $2 million in funding for regional centers of excellence in substance use disorder education at medical schools and teaching hospitals, as authorized under Section 7101 of the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act (P.L. 115-271). The House adopted the amendment, 408-15.
An amendment from Rep. Susie Lee (D-Nev.) provided a $5 million increase to funding for Graduate Medical Education (GME) within the Health Resources and Services Administration. The funding for the additional GME slots were taken from the Department of Education’s Office of the Secretary administrative costs. The House adopted the amendment, 365-54.
The chamber approved several additional amendments related to the health workforce and research, including an amendment by Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.) that calls attention to the need of improving “staffing shortages in underserved areas” and “increasing the number of physicians serving in community health centers,” an amendment from Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (D-Calif.) to “support a National Cancer Institute study on how to improve communication between cancer care providers, cancer patients, and survivors”; and an amendment by Rep. Bill Keating (D-Mass.) to study social determinants of health.
Lawmakers rejected two amendments offered by Reps. Banks (R-Ind.) and Grothman (R-Wis.) to provide across the board cuts to the Labor-HHS spending bill, as well as an amendment offered by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) to allow appropriated funds to conduct activities to promote the legalization of Schedule I substances.
The “minibus” spending package, the first to be considered by the chamber for FY 2020, combines the House Appropriations Committee-approved FY 2020 Labor-HHS spending bill with the committee-passed Defense, State and Foreign Operations, and Energy and Water spending bills. By midday June 13, lawmakers had started considering amendments beyond the Labor-HHS portion of the bill. Floor consideration of the four-bill minibus is expected to conclude during the week of June 17.
Despite the House progress on the spending package, because the overall funding levels exceed the discretionary spending caps established in statute, Congress and the White House will need to reach an agreement on topline funding levels for the government before the spending levels in the minibus can be enacted without triggering steep across-the-board cuts through sequestration [see Washington Highlights, April 12].
Senate Republican leaders who met with White House and other administration officials June 12 told reporters that discussions were ongoing, but that they were making progress in finding common ground. Neither House leaders nor Senate Democrats participated in the closed-door meeting, however, and the Senate has yet to officially set a timeline for consideration of its FY 2020 spending bills.