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  • Washington Highlights

    Spending Package Keeps Government Running Until December

    Tannaz Rasouli, Sr. Director, Public Policy & Strategic Outreach

    The president Sept. 29 signed a spending package (H.R. 5325) that will avert a government shutdown, provide supplemental funding to prevent and treat Zika infection, and fund the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) through the end of fiscal year (FY) 2017.

    The spending measure continues funding for most federal agencies through Dec. 9, at a rate of operations that is 0.496 percent below the FY 2016 level, increases funding for VA Medical and Prosthetic Research, and offers Zika-related emergency supplemental funding to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health (NIH), and other agencies [see Washington Highlights, Sept. 23]. The package also extends for one year authorization of the Conrad 30 J-1 visa waiver program, which had been slated to expire at the end of the fiscal year.

    Lawmakers scrambled to approve the package Sept. 28 after an earlier attempt failed in the Senate over Democrats’ concerns that funding was not included to address lead-contaminated water in Flint, Mich. After the Senate bill stalled Sept. 27, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) brokered an agreement to attach language authorizing Flint support to a water projects bill (H.R. 5303) being considered by the House, assuaging Democrats’ concerns and clearing the way for the stopgap to advance.

    The Senate approved, 72-26, the spending package Sept. 28, and the House followed suit shortly after, 342-85. AAMC President and CEO Darrell G. Kirch, MD, issued a Sept. 29 statement praising Congress for sending the bill to the president’s desk.

    Enactment of the continuing resolution gives lawmakers time to complete its FY 2017 appropriations work – including funding for NIH and other agencies at the Department of Health and Human Services – when Congress returns to Washington after the November elections.