Time Keeps on Slipping
Although about a month is left before the March 1 and March 8 government funding deadlines, time is of the essence in coming to agreement on several contentious issues. The Senate is scheduled to begin a two-week recess on February 12, while the House is scheduled for recess the week of February 19.
Senate negotiators announced a bipartisan border security and foreign aid package last night. The Senate will begin procedural steps to move the bill forward this week, but given the border’s controversial nature, the bill is unlikely to move to a vote this week, and it is also unclear whether it has any opportunity to receive the necessary 60 votes for passage. House Speaker Johnson has come out in strong opposition to the Senate package and has instead decided to pursue a House-initiated free-standing proposal for funding for Israel this week.
While leadership on both sides of the Capitol are tied up with border security, the health agenda in Congress continues to move forward. The House is expected to consider H.R. 485, the Protecting Health Care for All Patients Act of 2023, which is designed to prohibit the use of quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) and similar measures in all federal programs. The bill was reported from the Energy and Commerce Committee without any Democratic support. Also in the House, the Committee on Ways and Means will hold a hearing on drug shortages on Tuesday, continuing focus on an issue that the House Energy and Commerce Committee and Senate Finance Committee have discussed previously. The House Oversight Committee will also meet on Tuesday to mark up legislation regarding pharmacy benefit managers.
The Senate will hold two healthcare-related hearings on Thursday. The Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions will hear from pharmaceutical CEOs about the high cost of prescription drugs in the United States, and the Finance Committee will review the use of artificial intelligence in healthcare.
Much work is being done, but only time will tell if that work translates into the pending March 8 government funding package or if it will be punted toward the end of the year, when we expect healthcare to be a significant component of post-election lame duck legislating.
As Congress quickly approaches yet another government funding deadline, Debbie Curtis and Rodney Whitlock join Julia Grabo to discuss how this limited time is being spent on Capitol Hill.