Becerra Budget Hearings
This week US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Becerra will begin testifying in front of various congressional committees on the HHS budget. HHS proposes $1.7 trillion in mandatory funding and $143 billion in discretionary budget authority, an 11.5% increase in discretionary funding from the 2023 enacted level. Becerra’s first appearance is in front of the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday, March 22. On March 29, he is scheduled to testify in front of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Overall, there are more than 20 budget-related hearings across Congress this week.
While the budget request represents the administration’s funding goals for the coming year, it also sheds light on the administration’s policy goals. With tight margins in the House and Senate, it is unlikely that many legislative policies will move forward. However, stakeholders can look to the budget’s policy goals as potential regulatory or executive actions that the Administration could implement without the need for congressional action.
This week includes two other noteworthy hearings. On March 22, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee will focus on the high cost of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. Moderna announced a plan to give free COVID-19 vaccines to uninsured individuals after the HELP Committee, chaired by Senator Sanders (I-VT), asked the company to testify. On March 23, the House Ways and Means Committee will hold a hearing on inflation’s impact on patients and small businesses. Witnesses have not been officially announced, but it appears that the hearing will divide into partisan arguments on the Administration’s role and policies that can cause and increase inflation.
One thing both of these hearings have in common is an oversight angle. As we have expected, this Congress is focused on oversight activities and will continue to engage in activities in that vein.