CONGRESS IS BACK
The Senate and the House are both in session for the next three weeks before the fiscal year ends on September 30. Congress’s priority will be to fund the government through a continuing resolution (CR). While currently there is no concern that a CR may not be reached, there are difficult decisions to be made this month with regard to what else is attached to the CR. Specifically, on the healthcare front, the Administration has requested additional COVID-19 funding, but this request is meeting Republican opposition. To secure the vote of Senator Manchin (D-WV) on the Inflation Reduction Act, Senate Majority Leader Schumer (D-NY) committed to considering a Manchin proposal that changes environmental permitting language, modifies the Clean Water Act and approves a gas pipeline from West Virginia to Virginia. Seventy-one House Democrats signed a letter opposing inclusion of this provision in a CR, and Senator Bernie Sanders also has made clear his opposition. With tight margins in both the Senate and the House, there is little to no room for disagreement among Democrats, so we are watching this closely.
User fee agreements (UFAs) need to be addressed as well. Congress needs to renew the UFAs in order to fund portions of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA could begin sending furlough notices to staff if the UFAs are not addressed by September 30. Typically, UFA passage is bipartisan. However, Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) Committee Ranking Member Richard Burr (R-NC) voted against the HELP Committee package that he helped craft and has demanded the removal of policy riders. He instead wants a “clean” UFA bill. Other members of the Senate HELP Committee and the House counterpart Energy & Commerce Committee already passed broader UFA bills. Has the time come for leadership to step in and move the UFAs as part of the CR in order to resolve this time-sensitive matter? We will see.