The House Appropriations Committee, chaired by Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY), advanced its FY 2016 Health and Human Services, Education and Labor Appropriations bill last Wednesday. Committee members approved the bill in a 30-21 vote (along party lines) after a nearly seven-hour markup.
The bill has the potential to harm the nation’s health in a number of ways. First, despite the Supreme Court’s recent ruling protecting subsidies for access to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) through the federal exchange, it blocks discretionary funding for the ACA. If signed into law, this would mean that the nearly 16 million people who depend on federal subsidies to purchase health insurance would be denied coverage.
“If you look at the bill carefully, it is an affront to women, families and all hard-working Americans,” said Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-NY), the ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee.
Second, the legislation includes a provision that “prohibits the 2015 Dietary Guidelines from moving forward unless they are solely nutritional and dietary in nature and based on a preponderance of scientific evidence." In other words, under this legislation the new Dietary Guidelines would be challenged to reflect updated nutrition science on the benefits of a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains or on the benefits of exercise, and prevents recommendations regarding sustainability.
A similar provision is present in the FY 2016 House Agriculture Appropriations bill, passed in the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food & Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Subcommittee of the full House Appropriations Committee, Chaired by Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-AL). The full Committee on Appropriations will markup the Agriculture Appropriations bill (which sets funding for WIC) this Wednesday at 10:15am in 2359 Rayburn.
The Senate’s companion bill to the House’s Agriculture Appropriations bill will likely be marked up in the Senate soon. As mentioned last week, Senate Democrats have pledged to reject all Republican-sponsored Appropriations bills until a deal is reached to ease the spending caps on all domestic discretionary programs – not just defense spending as insisted by Republicans.