Federal Government Funding for Remainder of FY 2017 in the Crosshairs
Members of Congress must agree by this Friday, April 28 on how to fund the federal government for the remaining 5 months of FY 2017 to avoid a government shutdown. A funding bill will come in the form of another Continuing Resolution (CR), an omnibus appropriations bill, or some combination of the two (a so-called “Cromnibus”).
Budget negotiations have been made all the more contentious by President Trump’s threat to withhold payments used to subsidize insurance costs for poor Americans under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) if Democrats do not agree to fund the border wall between the US and Mexico. The White House has offered a dollar-for-dollar trade with Democrats of border wall money in return for the ACA Cost Sharing Reduction (CSR) subsidies. Both Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) agree that CSR payments are must-haves in the omnibus spending bill. However, Democrats are unlikely to budge when it comes to providing federal funds for building the border wall.
Given these seemingly intractable political conflicts and the tight schedule for reaching a funding agreement, it appears that a short-term CR is more likely than an omnibus bill. We will keep you informed as negotiations continue throughout the week.
Continued Efforts to Replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA)
President Trump is pressuring the House to try once more this week to pass legislation to repeal and replace the ACA after House Majority leaders, led by Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), failed to do so last month. House Republicans have not yet agreed to changes to their replacement bill—the American Health Care Act, or AHCA—needed to win enough Republican support to pass the repeal bill without Democrats. Consensus on AHCA has been further complicated by voter anger, anxiety over the bill, and the possible loss of Affordable Care Act (ACA) or Obamacare coverage. Constituents raised their concerns about AHCA at town hall meetings during the spring recess when members of the House were in their home districts.
Vote Today on Agriculture Secretary Nominee
The Senate has scheduled a vote today on former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue’s nomination to be agriculture secretary. He is likely to receive sufficient votes to be named secretary.
Vivek Murthy Dismissed from Surgeon General Post
Former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, an Obama-appointee, was dismissed and replaced by the Trump Administration last Friday. Dr. Murthy will continue to serve as a member of the Commissioned Corps. He will be replaced by Rear Admiral Sylvia Trent-Adams, a nurse who currently serves as Deputy Surgeon General. She will be the first non-doctor to serve as Surgeon General.
Dr. Murthy’s early departure came as a surprise to the public health community. It is unusual (but not unprecedented) for a surgeon general’s four-year term to be cut short. Murthy’s term should have run until the end of 2018. Dr. Murthy, who considers gun-violence a public health crisis, holds views on gun control that are at odds with the new administration. In addition, he was a strong supporter of Obamacare. In a statement on Facebook, Dr. Murthy shared some of the lessons he learned on the job, which reflect his outspoken concerns about well-being and kindness.