Washington DC Update

Posted 11 January 2018

As we enter the second year of the Trump Administration and second session of the 115th Congress, there is a laundry-list of items that need to be addressed in the first few weeks of 2018. Unable to agree on a budget, Congress instead passed another short-term continuing resolution (CR) at the end of the year that only funds the government through January 19. Included within that was a $750 million cut to the Prevention and Public Health Fund from FY2019 - FY2022. This is not good news for CDC, given that the Fund currently pays for 12 percent of the CDC’s operating costs.

Discussions continue on budget caps for domestic and military spending levels that are set to be reduced under sequestration. If discussions about raising those caps are successful, Congressional leaders expect to pass the remaining appropriations bills through a single omnibus spending package. However, the still-unresolved status of undocumented immigrants knowns as “Dreamers,” healthcare bills that aim to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, disaster relief funding and national security surveillance programs could all derail budget discussions. 

Ideally the FY 2019 budget and appropriations process will begin in February with the release of the President’s budget, followed by each chamber of Congress developing a budget resolution. Rumors are swirling that House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) will retire in the near future, and he has made clear that he wishes to prioritize entitlement reform on the 2018 agenda.

Finally, Alex Azar’s nomination process continues to proceed forward with his hearing in front of the Senate Finance Committee taking place last week. Given the jurisdiction of the Senate Finance Committee, there was not a large focus on questions related to public health or global health; however, Azar did state that he has an “overarching view that the United States needs to be deeply engaged in global public health.” The Senate Finance Committee has ultimate jurisdiction and will vote eventually on whether to discharge his nomination from Committee to the full Senate floor for consideration.