This week in Washington: Continuing resolution passes House, government shutdown averted for now, infrastructure and reconciliation package votes delayed.
Continuing Resolution Passes House and Senate, Government Shutdown Averted
On Sept. 30, both the House and Senate voted to pass the continuing resolution that will extend federal funding through Dec. 3. The bill also includes $28.6 billion for disaster assistance and $6.3 billion for Afghan refugees. An earlier version of the bill failed to pass the Senate on Sept. 27 due to its inclusion of a measure that would raise the debt ceiling. Republicans opposed raising the debt ceiling. The passage of a “clean” continuing resolution allowed the government to stay funded. Congress has yet to deal with the debt ceiling limit issue, which must be addressed by Oct. 18 when the government will run out of borrowing authority.
Despite House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s efforts to hold a House vote on the infrastructure package on Friday, Oct. 1, the vote was delayed. Speaker Pelosi had previously stated the vote would be held Thursday, Sept. 30 but was forced to delay it due to fractions within the Democratic party. The Senate passed the bipartisan bill in August. Progressive Democrats have stated they will not support the infrastructure bill until moderate Democrats make a deal with them on the $3.5 trillion reconciliation package of social spending. Moderate Democratic Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) have opposed the budget reconciliation package. Sen. Manchin stated that the highest amount he would support for the reconciliation package is $1.5 trillion, a substantial decrease from the current level of $3.5 trillion. All Democratic votes are needed to pass the reconciliation legislation in the Senate. Therefore, at the current time, both the infrastructure package and the reconciliation package are held up. Speaker Pelosi wrote a Dear Colleague letter on Oct. 2 calling for the infrastructure bill to be passed before Oct. 31.
House Judiciary Committee Markup on Healthcare Bills
On Sept. 29 and 30, the House Judiciary Committee passed several healthcare-related bills that were previously passed by the Senate. The bills and a brief description can be found below.
- H.R. 2883, the Stop STALLING Act, which would penalize pharmaceutical companies for abusing citizen petitions to delay generic and biosimilar approval
- H.R. 2891, the Preserve Access to Affordable Generics and Biosimilars Act, would codify the assumption that pay-for-delay agreements are anticompetitive and illegal
- H.R. 2873, the Affordable Prescriptions for Patients Through Promoting Competition Act of 2021, would prohibit the practice of “product hopping”
- H.R. 2884, the Affordable Prescriptions for Patients Through Improvements to Patent Litigation Act, would cap at twenty the number of patents that pharmaceutical companies can assert in an infringement action filed before biosimilar marketing
House Energy and Commerce Committee Republicans Write to CDC Regarding COVID-19 Breakthrough Tracking
On Sept. 28, three Republican members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee wrote to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky regarding the agency’s decision not to collect data on COVID-19 breakthrough cases unless they result in hospitalization or death. The letter was sent by Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Brett Guthrie (R-KY) and Morgan Griffith (R-VA). On May 1, 2021, the CDC stopped monitoring all reported vaccine breakthrough COVID-19 cases and focused on cases that resulted in hospitalization or death. In the letter, the members stated that the full extent of breakthrough infections is not known, and policy decisions are being made without complete information. The letter can be found here.
Sen. Murray and Rep. Pallone Statement in Support of HHS Rule on Surprise Billing
On Sept. 30, Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ), chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, issued a press statement in support of the Health and Human Services (HHS) interim final rule on surprise billing. The interim final rule contains provisions from the No Surprises Act and establishes new protections from surprise billing and excessive cost sharing for consumers receiving healthcare services. The press release can be found here.
Read more on healthcare policy in McGuireWoods Consulting’s Washington Healthcare Update.