Good morning from Washington DC where the weather changed from rain, to snow, to warmer temperatures and sun in a matter of 36 hours. The dramatic shift in weather cycles reminds us of the recently announced retirement of former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. Where else can you go from being Speaker, to being removed by your own party, to retiring all in one year? Here in Washington of course! Rep. McCarthy is not the only one to announce retirement for this term, and we do expect many more to leave before filing for another term. With the slight majority Republicans hold in the House, each retirement and expulsion (Santos) makes the holiday season more enjoyable for House Democrats looking to take control next session. In addition, we only have one week left of legislative business, and we still have no agreement reached on aid for Ukraine and Israel. Congress returns this week to what could be a very busy time! Welcome to the Week Ahead!
President Biden continues to work behind the scenes with Senate negotiators on the White House supplemental request for funding to Israel, Ukraine, and Taiwan. As previously mentioned, Republicans in Congress want to tie any aid for these countries to increased border security measures. The administration publicly stated reforms are needed at the border, but at this time, no agreement has been reached for foreign aid. President Biden will host Ukrainian President Zelensky this week. With time running out and House Republicans becoming increasingly skeptical of funding Ukraine, President Zelensky returns to Congress for a last-minute plea to the Senate.
In health care news, and in line with its priorities, the White House celebrated the announcement that the FDA announced the approval of gene therapies to treat sickle-cell disease via its statement. To address health inequities and improve on treatment of sickle-cell disease which disproportionately impacts African Americans and Hispanic Americans, the Biden Administration believes this breakthrough can save and improve the lives of millions.
The Senate will welcome Ukrainian President Zelensky for a speech on the importance of funding to Ukraine. The invite was extended by both Majority Leader Schumer and Minority Leader McConnell. Behind the scenes negotiations will need to resume on border security measures to couple with potential funding on the war supplemental.
With an eye on health care for moving into 2024, the Senate will look to the following this week:
- Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) Committee is scheduled to consider and expected to approve the SCREENS for Cancer Act of 2023 (S. 1840) and its own version of the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Reauthorization Act (S. 3393). In addition, they will also look to pass S.644, The Modernizing Opioid Treatment Access Act.
- The Senate Aging Committee will hold a hearing on substance use trends for older adults.
The upper chamber will look to conclude the year by finishing off its health care priorities, although they lack a bipartisan larger “package” which Leader Schumer expressed desire to complete this year.
Retirement season has officially kicked off on Capitol Hill. Former Speaker McCarthy is leaving at the end of the year, Chairman Patrick Mc Henry (R-NC) is in his final term, and we expect several more are going to leave before they must file to run for another term. Many members are citing (shocker) dysfunction and just want to go back to their private lives. With one week remaining, major fireworks remain on emergency packages for Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan, and the border wall. The Senate continues to negotiate, but the Senate package still must pass the House and must include border security.
In the area of artificial intelligence, the House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on Wednesday leveraging agency expertise across the economy to position America as a leader in AI.
As Congress looks to close its work for 2023, the House will be taking steps to move health legislation forward with an eye to positioning themselves going into 2024.
- The House will consider 14 bills, including:
Each of the bills will be considered under the suspension of the rules signaling House leadership’s belief that the bipartisan bills will garner enough support to pass with the required two-thirds majority needed under the procedure. By moving the legislation with strong bipartisan support, the House leadership will be asserting a strong position on several health issues, including pharmacy benefit manager reforms and provider payments, as House and Senate are expected to work to reach an agreement on health legislation in 2024.
Beyond this public work on health care, we also expect work and conversations to continue behind the scenes, as leadership and committee staff on both sides of the Capitol work with an eye toward drafting legislation to address several expiring health care provisions and programs in January. As readers are likely aware, the House Energy & Commerce Committee moved 19 pieces of health-related legislation last week, including measures to extend the work Geographic Practice Cost Index floor, to revise the phase in of certain payment changes for lab services, an extension of expiring incentive payments for alternative payment models, and additional relief to help mitigate the 3.4% cuts in Medicare physician payments scheduled for January 1, 2024. At this time, we do not anticipate seeing a final agreement on these provisions before Congress adjourns in 2023, but it is expected that these other health provisions could be included in a legislative package in January.
Your insights are valuable, so please reach out with any questions or information. Please create a great week!