What Happened, What You Missed: October 23-27, 2023


New Speaker Outlines Plan to Wrap Up FY24 Appropriations Process

In a letter to House Republicans, newly elected Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) outlined a plan to extend government funding in the likely scenario that Congress fails to reach a deal before the current November 17 deadline., Johnson proposed a continuing resolution to January 15 or April 15, 2024 in order prevent members from succumbing to pressure to agree to a what Republicans may perceive as a less-than-ideal Fiscal Year (FY) 2024 omnibus before Congress leaves for its holiday season break.  Johnson also laid out a schedule for the House to pass its 8 remaining FY 2024 appropriations bills before November 17.

Survey: 51% Working-Age Adults Struggle to Afford Health Care 

Just over half of working-age Americans across all insurance types have trouble affording health care costs, according to a survey from the Commonwealth Foundation.  Types of coverage surveyed include employer sponsored plans, individual and marketplace coverage, Medicare, and Medicaid.  Additionally, the survey found that more that 50% of respondents who delayed care due to costs said a health problem became worse as a result.  The survey found nearly one-third of Americans have medical or dental debt that they are paying off over time, with 85% owing more than $500.  To address health care affordability, the report suggests lowering health care cost growth and adjusting premiums based on employee income.

Biden Asks Congress for More Money to Fight Fentanyl

The White House requested $1.55 billion from Congress this week to address fentanyl overdose deaths as part of a broader package to address domestic priorities like child care, nutrition assistance, and national security.  The funds would be included with grants the administration currently gives to states, territories, and tribes to support overdose prevention services, bolster addiction recovery, and improve addiction treatment.  The administration also requested funding for 1,000 additional Customs and Border Protection officers to focus on counter-fentanyl trafficking activities.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 150 people die every day from overdoses related to synthetic opioids like fentanyl.

HELP Committee Advances Bertagnolli Nomination over Sanders’ Objection

National Cancer Institute (NCI) Director Monica Bertagnolli, MD is one step closer to becoming the first permanent National Institutes of Health (NIH) director in nearly 2 years after the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee voted 16-5 to advance her nomination on October 25.  Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-VT) was the sole member of the majority to oppose Bertagnolli’s nomination due to her unwillingness to support the use of march-in rights to address high prescription drug costs.  Sanders’ vote against Bertagnolli has not been his only criticism of NIH – just two days before the committee vote, he alleged that NIH leadership had violated the Bayh-Dole Act by awarding an exclusive patent license for an NIH-funded cancer therapy to a company connected to a former NIH employee.

ICYMI: Bowman Faces the Music for Fire Alarm Shenanigans

Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) plead guilty this week for the misdemeanor charge of improperly pulling a fire alarm in a congressional office building.  According to a deal with the DC Office of the Attorney General, Bowman’s charges will be dropped in 3 months if he submits a formal apology and pays a $1,000 fine.  Typically, one misdemeanor count of a false fire alarm could be punishable by up to 6 months in prison and a $1,000 fine in DC.  Bowman says he pulled the fire alarm because he was trying to unlock a door in order to vote in time.

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