August 4, 2021

House Advances Some Budget Bills, Kicks Can Down the Road

Late last week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed seven of the chamber’s twelve spending bills in what’s referred to as a “minibus,” a single bill that combines multiple but unrelated appropriations bills. The bulk of HIV-related funding resides within the Labor, Education, Health and Human Services bill. Fortunately, during the bill’s amendment process, the House Rules Committee blocked amendments that would have threatened some historic investments, including lifting the syringe rider (described in The VOICE in previous weeks) and anti-discrimination protections.

Additionally, a bipartisan amendment by Reps. Spanberger (D-VA-07) and McKinley (R-WV-01) was added to the bill that would call upon the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to use its full enforcement authority to prevent pharmaceutical companies’ from limiting provider access to lowered drug prices as part of the 340B drug pricing program. Many readers will recall that HRSA has not always taken steps to block actions by some companies that seem to conflict with the law, so this amendment directs HRSA to use its existing authority to do so.

Overall, the passage of these bills is great news, with $120 billion for Health and Human Services (HHS) and $10.6 billion for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, a debate around the debt ceiling looms and the deadline to avoid a government shutdown is September 30. It appears that the House may ‘kick the can down the road’ and wait for the Senate to markup its bills before negotiating the remaining five spending bills not yet passed.

The Senate began marking up spending bills this week but is laser focused on negotiating the infrastructure bill. Despite the many priorities, the Senate is scheduled to begin its summer recess next week without completing the full appropriations package. To be continued in the fall!

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