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Post-Labor Day Legislative Forecast

Friday, August 26, 2016   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Whitney Lingafelter
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August 26, 2016


TO:     Coalition for Clinical and Translational Science

FR:     Dale Dirks and Dane Christiansen  

RE:     Post-Labor Day Legislative Forecast

Congress will return from its seven (7) week recess just after Labor Day for a brief session before heading back out on the campaign trail. Most experts believe that legislators will convene for a few weeks of relatively little productivity, but long enough to put a plan in place to keep the government running past the November election. There are several timely and pending items that should receive attention during the abbreviated upcoming session.

Due to the fact that none of the twelve (12) annual appropriations bills have been enacted in advance of the October 1st start of fiscal year (FY) 2017, legislators are expected to cobble together a stop-gap continuing resolution (CR) that will keep the federal government in business until sometime after the election and before the end of the calendar year. Although there is some pressure from conservative factions to extend the CR through the beginning of the calendar year-until March of 2017, the prevailing thinking is that the 114th Congress and the current administration want to finish off FY 2017 funding decisions in the coming post-election lame duck session.

Agencies with funding increases pending in the FY 2017 appropriations bills, such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and the Department of Defense, are hoping for final action on appropriations bills before the end of the calendar year. A continuing resolution beyond the current calendar year creates uncertainty and increases the risk of a full-year CR, which would flat-fund these agencies at their existing FY 2016 level and dash hopes for a boost in spending.

Emergency supplemental funding for the Zika virus will also receive some attention during the September session. Lawmakers left town in July without resolving the President’s request for additional support to combat the public health challenge created by Zika, and legislators on both sides of the aisle are calling for action. Presently, the Zika supplemental funding is coupled with the popular and fully-conferenced FY 2017 VA appropriations bill, so it is possible that this bill could be cleaned up to remove several objectionable policy riders—which prevented the bill from being passed before Congress left in July—and sent to the President for his signature before the election.

There is bipartisan support for final action on the 21st Century Cures/Innovation legislation that would provide new authority and support for NIH and the Food and Drug Administration to accelerate the development of treatments for diseases. The big hurdle for this effort continues to be the funding mechanism (mandatory vs. discretionary spending) to satisfy the major increases that would be authorized by the pending bills. Although there is likely to be a great deal of discussion about this legislation in September, it is more likely that any final action on the “Cures” legislation will occur after the election.

We will continue to keep you informed as the 114th Congress winds down and continues to advance relevant legislation, including FY 2017 appropriations measures.