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CCTS Newsletter | November 16, 2018

Sunday, November 18, 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Andres Bachelet
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Dale Dirks and Dane Christiansen

November 16, 2018


Lawmakers on Capitol Hill reconvened following the November mid-term elections to face a new political reality and a busy lame-duck session. For the legislative session that will begin in January, the Democrats captured a sizable majority in the House of Representatives leading to a split Congress with the Republican-controlled Senate. These newly-elected members are already in DC for orientation and party meetings, including leadership elections for the next Congress. In the Senate, Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will remain Majority Leader and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has been re-elected as Minority Leader (D-NY). While in the House, Republicans have elected Congressman Kevin McCarthy (R-CA-23) as Minority Leader and Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi (D-CA-12) appears to have the inside track to be elected as the next Speaker. The composition of key committees and selection of committee and subcommittee leaders for the next Congress has yet to be determined (though minimal change is expected in the Senate).


With campaign season and the prolonged associated recess over, the members of the current (115th Congress) returned to finish off outstanding legislative business for the year. Most notably, seven of the twelve annual appropriations bills remain unfinished and are currently operating under a Continuing Resolution (level-funding) through December 7th. The annual spending bills that address medical research (DoD, L-HHS, VA) have fortunately already been enacted and the remaining bills largely deal with funding for the controversial border wall and other divisive issues, such as environmental standards. The president has previously threatened to veto any spending bills that do not fund the boarder wall—potentially shutting down parts of the government in the process—but Republican leaders recently visited the White House to negotiate a deal. While all parties now appear optimistic that the remaining spending bills can be enacted later this year following the negotiations, the current Congress has only a limited number of legislative days left to finalize any agreement.


The outgoing Congress will be remembered for two key healthcare efforts; upholding the patient protections and coverage requirements of the Affordable Care Act, and significantly increasing funding for the National Institutes of Health and other federal medical research programs. How the incoming Congress and new political dynamics will impact medical research funding and patient care issues remains to be seen. However, one certainty is that there will be about 100 new legislators making key decisions next year and they will all need to be educated about the value, importance, and local impact of the full spectrum of research if we are to have any expectation that our programs will continue to benefit from robust support and meaningful investment.