POLICY BRIEFINGS


Paul Ryan to Run for Speaker of the House


Following intense pressure from backers inside and outside of the Capitol, Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) announced that he would run for Speaker of the House. Rep. Ryan was seen as one of the only people who would be able to unite and lead the Republican party through upcoming debates on raising the debt ceiling and negotiating a long-term budget deal. Rep. Daniel Webster (R-Fla.) is the only other candidate for the position. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) dropped his bid and endorsed Ryan following his announcement last week. Ryan agreed to run after stipulating that his candidacy would be conditional on the endorsement of every Republican caucus – the hard line Freedom Caucus, the centrist Tuesday Group, and the conservative Republican Study Committee. He received early endorsements from the Tuesday Group and the Republican Study Committee, but only garnered a backing from a supermajority of the Freedom Caucus. Ryan has expressed interest in increasing the threshold number of votes necessary for a motion to vacate the chair – a process through which members can force a vote to remove the Speaker of the House. Republicans will hold an internal election to nominate a new Speaker on October 28. If the conference picks a nominee, a formal floor vote will take place on October 29. Current Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) had planned to resign from office on October 30, but has indicated that he will stay until a successor is decided upon. If Ryan is chosen as the next Speaker of the House, the top spot on the Ways and Means Committee will be vacant. Health Subcommittee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas), Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio) and Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) have entered the race for the Chairman position. Ways and Means is the tax-writing committee of the House of Representatives and has jurisdiction over revenue-related aspects of Medicare and social services programs.


SAMHSA Awards Excellence in Mental Health Planning Grants


Last week, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) awarded $23 million in planning grants to 24 states. The awards are funded through the Excellence in Mental Health Act, authored by Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), which was signed into law last year. The funds will go towards the preparation of applications for a community mental health clinic trial. Eight states will be chosen for the two-year pilot program to test a prospective payment system for mental health care providers. The goal of the pilot is to improve Medicare reimbursement for mental health care services and to increase access to mental health and substance abuse treatment.


Congress Approaches Final Days to Raise the Debt Limit


Congress must bring up legislation to raise the $18.1 trillion debt ceiling by November 3 in order for the U.S. government to meet its financial obligations and avoid the disruption in the global stock markets that would result from credit default. The White House has said that it will only sign a clean bill, and that it will not negotiate on increasing the ceiling. If a clean bill were brought to the House floor with the support of the entire House Democratic Caucus, it would need 30 Republican votes for passage. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has consistently indicated that any legislation to raise the debt ceiling will originate in the House. The conservative House Republican Study Committee proposed to raise the borrowing ceiling by $1.5 trillion through March 2017, paired with spending limitations, regulatory overhauls, and budget process reforms. The plan was quickly shelved, however, after if failed to garner enough support. The House did advance legislation to instruct the Treasury to prioritize certain payments in the event that the debt limit is breeched. H.R. 692 was passed by a vote of 235-194, and would require the Treasury to prioritize the payment of the principal and interest on public debt and the Social Security trust funds should the debt limit not be raised by the November 3 deadline. The Senate has also readied a debt prioritization bill. The measures are strongly opposed by Democrats, and have already received a veto threat from the White House. A debt limit increase is expected to be advanced by the House in the form of a clean debt limit suspension through 2017 this week.



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