Speaker Ryan Open to Policy Riders in FY 2016 Appropriations

Now that the President has signed the budget deal and debt limit suspension into law, Congress will work to finish proceedings to craft a fiscal year (FY) 2016 appropriations bill. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has said that Democrats will be united against ideological attachments to an omnibus-spending bill. But Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) will not rule out the inclusion of policy riders in House omnibus legislation. Ryan plans to hold a series of meetings led by Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) and rank-and-file members to discuss how to shape the spending bills that are still unfinished. The deadline for action to pass appropriations measures to keep the government open is December 11.

Energy and Commerce Health Committee Chairman Joe Pitts to Retire

Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee Joe Pitts (R-Pa.) announced last week that he would retire at the end of the 114th Congress. Rep. Pitts was first elected in 1996, promising to serve only five terms in Congress. He is currently serving his tenth term. During the 114th Congress, Rep. Pitts has worked to repeal the sustainable growth rate (SGR) through passage of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA), and has seen the Energy and Commerce Committee’s 21st Century Cures Act through passage in the House.

Senate Special Aging Committee Announces Hearing on Drug Prices

Last week, the Senate Special Aging Committee announced that they would hold a hearing on December 9 to examining the rising cost of prescription drug prices. The price of pharmaceuticals has been strongly criticized by lawmakers and presidential candidates in recent months. Ten Ways and Means Democrats have written to new Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) asking him to prioritize examining the issue of pharmaceutical drug costs. A similar letter was sent from Democratic committee membership to Appropriations Committee leadership. House Democrats also announced the creation of a drug price task force. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has planned an invitation only meeting set for November 20th to discuss ways to address increased spending on drugs. Participants, which will include representatives from the pharmaceutical industry, patient advocates, providers, employers, and payers, will also discuss strategies for value-based and outcomes-based purchasing for pharmaceuticals, and the state of the current drug class system.

Text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Deal Released

The full details of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal reach last month were released last week. A number of lawmakers, including Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), have expressed concerns about the deal’s eight years of data exclusivity on biologic drugs, instead of the 12-year standard used in the United States, which some say would limit patient access to crucial drugs in other nations. The Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee will now begin examining the deal before it is sent to the House and Senate floors for a final vote. Congress is prohibited from amending the deal. Congress is expected to vote on the agreement sometime next year. The President has said that he intends to sign the deal into law. The United States entered into the trade deal with 11 other nations: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam.

Medicaid Task Force Created by Energy and Commerce Committee

Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee Fred Upton (R-Mich.) announced the creation of a Medicaid Task Force to examine potential changes to strengthen and sustain the program. The Republican group will be chaired by Health Subcommittee Chairman Brett Guthrie (R-Ky.), and the following members were appointed to serve on the Task Force: Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Rep. Susan Brooks (R-Ind.), Rep. Larry Bucshon (R-Ind.), Rep. Michael C. Burgess, M.D. (R-Texas), Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.), Rep. Bill Flores (R-Texas, and Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Ok.). Task Force membership comes from both Medicaid expansion and non-expansion states. Democrats have criticized the Task Force for not including representatives from both sides of the aisle. Since June of this year, the Energy and Commerce Committee has held six Medicaid-related hearings.

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