House Conservatives Release Health Policy Recommendations

On Friday, the House Republican Study Committee (RSC) released the conservative caucus’ recommendations for the six task forces established earlier this year by Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). The Health Care Reform Task Force is chaired by Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price (R-Ga.), Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-Minn.), Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.), and Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas). The task force’s goal is to repeal and replace Obamacare with a patient-centered system that gives patients more choice and control, increase quality, and reduces costs. The RSC policy recommendations submitted last week to the House Republican Health Care Reform Task Force draw on the RSC’s American Health Care Reform Act (H.R. 2653) and includes leveling the playing field between individuals and employers by creating a standard, portable tax deduction and allowing individuals to purchase health insurance across state lines. An overview of the American Health Care Reform Act is attached.

Zika Update

Appropriators in the House of Representatives continue to spar with the administration over the President’s request for approximately $1.9 billion in emergency funding to combat the Zika virus. Last week, the administration prepared an updated request indicating that funding would now largely be used for vaccine research and development. The updated request includes $235 million more than the original request for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), through a reduction in the request for a contingency fund and facility improvements for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But Republican leadership on the House Appropriations Committee maintains that they need a more detailed request, including a breakdown of how much money is needed between fiscal years (FY) 2016 and 2017. Debate over Zika funding also took place during the markup of the FY 2017 Agriculture/FDA spending bill. The House Appropriations Committee adopted an amendment reaffirming the position that the Administration use money originally allocated for Ebola to respond to the Zika virus, and overrode a Democratic amendment to provide the $1.9 billion in emergency funding. Senate Democrats sent a letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and the Senate Appropriations Committee last week urging that action be taken on the President’s emergency funding request to combat Zika. The letter warns of the heightened threat of the virus come warmer summer months. Senate appropriators later confirmed that they are preparing a supplemental appropriations package that will be offered alongside an early spending bill on the Senate floor. McConnell has indicated that ultimately he does not believe there will be opposition to providing new funding to combat the virus. The number of people infected by Zika has risen to 800 people across 40 states and three U.S. territories, with the majority of occurrences in Puerto Rico.

House Appropriators Approve Ag/FDA Spending Bill

The full House Appropriations Committee approved the fiscal year (FY) 2017 Agriculture spending bill, which includes funding for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The bill would provide the FDA with $2.7 billion in discretionary funding. During the markup, the committee debated and ultimately passed an amendment to shield e-cigarette vapor products already on the market from the FDA’s pre-market approval process. The amendment includes language that would help keep the products out of the hands of children, such as labeling requirements and restrictions on advertising as well as sales from vending machines.

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