First Local Zika Transmission in Texas

Officials have confirmed the first case of local Zika transmission in the state of Texas. The patient, who lives in the southernmost county in the state, is not pregnant and did not report any recent travel to countries with active transmission of the Zika virus. The Texas State Health Commissioner does not expect the virus to become widespread across the state. Texas is the second state to report local transmission, with two areas of Miami, Florida still facing local transmission. A total of 4,400 people have tested positive for the virus in the United States, with most cases being linked to travel abroad.

CR Vote This Week

Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) plans to bring a continuing resolution (CR) to the floor of the House this week. Negotiations between House and Senate leadership continue over the duration of the stopgap spending bill. Because the Senate will be busy in 2017 with cabinet confirmations, many senators are pushing for a CR that funds the government through April, rather than the original plan scheduled for March. The later date, however, will push fiscal year (FY) 2017 appropriations against the FY 2018 spending cycle, a situation that is not ideal for appropriators. It remains unclear what level of spending the CR will include. The current CR expires on December 9. Both the House and the Senate are scheduled to be in session through December 16, but may adjourn sine die early upon passage of a government funding measure.

Congressional Transition and Committee Elections

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has been elected to another term as House Minority Leader. She beat her sole challenger Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) in a 134-63 secret ballot vote. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) was elected by the House GOP Steering Committee as the next Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee. He defeated Reps. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) and Joe Barton (R-Texas) for the position. Walden comes from a communications and technology background, and his success at the National Republican Congressional Committee has been credited with helping him secure the chairmanship. Republicans also selected Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.), an OB/GYN, to head the Veterans Affairs Committee. Roe was in a three-way contest with Reps. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) and Doug Lamborn (D-Colo.). Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.) was officially elected to chair the House Appropriations Committee. He ran unopposed, and will succeed Rep. Harold Rogers (R-Ky.), who was prevented by Republican rules from holding the chairmanship for another term. Rep. Sandy Levin (D-Mich.) announced that he would be stepping down as the top Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, saying that he intends to focus on the need to preserve the Affordable Care Act (ACA). He also wished to create an opportunity for a younger member to gain leadership experience. Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.) was endorsed by the Steering and Policy Committee and elected by his caucus to replace Levin as Ranking Member. Rep. John Yarmuth (DKy.) was selected to replace Senator-elect Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) as Ranking Member on the House Budget Committee for the 115th Congress.

Health Professionals in the 115th Congress

Three new health professionals will join the U.S. House of Representatives in 2017. Rep.-Elect Neal Dunn, MD (R-FL-02) is an urologist; Rep.-Elect Drew Ferguson, IV, DMD, PC (R-GA-03) is a dentist; and Rep.-Elect Roger Marshall, MD (R-KS-01) is an OB/GYN. Attached is a full list of the health professionals who will serve in the 115th Congress.

Trump Administration Staff Announcements

President-Elect Donald Trump has tapped Steven Mnuchin as Treasury Secretary. Mnuchin worked as the national finance chairman of Trump’s presidential campaign. He is a former partner at Goldman Sachs, founded the hedge fund Dune Capital Management, and was an investor in the film industry. Wilbur Ross was asked to serve as Trump’s Secretary of Commerce. Ross worked as an economic advisor to Trump during his campaign. Ross is chairman and chief strategist of the private equity firm W.L. Ross & Co. He is a former banker and investor in industrial business. Trump will nominate retired Marine Gen. James Mattis as Secretary of Defense. Mattis has more recently worked as a national security fellow at the Hoover Institution. His appointment will require a waiver from Congress due to the seven-year buffer required of former military officers before they are allowed to head the Department of Defense. Trump has also named a number of health policy experts to his transition team. They include Nina Owcharenko, who heads the Heritage Foundation’s Center for Health Policy Studies. Eric Hargan is also joining the team. Hargan is a health care lawyer with Greenberg Traurig and worked as U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Chief Operating Officer under President George W. Bush. Scott Gottlieb, practicing physician and American Enterprise Institute fellow, was also tapped. Gottlieb previously served as Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Deputy Commissioner for Medical and Scientific Affairs, as well as a senior policy adviser at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

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