WH Preparing Executive Order on Federal Safety Net

According to a report from Politico last week, the White House is preparing a complete review of federal safety-net programs, including Medicaid, food stamps, and housing benefits. President Trump is expected to sign an executive order to mandate the review as early as January. The executive order parallels efforts by congressional House Republicans to draft legislation tightening safety net qualification. The use of such policies has increased since President Trump took office, with Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Seema Verma encouraging states to promote employment through their Medicaid programs, and some states requesting to institute Medicaid work requirements. 

Azar Nomination Hearing Pushed to January

The Senate Finance Committee will wait until next year to hold a hearing for U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) nominee Alex Azar. The Committee had originally planned to hold a hearing this week, with the goal of voting on his nomination before the end of the year. Negotiations on tax reform and government funding, however, have taken priority, and a hearing has yet to be scheduled.

HELP Requests Input on Opioid Crisis from State and Local Leaders

Leadership on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee has sent letters to every governor and state insurance commissioner requesting specific recommendations on how the federal government can be a better partner in efforts to address the opioid crisis. Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.) ask how recent laws such as the 21st Century Cures Act and the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) have helped state and local officials address the opioid crisis and whether additional changes to federal law or regulation are necessary. They request recommendations and comments no later than January 15, 2018.

Democrat Doug Jones Wins in Alabama Senate Election Upset

Former U.S. attorney Doug Jones (D) won the election for the Alabama senate seat vacated by now Attorney General Jeff Sessions in an upset against Republican Roy Moore. Jones will be the first Democrat to represent Alabama in the Senate in over two decades and will serve out the rest of Sessions’ term until January 2021. The loss of a Senate seat complicates the GOP’s 2018 agenda. Senate Republicans will now only be able to afford one defection in any effort to use the budget reconciliation process. Democrats will likely push Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to delay any major congressional votes until Jones is seated. In his victory speech, however, Jones called on Congress to immediately pass a bipartisan deal to fund the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

MN Governor Announces Franken Replacement

Minnesota Lieutenant Governor Tina Smith has been tapped by Gov. Mark Dayton to replace Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) until the 2018 midterm elections. Franken recently announced his intent to resign from the Senate in the coming weeks following allegations of sexual misconduct. Smith has said that she plans to run in November to complete the remaining two years of Franken’s term. She is a former Planned Parenthood executive and has worked on the state’s Destination Medical Center initiative aimed at improving the infrastructure around the Mayo Clinic.

Upcoming Congressional Hearings and Meetings

House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs markup of H.R. 422, the VA Care in the Community Act; 10:00 a.m., 334 Cannon Bldg.; December 19

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