Before leaving for recess, Congress last week passed a multibillion-dollar funding package, ending a months-long stalemate and averting another partial government shutdown.
The bill funds nine federal agencies for the remainder of the current fiscal year and provides $1.375 billion for partial fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border — considerably less than the $5.7 billion the president demanded.
The spending package includes some health care measures, including $3 billion for discretionary funding for the Food and Drug Administration; $5.8 billion for the Indian Health Service; $5.7 billion for the president’s emergency plan for AIDS relief; and $3 billion for global health programs.
After signing the spending package, the president used his executive authority to declare a national emergency along the southern border and divert $6.7 billion in funding from other federal programs to construct a wall. Government watchdog groups immediately challenged the decision in court, and attorneys general in 16 states filed a similar lawsuit days later.
Congress will return to legislative business on Feb. 25.
Meanwhile, Reps. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) and Debbie Dingell (D-MI) last week sent a letter to colleagues detailing their plans to introduce “Medicare-for-all” legislation at the end of the month.
The letter indicates 93 House members have signed on in support of the forthcoming bill and it is expected to have more than 100 cosponsors upon introduction.
The bill would add a variety of benefits to enhance the coverage currently provided under Medicare, require no out-of-pocket costs for patients for any services, and allow patients the freedom to choose their providers.
The outlook for the legislation in the House in unknown at this time.
Congressional Hearings on Measles Outbreak
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported 101 individual measles cases in 10 states. In addition, Washington State declared a public health emergency after reports of 50 people, mostly children, were found infected with the virus.
In response, House Committee on Energy and Commerce Chair Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ) and Ranking Member Greg Walden (R-OR) announced that the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee will hold a Feb. 27 hearing on the measles outbreak. Additionally, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions will hold a March 5 hearing on vaccinations to prevent disease outbreaks.