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On the Hill: SCOTUS Vacancy, Entitlement Reform, HHS Budget

After the death this weekend of U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, the attention in Washington turned to the politics surrounding President Obama’s appointment of a new justice and whether the Senate will confirm any nominee during a presidential election year. Hours after Scalia’s death was announced, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said the Senate should not confirm Scalia’s replacement, and instead should wait until a new president is in office.

Entitlement Reform

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) repeatedly has told the conservative House Freedom Caucus that he will not pursue entitlement reform this year, despite caucus protests. In addition, Ryan calls reform of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security an “exercise in futility” because President Obama remains in the White House.

Ryan has indicated he will table major entitlement reform legislation until next year and, for now, focus on the budget and appropriations process and try to return to regular order rather than pass large, last-minute funding bills.

Committee Hearings

Congress is in recess this week due to the Feb. 15 Presidents Day holiday. On Feb. 25, the Labor, Health and Human Services (HHS), Education, and Related Agencies Subcommittee of the House Committee on Appropriations will hear testimony by HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell on the HHS fiscal year 2017 budget. Next week, the Senate Committee on Finance will hold a hearing on the opioid epidemic and the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee will hold a hearing on the Zika virus.

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About the Author

Walsh is the senior manager of legislative affairs for America's Essential Hospitals.

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