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On the Hill: VA Health, Border Funding, HealthCare.gov, Committee Leadership

Last week both the House and Senate attempted to wrap up legislative business before this month’s recess.

Congress successfully passed the bipartisan conference agreement to reduce wait times for veterans seeking care at Veterans Affairs hospitals and clinics, The bill was sent to the president’s desk Friday, Aug. 1.

The Senate failed to pass an emergency supplemental bill that included $2.73 billion to assist with issues related to immigrant children crossing the U.S. border. The House, however, managed to pass a significantly smaller emergency supplemental, offering roughly a quarter of the Senate’s funding proposal at $694 million – this version is unlikely to make it through the Senate.

The House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held a hearing to address concerns raised in a July 31 U.S. Government Accountability Office report. The report revealed excessive payments to contractors tapped to manage HealthCare.gov. Republican committee leadership in both the House and Senate also sent a joint letter to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Marilyn Tavenner challenging CMS to hold contractors accountable for errors within the site, which was inundated with technical flaws in the early stages of its rollout.

In committee leadership news, the race is heating up between House Energy and Commerce ranking member hopefuls Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and Frank Pallone (D-NJ) to replace outgoing ranking member Henry Waxman (D-CA).  Focus has shifted to the candidates’ ability to help fellow Democrats in tough races to effectively fundraise. Both Eshoo and Pallone have given nearly $300,000 to fellow Democrats’ campaigns out of their own campaign coffers and affiliated political action committees.

Both the House and Senate stand in recess for the annual summer district work session and are expected to reconvene Sept. 8. Both chambers will be in session for only a few weeks in September before recessing once again before Nov. 4 elections.

 

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About the Author

Jocelyn Wiles is the manager of legislative affairs at America's Essential Hospitals.

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