Updates from the Lame Duck Session
FY 2019 Appropriations
Congress is running out of time to keep the government open beyond today, when the current continuing resolution (CR) expires. The major sticking point in passing the remaining seven appropriations bills, including State and Foreign Operations, continues to be funding for the administration’s proposed border wall. Last week, President Trump met with Democratic leadership to discuss funding for the wall, but the meeting was contentious, and the President said he was willing to shut down the government, something no president has ever been willing to do. The White House has since backed down on this threat and announced that it would find a way to build the wall using funds from other accounts.
The Democrats rejected the initial funding offer from the Republicans, and in a last ditch effort, on Wednesday, Senate Republicans proposed a short-term CR that would extend funding for the seven remaining bills until February 8, which was approved by voice vote.
Yesterday afternoon, President Trump said he would not sign the short-term CR without more funding for the border wall, further escalating the possibility of a partial government shutdown. House Republicans have since amended the Senate proposal to include $5.7 billion in funding for the border wall, an addition the Democrats have voiced continuous opposition to, and $8.7 billion for emergency disaster aid purposes. Many Republicans, especially those who are not returning to Congress, have already left Washington, DC and it’s not clear if the Republicans have the votes to pass the CR. As of this writing, the path forward is still unclear.
GHSA Legislation Introduced
On December 13, Representatives Gerry Connolly (D-VA) and Steve Chabot (R-OH) introduced the Global Health Security Act (bill number pending). Currently U.S. global health security activities and staffing are not in statute but rely on an Executive Order issued by President Obama. This legislation addresses the need for a permanent official responsible for coordinating between U.S. agencies during global health crises and bolsters the U.S. commitment to the Global Health Security Agenda. With the 115th Congress coming to a close, the bill is not intended to pass this year, but rather is a “marker bill”– legislation that allows lawmakers to signal support for a key issue. The bill is expected to be reintroduced next Congress.
Original cosponsors of the legislation are House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D-NY), and Representatives Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Ami Bera (D-CA), and Ann Wagner (R-MO). Global Health Council, IntraHealth International, Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, and PATH have endorsed the Global Health Security Act.
Read Congressman Connolly’s press release.
President Signs PEPFAR Reauthorization
On December 11, President Trump signed the PEPFAR Extension Act of 2018 (H.R. 6651), which renews the U.S. commitment to address the HIV/AIDS epidemic, as well as reauthorizes funding for PEPFAR and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria until 2023.
Updates on 116th Congress
Last week, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer announced committee assignments for Democrats. No major changes were made to the key committees the global health community follows. The full Senate will vote on the memberships in January. View a list of key committee memberships.
Global Health Council will provide a final list of committee assignments in a future update.
On November 30, political leaders convened in Buenos Aires, Argentina for the G20 Leaders’ Summit. The Summit Declaration highlights the need for WHO to create an implementation plan to reach the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. The Declaration also calls for strengthened emergency response systems and improved plans to address malnutrition, obesity, and antimicrobial resistance.
This post was written by Danielle Heiberg, Senior Manager, Policy & Advocacy, and Victoria Rodriguez, Advocacy Associate.