Legislative Activity

Next Stop: The Senate

After an uphill battle and much compromise, H.R. 1628, the American Health Care Act (AHCA), passed the House of Representatives on Thursday, May 4, by a vote of 217 ayes to 213 nays. At the beginning of the week a favorable outcome for the AHCA seemed unlikely. Speaker Ryan could only lose 22 members of the Republican conference for the health reform vote to go in his favor, and at the time many Republicans remained undecided. Two key Republicans, Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) and Rep. Billy Long (R-MO,) said they could not support the bill because it did not insure coverage for Americans with pre-existing conditions. After a visit to the White House on Wednesday morning the tide changed. In order to throw their support behind H.R. 1628, Reps. Upton and Long crafted an amendment that increased the Patient and State Stability Fund by $8 billion to help lower premiums for individuals with pre-existing conditions if their state opted out of requiring essential health benefits (EHBs). While 20 republicans still voted against the bill, the Upton amendment was key to House passage. Now it is the Senate’s turn to act. The Senate will compile their own version of health reform through a working group headed by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). The working group includes four members of Senate leadership- Majority Leader McConnell, Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX), GOP Conference Chairman John Barrasso (R-WY), and GOP Policy Committee Chairman John Thune (R-SD). Other working group members include Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi (R-WY), and HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN). Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Mike Lee (R-UT), Rob Portman (R-OH), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Pat Toomey (R-PA) have also been named as members of the working group and represent various viewpoints on repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act (ACA). While Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) are not part of the Senate working group, their legislation, S.191, the Patient Freedom Act of 2017, is likely to be part of the conversation. Another topic ripe for conversation will be policies many believe fall outside the parameters of budget reconciliation. No deadline has been set for Senate passage, but the working group is not wasting any time. They began meeting last week and are devoted to working through the issues thoughtfully, listening to different approaches, and coming to a compromise.

This Week’s Hearings:

  • On Wednesday, May 10, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee has scheduled a hearing to consider the following measures:
    • 1028, Recognize, Assist, Include, Support, and Engage (RAISE) Family Caregivers Act; and
    • 934, Food and Drug Administration Reauthorization Act.
  • On Wednesday, May 10, the Senate Indian Affairs Committee has scheduled a hearing to consider the following measures:
    • 772, A bill to amend the PROTECT Act to make Indian tribes eligible for AMBER Alert grants; and
    • 825, A bill to provide for the conveyance of certain property to the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium located in Sitka, Alaska, and for other purposes.
  • On Wednesday, May 10, the Senate Aging Committee has scheduled a hearing titled “Aging with Community: Building Connections that Last a Lifetime.” The witnesses will be announced.
  • On Wednesday, May 10, the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee has scheduled a hearing titled “Examining the Veterans Choice Program and the Future of Care in the Community.” The witnesses will be announced.
  • On Thursday, May 11, the Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled a hearing to consider the following measures:
    • 139, Rapid DNA Act of 2017;
    • 534, Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse Act of 2017; and
    • 583, American Law Enforcement Heroes Act of 2017.
  • On Thursday, May 11, the Senate Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies will hold a hearing titled “Choice 2: What Worked, What Didn’t, and What Needs to Happen Next.