With Congress preparing to leave town for the prolonged August recess (the ceremonial start of the mid-year election campaign), lawmakers are scrambling to advance a number of critical or “must-pass” legislative items. Most notably, the Senate is preparing to release drafts of its Fiscal Year (FY) 2023 appropriations bills. With the House marking up and passing most of its annual spending measures, the release of the Senate bills should facilitate negotiations between both parties and both chambers on final FY 2023 appropriations (for planned completion during the lame duck session at the end of the calendar year). Thus far, the appropriations process has remained constructive and civil with sides staking out familiar territory on supporting research, enhancing defense spending, and ultimately completing the process.
The House and Senate are also working to reauthorize user fees that fund the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) while Senate Democrats are continuing working for an elusive budget deal. The budget reconciliation package requires only a simple majority of 50 Senators plus the Vice President to pass, and the current proposal includes some healthcare and drug pricing provisions. The tentative deal that was struck between Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) is narrow in scope, but includes an extension of enhanced premium subsidies for Affordable Care Act (ACA) plans, a $2,000 out-of-pocket cap for Medicare Part D, and limited ability for Medicare to negotiate drug prices.
Dr. Anthony Fauci announced his intention to leave the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) before the end of President Biden’s term. His departure adds to a notable list of vacancies that include the Director of the National Institutes of Health and the Director of the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS). The shortest recent vacancy at NIH appears to be the Directorship of the National Cancer Institute (NCI), with the White House indicating that acclaimed cancer surgeon Dr. Monica Bertagnolli would be assuming the leadership role. The position of NIH Director will require Senate confirmation while NIAID and NCATS will simply require appointment (similar to NCI).