Washington Update: Transportation and Health Care

Health Care: Update on Opioid Use

On Friday, May 13th, comprehensive legislation aimed at combating opioid addiction passed in the House with a vote of 400-5. This package contains 18 pieces of bipartisan legislation, including a mandate to the FDA to convene special advisory boards when painkillers without addiction-deterrent ingredients are produced, increases to funding for overdose reversal drugs, a reduction in the volume of unused drugs, and majust-out-new-guidelines-on-how-to-treat-opioid-addiction-800x560ndated opioid addiction educational programs.

The President previously proposed $1.1 billion in new funding to combat opioid addiction in his last budget. Speaker Paul Ryan’s office has complained that the series of bills has not received widespread attention due to the raucous presidential primary. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) commented that the “good bipartisan” legislation is essentially worthless if Republicans continue refusing to provide the emergency funding required to make a difference. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest commented that the administration’s perspective on this legislation is that it lacks “substance.” However, at the time of writing, no veto threat has been issued.

Transportation: TRANSPORTATION-HUD (THUD) (S. 2844)

The Senate’s Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act authorizes $114.2 billion for FY 2017. $56.5 billion would be allocated to discretionary appropriations. It provides $827 million less discretionary funding than in 2016 and about $2.5 billion less than what was requested by the President. Highway, transit, and transportation safety program funding increased compared to FY 2016. However, the bill did not include White House requests for additional mandatory funding for some transportation programs. It instead provides more funding than requested for Community Development Block Grants and Airport Improvement Grants. This bill provides about 2% more funding than 2016 for Housing and Urban Development programs.

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Washington Update: Energy, Environment, and the Military

Energy and Environment: Energy and Water Appropriations Bill Passes Senate

On Thursday, May 12, the Senate passed the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Act, 2016. This bill supplies $37.5 billion for energy and water spending Specifically, it provides funding for research into wind energy, allows for the extensions of nuclear plant licenses, and earmarks funding for private-sector nuclear water storage programs. The bill is $61 million higher than the President’s requests. Part of this increase, $1.16 billion, is allocated to defense-related programs within the Department of Energy (compared to FY 2016). The bill also invests in the country’s waterways and wind power industry. Of the already appropriated funds for renewable energy, $95.4 million would be dedicated for wind-energy research. The Energy Department is due to receive $29.01 billion of this funding, $1.09 billion more than what was allocated in 2015.

Military: Defense Appropriations

The Senate Armed Services Committee convened in open and closed sessions from May 9 – 13 to discuss appropriations proposed in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017. The legislation provides $517.1 billion in discretionary funding, which is an increase of $3 billion from FY 2016, and $587 million below the President’s budget request. In this bill, $58.6 billion is provided for Overseas Contingency Operations and Global War on Terrorism funding. The full committee held meetings in closed sessions from Wednesday May 11 through Friday May 13. Chairman John McCain is expected to release a text of the committee’s discussions and a summarized report in the near future (which, at the time of writing, had yet to occur).

The House defense spending bill released Tuesday evening boosts funding by $15.7 billion compared to FY 2016 to cover base Pentagon programs. The spending measure also reverses the Department of the Army’s strength cuts and funds a 2.1% military pay raise. This bill is also likely to contain the requirement for women, ages 18 to 26, to register for the Selective Services.

MILCON-VA

On April 13, the House Appropriations Committee approved the FY 2017 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill. This legislation provides for funding for housing, training, and equipment for military personnel and their families. It also contains funds for the maintenance of base infrastructure. Finally, this bill funds veterans’ programs and benefits.

This legislation provides $81.6 billion in discretionary funding, $1.8 billion above FY 2016 levels. Funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs is increased by 3% from FY 2016 level. Additional funds are intended to increase the speed, efficiency, and effectiveness of health services provided to veterans. Military construction funding was $250 million above the President’s request. This additional funding will provide for the contraction and maintenance of family housing, health facilities, and overseas facilities and infrastructures.

The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs also approved their respective FY 2017 appropriations bill on April 13. This legislation includes $83 billion in discretionary funding, $3.1 billion above FY 2016 levels. $7.93 billion is earmarked for military construction projects, $241 million below FY 2016 levels, but $486 million above the President’s request. $172.4 million of this funding is earmarked for Overseas Contingency Operations. This bill also increases the Department of Veterans Affairs funding by 4.8%. These additional funds are intended for improvements to health care, benefit claims, the Board of Veterans Appeals, the VA Inspector General, medical and prosthetic research, and IT infrastructure. The total $177.4 billion in discretionary and mandatory funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs is a $14.7 billion above the FY 2016 level. Discretionary funds for VA programs total $74.9 billion. This legislation includes an increase of $1.6 billion in medical care funding, as requested by the administration, to improve patient access to care, and to provide additional health care services, including hepatitis C treatments, veterans’ caregiver services, and homeless veterans’ assistance.

Compiled by: Luc Montimy, DMGS Pittsburgh