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Zika Deal Reached

Early Thursday morning, the House approved a Zika funding package, the product of a House-Senate conference report that was crafted just hours before.

House Democrats’ unusual daylong protest over gun control finally ended early Thursday morning after Republican leaders moved to adjourn the House through the July 4 recess – without a gun vote.

As a result, House hearings and legislation that had been planned for this week are now delayed at least 11 days. Another consequence, and shocking bonus — a surprisingly speedy vote on a major Zika funding deal.

What’s in the $1.1 billion package: 

  • $476 million to CDC for mosquito control
  • $230 million to NIH for vaccines
  • $165 million to the State Department and USAID to respond to outbreaks overseas
  • $86 million for emergency response research through the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority.

The package is offset by about $750 million from unspent Ebola and Obamacare funds, in addition to another $100 million from HHS’s administrative fund. It now heads to the Senate for a vote, where it’s expected to face resistance.

Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee said they won’t support the deal and called for negotiations to continue.

After the measure passed, the House recessed for the Fourth of July work period.

Labor-HHS-Ed Passes Senate Appropriations

This week the Senate Committee on Appropriations took action on the Labor-HHS-Education appropriations measure.  Most notably, the measure provides a $2 billion bump for the National Institutes of Health and restores year-round Pell Grants. 

National Institutes of Health is funded at $34 billion in the proposal, a 6.3% increase above FY2016. This includes:

  • $300 million for the Precision Medicine Initiative, an increase of $100 million;
  • $1.39 billion for Alzheimer’s disease research, an increase of $400 million;
  • $250 million, an increase of $100 million, for the BRAIN Initiative to map the human brain;
  • $333.4 million, an increase of $12.5 million, for the Institutional Development Award;
  • $463 million, an increase of $50 million, to Combat Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria;
  • $297.3 million for Title VII Health Professions, a 13.3 percent increase above the FY 2016 level.

Notably, the measure would restore the year-round Pell Grant, benefitting an estimated one million students. The reinstated year-round Pell program is modeled after the program included in S. 1062, the “Year-Round Pell Grant Restoration Act,” which does not have a minimum credit requirement or acceleration clause for eligibility.The bill would also raise the maximum Pell Grant award from $5,815 to $5,935. In addition, the provision would provide level funding year-over-year for Federal Work Study at $990 million, TRIO at $900 million, and GEAR UP at $323 million. Title VI International Education is funded at $67 million, which is a $5 million cut to the Fulbright Hayes program and level funding for the domestic programs.

Congress Gets Back to Work for the Long Slog

The House and Senate return to work this week in what will be the largest number of consecutive legislative days prior to the August Recess.  Both legislative bodies will push pause and briefly come together for a joint session to receive Indian Prime Minister Modi.

The Senate returns today to resume consideration on its FY 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, which was slightly detoured last week. The Senate Appropriations Committee to have full consideration of the FY 2017 Labor-H Appropriations bill this week — subcommittee will mark up Tuesday and full committee will consider Thursday. The Labor-H bill contains many of the issues that the higher education community is concerned about including student loans, Pell grants, Perkins, and NIH funding among others. The bill is currently in a close hold, but it is expected to expand the Pell grant program to become year round.

More information will be made available as soon as possible.

The House will return Wednesday to consider the FY 2017 Legislative Affairs appropriations bill as well as legislation to bailout Puerto Rico from its $70 billion in debt (for an island of under 3.5 million people). The island has defaulted three times, and its next big payout is due July 1. The Puerto Rico “bailout” has been very controversial on the House-side of the Hill. The territory has argued it simply needs leniency to restructure its current debt to reduce or delay payments.

Meanwhile, the FY 2017 Legislative Affairs bill could be the debut of the new House standard operating procedure of considering appropriations bills under a structured rule, rather than the traditional open rule. The traditional open rule having caused significant meltdown of the FY 2017 E&W bill before the break.


House and Senate Agree to Conference Zika Funding Bills

Today, the House voted 233-180 Thursday for a rule that would allow the chamber go to conference with the Senate over differences in the two chambers’ respective versions of their FY2017 Mil-Con appropriations measures as well as legislation to address the Zika virus. The Senate will also need to agree to go to conference.

The House and Senate has vastly different approaches to Zika funding. The House funding was a separate measure, which only provided $622 million and passed on a largely party-line vote of 241-184 while garnering a veto threat from President Obama because it provides less than a third of his $1.9 billion request. The Senate included $1.1 billion, again less than the $1.9 billion requested, and was attached to the Senate’s FY2017 Mil-Con and T-HUD combined measure. 

Once convened the House and Senate have a limited amount of time to resolve their differences.

House Unveils Zika Funding

Today, House Appropriations Committee released the House Republicans’ $622 million supplemental appropriations bill to fight Zika. The supplemental is expected to be considered by the House this week.

The bill is fully offset, according to a statement released by the Committee. It uses $352 million in “unobligated” money that was appropriated to address the Ebola outbreak in 2014 and $270 million in “unused administrative funding” from the Health and Human Services Department. Funds would be allocated for FY 2016, which means they could be used during the next five months. House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) previously announced that the Committee intends to include Zika funding in the FY 2017 Labor-H bill. 

The proposal is likely to be derided by Democratic Members and the Administration, which have repeatedly called for $1.9 billion in emergency funding without offsets to research and combat the mosquito-borne virus.