Congress returns to Washington next week, and House Republican Leadership maintains an ambitious agenda to pass the American Health Care Act (AHCA) despite an unclear path navigating its moderate and conservative factions. President Trump, who refuses to let health care reform disappear from the agenda, is especially eager for a victory, and today predicted AHCA would pass within the next few weeks.
During the in-district work period these past two weeks, the White House, House Leadership and Republican committee staff have kept conversations going with the two disagreeing factions within their caucus – the moderate Tuesday Group and the conservative Freedom Caucus. At this stage, there appears to be no agreement within the Republican Caucus, and there are varying reports on how close are discussions. The wild card is whether President Trump and his team can help force a deal. As soon as a deal materializes, the House will move the bill to the floor.
In addition to health care, the discretionary aspects of the Federal government are under a temporary continuing resolution which expires at the end of next week. An effort is underway to pass a measure that will fund the government through the remainder of the 2017 Fiscal Year, which ends September 30. This effort is not without controversy, and includes an attempt by the Trump Administration to appropriate funds to build its border wall. However, Republicans will need at least eight Senate Democrats to vote with them to pass an omnibus spending bill, so compromise will be required. There may be a series of short-term funding patches as Congress considers spending priorities.
One of the more interesting issues Congress and the Trump Administration face is what to do with Affordable Care Act (ACA) subsidies that were meant to help reduce cost sharing (deductibles, co-payments) for especially poor, non-Medicaid eligible individuals buying insurance on the exchange. House Republicans had successfully sued the Obama Administration in district court arguing that Congress must appropriate the money before the ACA’s Cost Sharing Reduction (CSR) subsidies could be paid. With an injunction from the district court in place, Congress must decide whether to appropriate the money in the upcoming spending bill. Some Democrats have stated they will not vote to pass any budget without funds for the CSR program included. If Republicans can pass a budget without funding the CSR subsidies, they aren’t out of the woods yet on the CSR program. Specifically, the President still has to decide whether to appeal the district court decision on May 22. If President Trump chooses to accept the district court decision and there is no appropriation, the President could unilaterally shut down the CSR subsidy program. The President has threatened to use this court decision to bring Democrats to the negotiating table, in the event that the program is not appropriated and AHCA is not passed.
The AAA will continue to keep members up to date on these issues.