Capitol Correspondence - 04.28.17

Congress Averts Shutdown, Leaves Town Without Health Care Vote

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On April 28, both houses of Congress passed a one-week stop gap measure to avoid a government shutdown. The short-term continuing resolution was agreed upon after another week in DC filled with conversations over the uncertain future of the American Health Care Act (AHCA), the bill that seeks to undo many key provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Prior efforts to repeal and replace the ACA with the AHCA failed, with votes pulled as it became clear to Republican leadership that the House did not have the votes to pass the measure. (See WICs article, “ACA Remains Law for “Foreseeable Future” as Repeal Efforts Implode,” March 27, 2017.) 
Efforts to revive the bill came back this week, with the introduction of new amendments that would allow states to waive requirements such as essential health benefits (EHBs), community rating rules, provisions regarding preexisting condition underwriting. (See WICs article, “AHCA Conversation Continues with New Amendment Offered,”  April 24, 2017.) Though members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus endorsed the amended bill, more moderate Republicans continued to not support the bill, leaving House leadership once again short the votes needed to pass the measure this week. The health care bill is likely to dominate conversation on the Hill next week, with a vote possible mid-week. 
Adding to the dramatic scene was the need to pass funding to keep the federal government open past the expiration of the prior continuing resolution, which expired at midnight on April 28. Democrats were adamant that they would not support any CR that included funding for certain things, including the border wall that President Trump has promised the American people, or that cut off ACA cost sharing payments. Democrats also threatened to pull support for the continuing resolution if the Republicans pushed for a vote on the AHCA. An agreement was finally hammered out to fund the government through May 5, with the goal of coming together next week on a longer-term funding package to keep the government funded through the end of the year.  
UPDATE (May 1, 2017) – Republican leaders have said they are “very close” to reaching an agreement on the AHCA that will gain enough votes to pass the most recent version of the bill, including the MacArthur amendment. A vote may happen on Wednesday, May 3. ANCOR sent out an action alert on Monday asking people to contact their representatives and share concerns with the bill. Please act now, and share this alert widely! The action alert is here: