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Congressional Update

It’s been an eventful week on the Hill, with legislators working to beat the clock on a number of time-sensitive pieces of legislation. Check out an update on various congressional actions below.

Budget and Appropriations

House and Senate conferees struck a deal Thursday night on funding for over 60% of the federal government. H.R. 6157 (115), a combined funding bill providing appropriations for the Departments of Defense; Labor; Health and Human Services; Education; and other related agencies, was approved by a bipartisan group of House and Senate negotiators and is headed to the Senate floor next week for a vote. The House is expected to take it up the week of September 24 in time to meet the new fiscal year deadline of October 1.

If passed, the “Defense/L-HHS” minibus will set records in a number of areas: it is the first time in appropriations history that Defense and L-HHS have been packaged together; it will also be the first Labor-HHS-Education bill to be signed into law on time in 22 years, according to reporters at POLITICO.

Although the bicameral bill removed several harmful policy riders – including a provision barring use of federal funds for safer consumption spaces, a proven method of increasing access to substance use treatment and HIV prevention – and thus contains few GOP policy gains, appropriations leadership does not seem worried about passage in the conservative-majority House. Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK-4), the chairman of the Labor-HHS appropriations subcommittee, said of his Republican House colleagues, “If they want to vote against Defense, that's up to them,” signaling the security of this vote because of its attachment to the Department of Defense funding. The current bill, however, does include $35 million for misleadingly named “sexual risk avoidance” grants, prioritizing abstinence-only messaging over comprehensive sexuality education. The Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program maintained level funding from fiscal year 2018. Other wins for HIV policy and care include a $2 billion increase to the National Institutes of Health as well as $3.8 billion to be distributed to various programs addressing the opioid and overdose epidemics.

To avoid what might be controversial votes ahead of the upcoming November midterm elections, legislators included a continuing resolution in the bill, providing extended programmatic funding at 2018 levels for all other agencies through December 7. Although President Trump had previously signaled his openness to vetoing bills that did not mirror his funding requests, like the House Republicans, he is expected to prioritize Defense funding and sign the bill into law when it arrives at his desk near the end of the month.

SCOTUS: Judge Kavanaugh Hearings and Vote

Confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh concluded last week and drew impassioned exchanges from Senators. The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote on his nomination next week before consideration by the full Senate by the end of the month. As AIDS United has noted, Judge Kavanagh could significantly decrease Americans’ access to health care if confirmed to the Court. Click here to encourage your Senators to vote NO on Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Annual Conference: September 12-16

The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Annual Legislative Conference is the leading policy conference on issues impacting African Americans and the global black community. Thought leaders, legislators and concerned citizens engage on economic development, civil and social justice, public health and education issues. More than 9,000 people attend 70 public policy forums and much more. Join subject experts, industry leaders, elected officials and citizen activists to explore today’s issues from an African-American perspective.

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA-13), co-chair of the Congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus, will be hosting her annual panel discussion on HIV/AIDS, this year with a focus on dispelling stigma, on Friday, September 14 from 1:30-3:30 PM. Notably, Public Policy Council member organizations the National Black Justice Coalition and UCHAPS will be represented. The National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC) is a civil rights organization dedicated to the empowerment of Black lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and same gender loving (LGBTQ/SGL) people, including people living with HIV/AIDS. NBJC’s mission is to end racism, homophobia, and LGBTQ/SGL bias and stigma. The Urban Coalition for HIV/AIDS Prevention Services (UCHAPS) is a national collaboration of community partners and health departments with a history of dedication to preventing new HIV infections and reducing health disparities, morbidity, and mortality related to HIV and AIDS.

Letter from Secretary Azar to HELP Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) regarding the reallocation of $266 million in funding from within HHS to pay for the detention of immigrant children:


Posted By: AIDS United Policy Department - Friday, September 14, 2018

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