Washington Update

Inside (the Beltway) Scoop

By: Benjamin Krinsky
Thursday, September 12, 2019

Senate Postpones Consideration of NIH Bill; Congress Eyes Stop-Gap to Keep Government Open

Congress returned from summer recess this week to face numerous legislative challenges. Members are still engaged in a host of ongoing political fights, including debates over gun control and funding for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Political disputes also disrupted consideration of the Senate NIH funding bill. With a budget deal in place, Senate appropriators were set to consider the Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor-H) appropriations bill on September 10. But Democrats wanted to offer an amendment to block a recent Trump administration rule that withholds federal funding from organizations that provide referrals for abortion. In response, Republicans pulled the bill from the appropriations schedule.

A new date for the Labor-H markup has not been set. A full Senate Appropriations Committee markup was still scheduled for September 12 to consider funding for the Department of Defense and the Energy & Water appropriations bill. Senate Appropriations Committee members indicated that markups of additional appropriations bills – including Agriculture, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies – were likely to proceed next week.

With only about two weeks remaining in fiscal year (FY) 2019, Congress must act quickly to keep the government open past September 30. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) announced that the House would consider a continuing resolution (CR) the week of September 16 that would extend to the third week of November. Similarly, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said the Senate would also pass a CR, though he expressed hope for finalizing at least some appropriations bills. If passed, such a CR would establish a Thanksgiving deadline for further progress on the FY 2020 budget.