Federal Health Policy Updates for the Week of January 16, 2023

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Recess, reset, rest
This season of Congress is
Just getting started


The Rundown

  • House committees begin to take shape
  • Debt limit fight on the horizon
  • Hill Days are coming – and we’re here to help
  • Want to learn more about what we do? We’d love to meet you.
  • Join the Duke Health Advocacy Network!

Federal Updates

The “calm” before the other work begins 
After the high-stakes, back-and-forth drama over the speakership in the House of Representatives, this past week has been relatively calm with both the House and Senate out for recess until January 23rd. Even while on recess, work has continued behind the scenes to formally organize the operations of the 118th Congress. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) have determined the ratio of members from each party for the four “A List” Committees: Appropriations, Energy & Commerce, Financial Services, and Ways & Means. The ratios for the remaining committees are expected to be announced by the end of today.

On the Republican side, the House Republican Steering Committee is meeting to make recommendations for Republican Committee assignments for the 118th Congress. So far, we know that Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC-10) will chair the Financial Services Committee, while Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC-05) will lead the Education & Workforce Committee. Newly elected Rep. Chuck Edwards (R-NC-11) has been appointed to the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee. The Energy & Commerce Committee, which has oversight of public health and research, will be chaired by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA).

House Democrats are expected to begin announcing their committee assignments beginning next week.

The United States officially hit the federal debt limit on Thursday, and absent a deal to once again lift the current cap, the Department of Treasury was forced to resort to what are known as “extraordinary measures” to keep government operations solvent. If you’ve been a reader with us for a while, you might remember that we covered this issue in great detail just over a year and half ago – and it’s back on the radar. Raising the federal debt limit used to be a fairly routine act of Congress, but the process has gotten far more complicated within the last 10-12 years. The White House and most Democratic leaders would prefer to expediently pass a clean debt limit increase, especially in the current and more volatile economic environment in the U.S. and globally, while the leadership in the new House Republican majority will likely seek concessions, including potential reductions in discretionary and mandatory spending, to secure passage of a debt limit increase. Neither side seems willing to compromise at the moment, but failure to act in the next few months would be catastrophic. When talking about the debt limit, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • The debt limit is not the authority to spend new money but rather that the federal government can pay back what’s already been spent.
  • The debt limit is a congressional construct and is not found directly in the Constitution. The public debts clause of the 14th Amendment mandates that all of the federal government’s financial obligations be met. If negotiations go poorly, expect to see the tension between these concepts play out in the debate.
  • More recent debt limit battles have seen the formation of bipartisan congressional and independent commissions to put together solutions for a deal. Just over 10 years ago, a bipartisan deal included across-the-board cuts (aka sequestration) and cuts to discretionary spending (e.g. – funding for medical research) for much of the 2010s.

We’ll be tracking this issue closely and its potential impact on Duke Health priorities.

Hill days are coming - and we can help
With the calendar already at mid-January, we are getting closer to the kickoff of professional association Hill days. These activities are wonderful opportunities to connect with your elected officials, showcase your work, and make connections on key federal policy issues for your field.

If you’re planning to join or even considering joining an association lobby day this year, we’d love to hear from you!

We know your associations provide great training opportunities and materials to prepare you for the big day, but please know that we’re your in-house resource every day of the year for consultation and to help you continue to build those relationships with staff and Members of Congress.

Contact Brian Lee in our office at brian.lee887@duke.edu to share your information.

It’s not just our jobs - it’s also a lot of fun - and we look forward to connecting with you.

Coming soon to a computer screen near you
In 2022, the Duke Health Government Relations team was pleased to join our colleagues across 15 different areas of the health system for policy presentations related to what is happening in Washington, D.C. and how it impacts your work here at Duke Health. We appreciate these opportunities to connect directly with our Duke Health colleagues, share more about our work, and learn about the priorities and issues of importance for various departments and their team members. We’d welcome the opportunity to engage more with you in 2023. If you are interested in having our team join yours for a brief conversation about our work and how we can support yours, please contact us at govrelations@dm.duke.edu

Join the Duke Health Advocacy Network!
Looking for more opportunities to connect with fellow advocates and professionals interested in public policy across the health system? Join the Duke Health Advocacy Teams Channel!

Managed and moderated by Duke Health Government Relations and Duke State Relations, the purpose of the platform is for you to connect with your colleagues throughout the health system who are engaged and/or interested in public policy advocacy. We hope the channel will be used as a space for sharing ideas, collaboration, and engaging with the government relations teams on the issues most important to your work.
We encourage you to explore the channel, as we will post relevant news items, policy updates, questions, advocacy resources, and opportunities for engagement. As importantly, this is your space to do the same and to help grow the community.
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(Note: This is only open to Duke Health employees. By joining this teams channel, you acknowledge that the platform and your participation are intended for information sharing and connections/relationship building and is not an inducement by Duke Health Government Relations and Duke State Relations, or the channel’s participants, to act as an unauthorized advocacy and/or lobbying representative of Duke Health or Duke University).