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Federal Health Policy Updates for the Week of January 23, 2023

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The Rundown

  • The House and Senate are back this week to wrap up organizational business and begin discussing legislative priorities
    • Update on committee assignments and activity 
  • Looming debt limit fight will test a divided government
  • State of the Union scheduled for February 7th    
  • The latest from our desks
  • Join the Duke Health Advocacy Network!

Federal Updates

Who, what, where? Congress returns to wrap up housekeeping business and pivot to agenda building 
Are we ready to go? The House and Senate both returned to session this week while also working to fill out committee assignments and wrap up final organizational tasks.

Committee assignment updates
Newly-elected Rep. Wiley Nickel (D-NC-13) was appointed to the House Financial Services Committee, which is led by Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC-10). Rep. Greg Murphy, MD (R-NC-03) was appointed to the House Administration Committee, which has jurisdiction over election reform issues, House operations, and oversight over the Capitol Police and Capitol Security, among other areas. He also continues to serve on the House Ways and Means Committee, which oversees Medicare and tax policy. We are still awaiting final word on committee assignments for the four other members of the North Carolina congressional delegation freshman class, including Rep. Valerie Foushee (D-NC-04) and our state’s new junior Senator Ted Budd (R).

Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-KY-02) was officially announced to lead the House Energy and Commerce (E&C) Health Subcommittee. Reports suggest that Rep. Guthrie intends to focus on price transparency, addressing the fentanyl crisis, mental health, and the origins of COVID. Rep. Guthrie has also indicated that he supports sustainable expanded telehealth access. Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA-16), who served as subcommittee chair last Congress, is expected to serve as Ranking Member. Rep. Richard Hudson (R-NC-09) also serves on the subcommittee and is expected to take a leading role during the reauthorization of the Pandemic and All Hazards Preparedness Act (PAHPA) this year.

Committee activity
This week, E&C full Committee Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA-05) joined Health Subcommittee Chair Guthrie in announcing the first legislative hearing of the Subcommittee on Health entitled, “Lives Worth Living: Addressing the Fentanyl Crisis, Protecting Critical Lifelines, and Combatting Discrimination Against Those with Disabilities.” The hearing will be held on February 1st and specific legislation discussed will include: The HALT Fentanyl Actthe 9-8-8 Lifeline Cybersecurity Responsibility Actthe Block, Report, and Suspend Suspicious Shipments Act, and the Protecting Health Care for All Patients Act.  

E&C Chair McMorris Rodgers joined Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA-09), newly installed Chair of the E&C Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, in announcing the first hearing on a Government Accountability Office report “examining the challenges of investigating the origins of infectious disease pandemics and biological outbreaks as well as recommendations for improvement in the future.” The hearing entitled, “Challenges and Opportunities to Investigating the Origins of Pandemics and Other Biological Events,” will also take place on February 1st. 

Also this week, the Senate Judiciary Committee, of which Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) is a member, held a much-anticipated hearing entitled, “That’s the Ticket: Promoting Competition and Protecting Consumers in Live Entertainment.” Although E&C and the Senate Judiciary Committee seem to be swiftly getting to work (see what we did there), it may take a few weeks for others to fully ramp up activities. 

We look forward to providing updates on committee assignments in the coming weeks, especially for our NC delegation members, but for now we’re stuck with a few blank spaces (okay, last Taylor Swift pun, we promise). 

The cost of paying it back
As we noted in last week’s newsletter, the debate in Congress on how to approach raising the federal debt limit is back – and it may be at its most partisan and contentious point since 2011.

The United States officially hit the federal debt limit last week, and the Department of Treasury was forced to resort to what are known as “extraordinary measures” to keep government operations solvent while Congress and the White House look to find a way forward to raise the current cap. The “battle” lines on the issue at the moment are relatively clear: The White House and a majority of Democrats want a clean debt limit increase and a separate conversation on federal spending priorities. House Republican leadership, now joined by a faction of conservative Senate Republicans, have publicly stated that any debt limit increase must be paired with some form of spending cuts or control. The last time we were at such a crossroads, a final deal resulted in discretionary budget caps for nearly a decade.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and President Biden are expected to meet in the coming weeks, but any immediate progress on negotiations is not anticipated. The sides are dug in, and perhaps at most, leaders have until June to reach some sort of deal. That feels like some time and absolutely none at all – and it also seems hard to imagine an eventual path forward that doesn’t involve a targeted re-evaluation of federal spending. The problem at the moment is that it isn’t clear “what” might be targeted for how much and how long. That’s a lot of uncertainty paired with the threat of potential societal fiscal collapse – and the debt limit debate will cast a shadow over EVERY other congressional priority until it’s resolved.

We’ll continue to track this issue closely and its potential impact on Duke Health priorities.

Biden to deliver State of the Union on February 7th
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has officially invited President Joe Biden to deliver his second State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on February 7th. This will be Biden’s third joint address to Congress since becoming president and first to the new and divided 118th Congress, where the opportunities for significant legislation that defined the past two years are more limited. While the speech is still being developed and it is unknown what specific topics the president will include, there is likely to be some preview of his administration’s FY 2024 budget request to Congress, as well as areas of common interest between the parties, including support for mental healthcare, where bipartisan legislation may be possible.

From our desk(s): Duke Health GR this week
The Duke Health Government Relations team joined our colleagues in the Duke State Relations office for a policy presentation as part of the Duke Psychiatry Grand Rounds. 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 love to engage with you, too. If you are interested in having our team join yours for a brief conversation about our work, please contact us at

We monitored an update for stakeholders from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator, Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, and her leadership team regarding highlights from last year and a brief overview of the administration’s 2023 priorities. We also monitored the Director’s report for the National Center for Advancing Translation Sciences (NCATS) Advisory Council Meeting. 

Our team began outreach to the healthcare and leadership staff of new NC congressional delegation members, scheduling introductory meetings over the next few weeks to introduce our work, Duke Health, and health system priorities.

Members of our team attended a national telehealth government relations stakeholder meeting to discuss priorities for the 118th Congress and share intel on legislation and regulatory updates in development by policymakers.

We would also like to, again, extend our offer to serve as a resource to you if you’re planning to join upcoming professional association advocacy events. 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. 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 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.

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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