|Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced the country can most likely make it until at least late October before defaulting on debt or needing an increase in the debt limit to make payments. Lawmakers will need to address the issue when they return for Fall session.Read more.
Rep. Mark Meadows, a Republican from North Carolina, filed a motion to remove House Speaker John Boehner from his post this week. The motion failed miserably, but Rep. Meadows said he wanted to create a “family conversation” among the party. A motion to vacate the chair, as it is called, has never succeeded in the House, and was only attempted once in the history of our government. 105 years ago. Read more.
Officials from the 12 countries working on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal have been meeting in Hawaii and are hoping to hammer out the final details of the deal today, but there are still some major obstacles. The US is pushing for 12-year exclusivity rights on biologic drugs (one of the newest innovations in pharmaceuticals), but Australia and other countries fear such a long period will allows prices to remain too high and want it reduced to five years. A final news conference is scheduled for 6:30 PM Central/7:30pm Eastern tonight. Read more.
The Affordable Care Act repeal amendment did not make it into the Senate’s six-year highway funding bill, but reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank did. Conservatives celebrated the expiration of the bank’s charter and are outraged that it might be voted back in place, but President Obama has made it clear that any transportation bill on his desk had better have an Ex-Im reauthorization attached to it.
The Senate passed its bill, but the House is still lukewarm toward it and is on recess until September 8th. This leaves the Ex-Im bank in limbo until at least then. Even if the bank is reauthorized, it will need help from the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, Sen. Richard Shelby, because only two out of five seats on the bank’s board of directors are currently occupied, and the charter requires a quorum of three votes to approve transactions over $10 million. Sen. Shelby’s opinion of the bank is clear: it has “outlived its usefulness and should be allowed to expire.” Read more.
In the meantime, a new three-month highway funding bill passed both houses this week. The bill includes a measure allowing the Veterans Affairs Department (VA) to move $4 billion to cover a budget shortfall, without which the department would likely need to start closing VA hospitals. Read more.
Sens. Joni Ernst, James Lankford, and Rand Paul drafted legislation to defund Planned Parenthood, and over 20 other Republicans, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, have signed on as cosponsors. Democrats are united in their opposition to the measure so far. Some conservatives are taking their opinions of Planned Parenthood to the next level, threatening to let the government shut down rather than allow any funding to go to the organization. Presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz is one of the most vocal of these legislators, and he is encouraging his Republican colleagues to refuse to pass any appropriations bills that do not eliminate Planned Parenthood’s funding. Read more.
Florida senator and presidential candidate Marco Rubio has been active in attacking the Obama administration on its Iran policies, but he has been conspicuously absent from the Senate floor. Sen. Rubio has missed more votes than any other candidate since announcing his presidential bid in April, followed by Sens. Lindsey Graham and Ted Cruz. Sen. Rand Paul is holding down the opposite end of the spectrum, having missed just two votes.
HHS announced it will dramatically expand funding to states and community health centers for medication-assisted treatment for opioid abuse. The new funding will be provided through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). SAMHSA will award up to $11 million a year to 11 states (Washington, Iowa, Vermont, Kentucky, Maryland, Indiana, Wisconsin, Wyoming, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Missouri) to increase access to comprehensive medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorders for up to three years. HRSA will make an additional $100 million available to expand and improve the delivery of substance abuse services, focusing on medication-assisted treatment for opioid abuse. In addition to these new funding avenues, CMS is offering Medicaid programs the option to receive federal funding to reimburse for substance use disorder treatment through a demonstration project. Read the press release.
Sen. Rand Paul’s presidential campaign is floundering amid low staffing and funding levels, brought on in part by the candidate’s unwillingness to court powerful donors on their terms – he even turned down an invitation to an event put on by the Koch brothers. On top of the campaign’s logistical problems, Sen. Paul’s message of unconventional and fresh ideas is being drowned out by other GOP candidates with more money (like Jeb Bush) and more headlines (like Donald Trump). Read more.
Gov. Christie again made his position against legalizing marijuana clear: “If you’re getting high in Colorado today, enjoy it. As of January 2017, I will enforce the federal laws.” This hardline stance is favored by neither his fellow Republican candidates nor the majority of the American population, but Gov. Christie brushed away those concerns and said if it is true, then Congress will pass legislation to legalize it. Read more.