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Congress Returns in September to Full Legislative Agenda

August 8, 2017

Congress will return to Washington, DC  on September 5 to begin their busiest month yet. Congress will have a total of 12 days in session where they must address the following pieces of “must pass” legislation:

Increasing the “debt ceiling” 
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has urged Congress to increase the nation’s borrowing authority by the end of the fiscal year to avoid a recession and disruption of global financial systems. The debt ceiling was put in place during World War I to set a cap on the amount of money that the federal government can borrow – this amount has been increased several times since then. Increasing the debt ceiling will prevent a federal default.

Avoiding a government shutdown
Congress should complete the Fiscal Year 2018 budget by September 30th—which includes funding for MS research, insurance programs, and caregiver supports. If work on the 2018 budget is not completed, Congress can pass a Continuing Resolution to keep the federal government and its programs funded and operating. If neither of these actions are done by September 30, funding will run out and the federal government will be required to shutdown. 

Reauthorizing the Children’s Health Insurance Program 
The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) must be reauthorized before September 30th, when current funding ends. CHIP was enacted in 1997 and provides coverage for 8.9 million children who are low-income but do not qualify for Medicaid.

Update, September 5, 2017
 
In September, Congress is also working on:
 
Hurricane Harvey Relief Funding
For immediate assistance to areas and people affected by Hurricane Harvey, Congress is currently working on an emergency spending bill providing $7.4 billion to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Disaster Relief Fund and $450 million for the Small Business Administration’s disaster loan program. Further relief and support could come in later bills.
 
Bipartisan Senate Health Care Hearings
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee is holding a series of hearings in September focused on stabilizing the health insurance marketplaces and possibly other health insurance reforms. Chair of the Committee Lamar Alexander (TN) hopes to have a market stabilization bill passed out of Committee by the end of September. Should Congress want to use a process known as “reconciliation” for any health-related legislation (which requires only 51 votes to pass the Senate), they would need to do this by September 30.
 
National Defense Authorization Act
The Senate is expected to debate its National Defense Authorization Act in early September. This bill is related to the budget and expenditures of the Department of Defense (DoD) and during the debate, medical research conducted through the DoD’s Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs is often discussed. In 2017, the CDMRP funded $6 million in MS research.

Learn more about the Society’s current advocacy issues. As a member of the MS Activist network the Society will continue to update you about our work in Congress.

About Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body. Symptoms range from numbness and tingling to blindness and paralysis. The progress, severity and specific symptoms of MS in any one person cannot yet be predicted, but advances in research and treatment are leading to better understanding and moving us closer to a world free of MS. Most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, with at least two to three times more women than men being diagnosed with the disease. MS affects more than 2.3 million people worldwide.

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