December 12, 2016 Congressional Update

Congress wrapped up its work for the year over the weekend. It was disappointing that they were not able to pass the Appropriations bills that funds the federal agencies, but below is an update of what they did do. We will continue to support federal research funding, as well as student aid, and work to find opportunities for Northeastern to engage in federal public policy that benefit the university. 

Continuing Resolution Passes

Just before midnight on Friday, the Senate approved a Continuing Resolution (CR) (H.R. 2028) to keep the federal government operating through April 28, 2017. President Obama signed the CR into law early Saturday morning. All agencies are subject to a 0.1901 percent cut across the board to reach previously agreed budget targets. The bill makes several changes based on statutory law and other program changes. The CR provides funding for the 21st Century Cures Act, which also passed last week. This included an additional $20 million for the FDA, $352 million for the NIH, and $500 million in state grants to supplement current opioid abuse prevention and treatment activities. The bill also provides $170 million to aid Flint, Michigan in addressing its water crisis.

Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), Chairman of the House Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee, warned reporters that trying to finish fiscal 2017 appropriations by next April will be troublesome, predicting that lawmakers will rue the day they decided to punt spending decisions to the 115th Congress. "I don't think anybody recognizes how difficult this is going to be for the new administration," he told Congressional Quarterly, adding that the decision will "guarantee us legislative and fiscal turmoil in the opening part of next year. 

21st Century Cures Bill 

Last Wednesday, the 21st Century Cures bill passed by a vote of 94-5. President Obama said he will sign the bill at a White House ceremony on Tuesday. The measure makes major reforms to the FDA drug and device approval processes. The bill also creates a $4.77 billion trust fund over ten years to support NIH research on precision medicine, the BRAIN initiative, and cancer research and adult stem cell research, which can only be spent if allocated during the appropriations process.

National Defense Authorization

The Senate also passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) by a vote of 92-7. The bill went to the President for signature. Rep. Thornberry (R-TX) and Senator McCain (R-AZ), Chairmen of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, released the following statement on the Senate's passage of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017. With today's vote in the Senate, the NDAA has now passed the Congress with veto-proof majorities in both houses. This legislation marks another important step toward reforming our defense enterprise to meet current and future threats. The NDAA delivers bold reforms on defense acquisition, military healthcare, military justice, and security cooperation. And we achieved these reforms while upholding our commitments to our troops by providing the largest military pay raise since 2010, boosting funds to address the military readiness crisis, and stemming the dangerous drawdown of the Army and Marine Corps. Reform is not easy, but this NDAA shows it is possible. Building on this year's NDAA, the Senate and House Armed Services Committees will continue to champion the cause of defense reform in the new Congress.