Title X, the Gorsuch fight, & escalating tensions


freedom-caucus-wh-meetingEarlier this week, the Senate passed a resolution amending the Title X Family Planning Grant Program to allow states to withhold family planning funds from going to Planned Parenthood and other organizations that provide reproductive health services. The program, which allocates money for counseling, contraception and prenatal care, cannot be used for abortion services under previous law. The measure, which had already been passed in the House, sought to go even further and restrict any (Title X) grant money from going to any clinic providing these services.

Republican Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski joined with Senate Democrats in opposing the measure, leaving the Senate tied with a 50-50 vote count. Vice President Mike Pence, who is constitutionally designated the ‘President of the Senate’ and is entitled to break ties in the chamber, cast a vote in favor of the misguided measure, allowing it to pass.

The Supreme Court confirmation fight also escalated in the Senate this week, with 34 of the chamber’s 48 Senate Democrats lining up to filibuster President Trump’s conservative nominee, federal judge Neil Gorsuch. Some Democrats cautioned against moving forward with the nomination while some of the President’s campaign associates are currently under federal investigation, while others were concerned by Senate Republicans’ refusal to consider Judge Merrick Garland’s nomination last year.  Though judicial confirmations typically require a consensus 60-vote majority to limit floor debate and confirm a nominee, Senate Republicans are considering a ‘nuclear option’ that would amend Senate rules to confirm Judge Gorsuch by simple majority (51 votes). The Senate Judiciary committee plans to vote on the nomination on Monday, and a full vote before the Senate is expected by week’s end.

Finally, tensions between the conservative House Freedom Caucus and President Trump continued to escalate following last week’s failed attempt to hold a vote on the American Health Care Act. President Trump singled out the caucus in a string of tweets, accusing them of hurting the Republican agenda. The back and forth escalated further when the President singled out Members of Congress by name for obstructing the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

AHCA Falters – Turns out Healthcare is Complicated


In a major defeat to both the White House and House Republicans, the American Health Care Act sustained a fatal blow today.

Despite an intense 24 hours of negotiations, House Republican members continued to defect in opposition to the bill. Ultimately this afternoon, Speaker Ryan moved to withdraw their health care reform plan just minutes before the House was scheduled to begin voting.

The chorus of resistance from nurses, providers, and patients from all across the country made this victory over this harmful bill possible. Thank you for your leadership and for your members’ engagement in this fight.

An Unhealthy Budget


President Donald Trump released his budget plan for fiscal year 2018 yesterday morning, presenting Congress with a blueprint for how he believes they should fund the federal government. Unfortunately the President’s proposed budget will weaken the nation’s health care system and jeopardize the scientific research that’s necessary to keep Americans healthy. The ANA opposes the President’s budget, and urges Congress to reject it in favor of a plan that doesn’t compromise health care in favor of political and partisan posturing.

Photo: Shawn Thew, European Pressphoto Agency
Photo: Shawn Thew, European Pressphoto Agency

The President’s budget, which represents his priorities but does not carry the power of the appropriations process controlled by Congress, makes a number of ill-considered cuts when it comes to the American health care system, including:

  • A $403 million reduction in funding for health professions and nursing workforce programs;
  • A $5.8 billion cut from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget, constituting a 22% reduction in funding for scientific research to find medical cures, and;
  • A decision to fold the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (ARHQ) into the NIH. Currently, AHRQ is the only federal agency mandated to conduct health services research.

“As the demand for high-quality health care intensifies, Congress must firmly invest in the nation’s largest health-care workforce, registered nurses. Decreasing funding by $403 million will significantly cripple efforts to effectively recruit, train and educate nurses for practice in rural and medically underserved communities,” said ANA President Pamela F. Cipriano, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN.

The ANA is instead urging Congress to provide $244 million to fund nursing workforce development programs, $160 million for the National Institute of Nursing Research, $380 million for the National Health Service Corps, and to restore AHRQ’s funding to at least $364 million in FY 2018.

Despite the organization’s concerns over these misguided cuts, the ANA does support the President’s call for a $500 million increase to expand opioid misuse prevention and treatment efforts.