Sep 27, 2018

How Congress passed an HHS spending bill for the first time in years

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Congress yesterday sent a funding bill for the Department of Health and Human Services to President Trump's desk — the first time it has completed that bill in more than 20 years.

Why it matters: For all the chaos consuming Washington, this is a notable achievement for leadership, especially Speaker Paul Ryan. This bill has historically been bogged down by the politics surrounding abortion and the Affordable Care Act.

How it happened: Leadership in both chambers committed early on to passing appropriations bills through regular order this year. A few strategic decisions helped get the HHS bill — usually the most difficult one — over the finish line.

  • Leadership paired HHS funding with defense funding because conservatives weren't likely to vote against defense spending.
  • If the two hadn't been combined, "I think that the overwhelming majority of Republicans would be voting no," said Rep. Mark Walker, adding that it was "frustrating, because they take an issue that needs to be taken care of – defense, that’s been depleted for a decade – and attach it to something that maybe 40 Republicans would vote yes for.”
  • Because the Trump administration can pursue anti-abortion policies through the executive branch, congressional Republicans felt less of an imperative to vote to defund Planned Parenthood.
  • The bill doesn't provide any new funding for the Affordable Care Act, but also didn't cut any — a status quo Democrats could live with.

Democrats also say Republicans wanted to avoid a government shutdown right before into the midterm elections.

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Sign of the times: A pro-Warren super PAC

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren at a rally in Nevada. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

A group of women progressives who back Sen. Elizabeth Warren has formed Persist PAC, a super PAC airing pro-Warren ads starting Wednesday in an effort to boost her performance ahead of Saturday's crucial Nevada caucuses, a spokesman told Axios.

Why it matters: Warren has spoken adamantly against the influence of unlimited spending and dark money in politics. But these supporters have concluded that before Warren can reform the system, she must win under the rules that exist — and that whether she likes it or not, their uncoordinated help may be needed to keep her viable through this weekend's contest and into South Carolina and Super Tuesday.

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Pentagon policy chief resigns amid reported discord with Trump

John Rood. Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

John Rood, the Pentagon's top policy official, will resign from his post at the end of the month, CNN first reported and President Trump confirmed.

The state of play: CNN said Rood "was perceived as not embracing some of the changes in policy the White House and senior Pentagon officials wanted," such as peace talks in Afghanistan with the Taliban and a decision to cut back on military exercises with South Korea as the president courted North Korea's Kim Jong-un.

Coronavirus cases rise, as warnings of global pandemic grow

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's NHC; Note: China refers to mainland China and the Diamond Princess is the cruise ship offshore Yokohama, Japan. Map: Danielle Alberti/Axios

We may be "at the brink" of a global pandemic, warns a top U.S. public health official, as cases continue to spread despite containment efforts. Meanwhile, the global economy is being affected, including the tech manufacturing industry.

The big picture: COVID-19 has now killed more than 2,000 people and infected over 75,000 others, mostly in mainland China, where the National Health Commission announced 136 new deaths since Tuesday.

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