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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.

Go deeper

Updated 3 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus deaths reach 4,000 per day as hospitals remain in crisis mode — America has tuned out the coronavirus at the peak of its destruction — 1 in 3 people in L.A. County believed to have been infected with coronavirus.
  2. Politics: Biden taps ex-FDA chief to lead Operation Warp Speed amid rollout of COVID plan— Widow of GOP congressman-elect who died of COVID-19 will run to fill his seat — Joe Biden will seek nearly $2 trillion in COVID relief spending.
  3. Vaccine: Battling Black mistrust of the vaccines"Pharmacy deserts" could become vaccine deserts — Instacart to give $25 to shoppers who get vaccine.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode againFed chair: No interest rate hike coming any time soon —  Inflation rose more than expected in December.
  5. World: WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins.
Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
1 hour ago - Economy & Business

Trump blocks banks from limiting loans to gun and oil companies

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Big banks are no longer allowed to reject business loan applicants because of the industry in which they operate, according to a new rule finalized on Thursday by the Trump administration.

Why it matters: Wall Street has curtailed its exposure to industries like guns, oil and private prisons, driven by both public and shareholder pressures. This new rule could reverse that trend.

Former FDA commissioner: "Reliable drug supply is absolutely critical"

Axios' Caitlin Owens and former FDA commissioner Mark McClellan. Photo courtesy of Axios Events

Having a reliable supply of pharmaceutical drugs throughout America will be "absolutely critical" to boosting affordability in health care during the Biden administration, former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner Mark McClellan said at a virtual Axios Event on Friday.

The big picture: McClellan, who served under President George W. Bush, says drugs having limited supply and limited competition leads to elevated pricing. He considers drug supply to be a national security and public health issue.