Week ahead: Budget time, agencies tackle Zika threat

The White House will release its budget wish list on Tuesday, setting up new fights with Republicans on everything from ObamaCare spending to the National Institutes of Health.

With a GOP-led Congress, the budget proposal will serve more as political messaging than a bargaining tool for President Obama. But there could be some areas of compromise in health policy.

The White House has already said it will prioritize more funding to combat the heroin epidemic and increasing cancer research, as part of the vice president's "moonshot" to cure the disease.

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Preventing an outbreak of the Zika virus could also be on the table. All three were discussed during the Tuesday meeting between President Obama, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

The Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the second-largest agency budget in the federal government, will make its pitch before the House Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday.

HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell will testify, likely also taking questions about the growing threat from the Zika virus. She has already promised to brief lawmakers about the disease this month.

Elsewhere on Capitol Hill, top officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Agency for International Development will weigh in on the Zika virus threat at a hearing on Wednesday. The hearing is hosted by the House Foreign Affairs Committee's global health subcommittee.

Another hearing will be held by the Senate's Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee's public health policy panel the following week.

In non-infectious disease news, the Senate HELP Committee is kicking off its biomedical innovation agenda, which is seen as a counterpart -- or rival -- to the House-passed 21st Century Cures bill.

In the first of three marathon markups, the HELP Committee will meet Tuesday to vote on bipartisan bills covering areas like targeted therapies, medical device accountability, medical research education and neurological disease.

One of the most high-profile of those bills is dedicated to improving health information technology, led by Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and ranking member Patty Murray (D-Wash.).

 

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