Week ahead: Senate turns to mental health bill

After the near-unanimous passage of last week's drug abuse bill, the Senate Health Committee is now beginning work on a mental health bill that it also hopes will pass this year.

The committee will hold its markup on Wednesday, just a week after introducing the bipartisan measure. The bill diverges sharply from a years-old House mental health reform bill from Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.), raising questions about how lawmakers will bridge the divide.

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The Senate's bill is far narrower, though leaders have said it is intended as just a starting point. Provisions from other committees -- such as criminal justice reforms -- are expected to be added down the road.

More details on the path forward could come at the markup. Three bills to address the opioid epidemic will also be considered as part of the larger effort.

In the House, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell is making her rounds on Capitol Hill as lawmakers probe the department's budget request. Burwell will appear before the House Education and Workforce Committee on Tuesday.

Healthcare is also coming into focus as House Republican leaders scramble to find billions of dollars in spending offsets that will help unite the party behind a budget resolution by next month.

Two committees -- the House Ways and Means Committee and the Energy and Commerce Committee -- announced that they will hold markups in the coming week on bills that together would cut more than $40 billion.

Ways and Means is advancing tax bills to crack down on improper payments, including those from ObamaCare subsidies, while Energy and Commerce has five bills that cover both ObamaCare and Medicaid.

The bills will then head to a vote on the House floor the following week, just as House GOP leaders set up a vote on the overall budget resolution for 2017.

 

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