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4. Political Cartoon: 'One Step Ahead'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'One Step Ahead'" by Brian Crane.

Here's today's health policy haiku:

NO WORRIES ABOUT ZIKA

Mosquito season
Has arrived. But for Congress
Vacation can’t wait.

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Summaries Of The News:

Capitol Hill Watch

5. Congress Leaves For 7-Week Recess With Zika Funding Unresolved

Legislation to fund the battle against the virus was just one of several bills lawmakers punt to the fall.

The New York Times: Congress Recesses, Leaving More Stalemates Than Accomplishments
Congress limped out of town Thursday for a seven-week recess, leaving behind a trail of partisan fights, a failed bill to help fight the Zika virus, a stalemate on gun safety and a few mundane accomplishments that members hoped to sell as awesome to voters in an unsparing mood. The fierce partisanship was evident as some House Republicans filed a resolution to impeach the Internal Revenue Service commissioner, John A. Koskinen, while Hillary Clinton, over lunch at the Capitol with Senate Democrats, stressed that their hopes of reclaiming the majority were bound up with her aspirations of winning the White House. (Herszenhorn and Steinhauer, 7/14)

The Wall Street Journal: The Top Three Things Congress Couldn’t Get Done This Year
A partisan fight widened in recent weeks over how Congress should pay for money directed at combating the Zika virus and lawmakers didn’t resolve it before they left Thursday. House and Senate Republicans backed a measure that would have provided $1.1 billion in Zika funding, balanced with cuts to the 2010 health-law and money previously earmarked for fighting Ebola. Democrats said they could live with some of the budget cuts, but objected to a provision that would have prevented funding from going to ProFamilias, a group that partners with Planned Parenthood in Puerto Rico, which has been hard hit by Zika. (son, 7/14)

The Associated Press: Lawmakers To Go On Recess Without Addressing Zika
Congress is about to leave for a seven-week vacation without giving the Obama administration any of the $1.9 billion it’s seeking to battle the Zika virus, and a Senate effort to revive the nuts-and-bolts process of passing agency budgets was dealt a significant setback at the hands of Democrats. (Taylor, 7/15)

Stat: Senate Still Stuck On Zika, Leaves Funding Unresolved Until September
Caught up in a partisan squabble about Planned Parenthood, the Senate once again failed Thursday to advance a $1.1 billion package to fund the US response to the Zika virus. The measure fell short in a procedural vote, 52 to 44. It needed 60 votes to advance. With the Zika funding question still unresolved, Congress is leaving town for the Democratic and Republican presidential conventions and won’t return until September. Leaders from both parties laid the blame at the other’s feet for the impasse. (Scott, 7/14)

The Hill: Senate Punts Zika Fight To The Fall
Senate Democrats on Thursday blocked a deal to provide $1.1 billion to combat the Zika virus for a second time, effectively kicking the funding fight into September. Senators voted 52-44 on a procedural hurdle. Sixty votes were needed to move forward with the Zika money, which is attached to a larger military and veterans spending bill. (Carney, 7/14)

Roll Call: Senate Rejects Zika Package Again, No Signs Of A Deal
Democrats have repeatedly criticized Republicans for including language in the conference report that they say would would prevent funds from going to Planned Parenthood clinics in Puerto Rico. Republicans have shot back by saying their position represents a lack of support for pregnant women. ... The inability of the Republican-led Congress to pass the legislation is a politically risky move ahead of the recess. The number of infants born with microcephaly linked to the Zika virus will continue to grow in the coming weeks and months, experts say. Congress is slated to return in September and while the political parties could hash out a deal then, they may likely feel less pressure to act with summer over, unless Zika becomes a larger public health problem. (Shutt, 7/14)

Politico Pro: No Zika Deal, But The Mud Is Ready For Flinging
Republicans and Democrats can’t come together on a deal to fund the Zika response, but they are ready with talking points to blame one another if the crisis gets worse over the August recess. Minutes after a Republican-led Zika measure failed in the Senate for the second time on Thursday, Democrats blasted Republicans for leaving on a vacation as a public health crisis loomed. Republicans, with similar venom, blamed Democrats for filibustering a bill that would have helped prevent babies from severe birth defects. (Haberkorn, 7/14)

The Hill: GOP Calls Out Obama For Millions Of Unspent Dollars Amid Zika Fight
Top Republicans in Congress are demanding to know why the White House is holding onto more than $400 million that they say could have already gone to fighting the Zika virus. Six leading GOP appropriators wrote to President Obama on Thursday, voicing strong concerns about the administration's slow pace in exhausting its existing resources on Zika, as Democrats dig in their heels to demand a $1.1 billion emergency spending bill. (Ferris, 7/14)

Morning Consult: After Zika Funding Vote Fails, GOP Appropriators Write To White House
Republican appropriators urged President Obama to use already available funding to respond to the Zika virus Thursday after Senate Democrats blocked a procedural vote on a spending bill that included funding for the virus for the second time. In a letter, top appropriators from both chambers urged Obama to continue to shift money that was allocated for fiscal 2016 for the Zika virus should the administration need more funds to fight the outbreak. The Secretary of Health and Human Services has a transfer authority to shift funds toward Zika and the Secretary of State has the authority to reprogram funds to provide additional funding outside the country, they say. (McIntire, 7/14)

6. $161 Billion Health Spending Bill Approved By House Panel

The package is nearly $3 billion below the levels requested by President Barack Obama.

The Hill: House Panel Clears Final Spending Bill
The House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday approved a $161 billion health and labor spending bill, clearing its 12th and final annual appropriations package on the final day before recess. The health spending bill — typically one of the committee’s most contentious — is about a half-billion dollars shy of last year’s total. It’s nearly $3 billion below the levels requested by President Obama. (Ferris, 7/14)

In other news from Capitol Hill —

USA Today: Republicans Say Abortion Clinics Broke The Law By Selling Fetal Organs
Republicans on a special House panel investigating the practices of abortion providers said Thursday those providers and their middlemen have violated federal law by selling tissues and organs from aborted fetuses. In an interim report to Congress, the panel’s GOP majority said it has uncovered evidence that some providers were so eager to profit from selling fetal tissue that they altered abortion procedures to put financial benefit above the health of women. (Collins, 7/14)

Reuters: Senators Urge U.S. To Close Lead Testing Gaps, Citing Reuters Investigation
Some influential U.S. senators are urging a federal agency to take action to ensure more children are tested for lead poisoning, citing a Reuters investigation that found millions are missing required lead tests, leaving some vulnerable to lifelong health effects. In a three-page letter to be sent on Friday, U.S. senators including Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Ron Wyden of Oregon and Deborah Stabenow of Michigan, all Democrats, called on the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), to re-evaluate its lead screening policy for millions of Medicaid-eligible children. (Schneyer and Pell, 7/14)

Campaign 2016

7. Well This Is Awkward: Pence Draws Kudos From White House Over Medicaid Expansion

Gov. Mike Pence, Donald Trump's expected pick for vice presidential running mate, expanded Medicaid in Indiana under the health law, but also pushed the program in a more conservative direction. Still, it counts as a win for the Obama administration. Also in the news, outlets look at Pence's stances on public health and abortion and the Republicans' more expansive health care message for the 2016 elections.

Modern Healthcare: Trump's Reported VP Pick Raises Questions About Medicaid Expansion
Donald Trump's reported selection of Mike Pence as his running mate means the Indiana governor will be in
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