Speaker Mike Johnson works to build consensus on bills regarding health policy

October 30, 2023

After being elected House speaker, Rep. Mike Johnson laid out his plan to avert a government shutdown. According to the Washington Examiner, that will require a consensus on health policy.

The paper explained that Johnson is planning to put off dealing with legislation on the Departments of Labor and Health and Human Services until November 13, just days before the stopgap funding bill passed late last month runs out.

Abortion will be a major concern

That schedule is intended to provide maximum time for Republicans to reach an agreement on bills dealing with abortion, something Johnson has been an outspoken opponent of.

One example is the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), a piece of legislation that was originally signed into law by President George W. Bush and has been renewed multiple times with widespread, bipartisan support.

However, that unity fractured when New Jersey Republican Rep. Chris Smith alleged that the Biden administration is unlawfully using the program to fund abortion.

"Regrettably, PEPFAR has been reimagined—hijacked—by the Biden Administration to empower pro-abortion international non-governmental organizations, deviating from its life-affirming work," Smith said in a September press release.

Concerns of pandemic-era abuses

Another potential flashpoint is the Pandemic and All Hazards Preparedness Act, a bill which was passed in 2006 and reauthorized in 2019.

Some Republican lawmakers maintain that the legislation was abused during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Examiner noted that 19 of them succeeded in getting then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy agree to significant cutbacks in it.

That effort was headed by Texas Republican Rep. Chip Roy, who stated, "House Republicans should not bring such legislation to the floor for consideration either at all, or without desperately needed reforms to protect the American people from tyrannical, incompetent, and largely unchecked public health bureaucrats."

Johnson has welcomed opioid funding

Also at issue are several appropriations measures relating to the opioid crisis. The Examiner recalled how Johnson welcomed a decision by the Office of National Drug Control Policy to fund two nonprofit groups in his district.

"The federal government funds these programs because they have proven to play a critical role in reducing youth misuse of prescription drugs," Johnson said in a 2021 statement.

"As addiction crises continue to affect communities across our country, we all have an important role to play as well in caring for our families, friends and neighbors," he added.

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