Funding to combat the Zika virus will be a top issue when Congress returns next month for its last days in session before the presidential election.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and many in her party have called for lawmakers to hold an emergency session before the end of the break. HHS leaders say they need more money for research and public health initiatives to fight the virus known to cause severe birth defects.
HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell said this month that the agency was reluctantly moving more than $80 million from other areas of research into efforts to develop a vaccine. Lawmakers made several attempts to pass funding before they left for summer break. Democrats blocked one bill because it cut funds for Planned Parenthood.
Mental health reform is another issue expected to be discussed when Congress reconvenes. Several pieces of legislation have been introduced this session, and the House passed a scaled-back bill in July. The co-authors of a similar Senate bill that passed committee in March have strongly urged for a full vote.
The 21st Century Cures Act, a biomedical innovation package that includes more than $9 billion in mandatory funding for the National Institutes of Health over the next five years, awaits action in the Senate. It easily passed the House more than a year ago, but the upper chamber hesitated over mandatory funding issues.
Senators will be in session Sept. 5 while the House will return Sept. 6.