Health Care

Senators renew drug price push ahead of House Democrats' vote
Congress “needs to show courage and finally act,” Grassley says

The renewed push on drug pricing legislation by Senate HELP leaders Charles E. Grassley, right, and Ron Wyden comes ahead of a planned House vote on Democrats’ signature drug price negotiation bill. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Leaders of the Senate Finance Committee on Friday unveiled an updated version of their bipartisan drug pricing bill, though it’s unclear if the changes will appease skeptical Republican senators.

The renewed push for Republican support by Chairman Charles E. Grassley of Iowa and the committee’s ranking Democrat, Ron Wyden of Oregon, comes ahead of a planned House vote next week on Democrats’ signature drug price negotiation bill.

Foreign aid rider tangles up final spending talks
The White House is concerned the rider could cut out faith-based aid groups from USAID contracts

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., listens during the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Tuesday. Shaheen says her amendment, creating concerns for the White House in year-end spending talks, has nothing to do with funding abortions. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Urged on by anti-abortion activists and religious groups, the White House is raising concerns in year-end spending talks about language secured by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., in the Senate’s State-Foreign Operations bill they fear could cut out faith-based aid groups from U.S. Agency for International Development contracts.

Shaheen argues the provision in the bill would simply require USAID contractors to adhere to current law, which stipulates they can’t deny services to individuals based on race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, marital status, political affiliation or other factors.

Appropriators seek to wrap up talks this weekend
But panel members acknowledge ‘hurdles’ as Dec. 20 deadline for bill passage looms

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, the top Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, on Thursday said he was “more enthusiastic than I was a couple of days ago” that final negotiations on spending bills could be done this weekend. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

Spending bill negotiators set their sights on wrapping up a year-end deal by this weekend, but they differed on how realistic that deadline might be.

With only two weeks left before current funding runs dry, appropriators are hoping to finalize work on all 12 spending bills and pass them by Dec. 20 to avoid another stopgap measure or possible government shutdown. But unless a deal comes together in the next several days, lawmakers have warned, there likely won’t be enough time to write the bills and move them through both chambers before the holiday recess.

Health groups reveal ads pushing Democrats to back drug bill
The groups will build on an ad push supporting the House bill earlier this year by the group Protect Our Care

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., left, and Rep. Annie Kuster, D-N.H., attend a rally in the Capitol Building to call on the Senate to vote on House Democrats’ prescription drugs and health care package on in May 2019. Several left-leaning health care groups are launching a seven-figure advertising campaign that builds on a previous effort by the group Protect our Care pushing for the passage of the pricing bill. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A left-leaning health care group is doubling its seven-figure advertising push for the passage of House Democrats’ drug pricing bill in an effort to counter industry and conservative opposition to the proposal, according to information shared exclusively with CQ Roll Call.

The effort, which will be paired with additional spending from other left-leaning health groups, comes as Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California announced the House will vote next week on legislation that would allow Medicare to negotiate prices for up to 250 prescription drugs a year.

Marijuana criminalization could be clouding info on vaping deaths
Restrictions on THC-related research collide with a public health emergency

Demonstrators vape during a pro-vaping rally outside the White House on Nov. 9 to protest Washington’s proposed vaping flavor ban. (Jose Luis Magana/AFP via Getty Images file photo)

In late October, as the number of people sickened with a mysterious vaping-related illness grew, federal officials turned to the nation’s leading academic researchers for help.

“They wondered what, in our opinion, they should be taking a look at,” said Robert Tarran, director of the University of North Carolina Center for Tobacco Regulatory Science and Lung Health.

House pushes ‘dozen bills or none’ approach to spending talks
GOP senators express doubts as House leaders insist on finalizing appropriations by Dec. 20

Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard C. Shelby says he doubts that all 12 overdue spending bills for the current fiscal year could be finalized before the Dec. 20 deadline. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

House Democratic leaders are insisting that all 12 overdue spending bills for the current fiscal year must be finalized before any of them can reach the floor, according to sources familiar with strategy talks.

The demand for some kind of grand bargain could complicate hopes for completion of at least a portion of fiscal 2020 appropriations before stopgap funding runs dry on Dec. 20 and Congress adjourns for the winter holidays. 

The new way prosecutors are using an old act
And how it's affecting drug CEOs

At a Families of Addicts meeting, fentanyl test strips are made available for purchase to detect the presence of fentanyl in street purchased drugs in Dayton, Ohio. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

As the effects of the opioid crisis are felt across the country, federal prosecutors are taking action and prosecuting CEOs of pharmaceutical companies. The Controlled Substance Act is one of their most novel weapons. 

Senate panel approves Trump's FDA nominee
Senators ask questions about the FDA's plans for regulating e-cigarettes

Stephen Hahn, nominee to be commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, testifies during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on Nov. 20. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A Senate panel approved President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the Food and Drug Administration amid questions from both parties about the agency’s plans for regulating flavored e-cigarettes.

The Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee voted 18-5 to advance to the Senate floor the nomination of medical executive and doctor Stephen Hahn.

Senator talks about personal experience with CBD oil
Cannabidiol oil ‘doesn't work’ for Sen. Pat Roberts‘ ‘football knees’

Stephen Hahn, nominee to be commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, at his Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee confirmation hearing Wednesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Federal regulation of CBD products briefly became the focus of a Senate confirmation hearing Wednesday, as senators questioned Trump’s nominee to lead the Food and Drug Administration. One lawmaker described his own experience with the unregulated market for the hemp-derived product.

“I have football knees” Sen. Pat Roberts told Stephen Hahn, the nominee, before describing his “personal interest” in cannabidiol regulations.

Health care workers could deny abortions under this Trump administration rule
‘Protecting Statutory Conscience Rights in Health’ has been held up in courts

Members of National Nurses United union wave signs during a “Medicare for All” rally in front of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America in Washington in April. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

“Protecting Statutory Conscience Rights in Health” is a controversial rule that may be held up in the courts right now but could be appealed by the Trump administration any day. The rule expands who is defined as a health care worker, and could lead to more patients being denied an abortion or other procedure if the worker believes it violates their own religious or moral beliefs.

FDA nominee faces bipartisan grilling on Trump's vaping plan
Stephen Hahn pressed on whether he would work to curb spike in youth vapers

Stephen Hahn, nominee to be commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, testifies during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on Wednesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Medical executive Stephen Hahn faced a bipartisan grilling in his nomination hearing Wednesday about whether he would, if confirmed to lead the Food and Drug Administration, challenge the president to release a promised tobacco flavor ban.

Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee ranking member Patty Murray, D-Wash., pressed Hahn on whether he would “stand up” to the White House in order to curb a sharp spike in young people's exposure to nicotine through the growing vaping industry, including the rise of Juul Labs Inc. 

GOP plan for suburbs includes bills focused on child care, health costs
Democratic wins in traditionally Republican areas helped fuel House takeover last year

Missouri Rep. Ann Wagner said legislation being produced by a Republican caucus will help the party compete for votes in suburban areas. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Leaders of a group formed by House Republicans after Democrats routed GOP candidates in suburbs around the country in the 2018 midterms said Wednesday that they would roll out dozens of bills in the coming months to show the party can appeal to voters beyond rural areas.

The product of a new suburban caucus launched last spring by Missouri Rep. Ann Wagner, the agenda might look familiar to anyone following the Democratic presidential campaigns. Caucus task forces have been dedicated to making health care affordable, supporting family caregivers and increasing school safety, for example.

Women’s health political fights heat up in battleground states
Opponents and supporters of abortion rights gear up for record-setting advocacy campaigns

Control of state governments, Congress and the White House could depend on the ability of proponents and opponents of abortion rights to turn out core supporters. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Fights over abortion and birth control in all three branches of government are fueling record-setting advocacy campaigns by liberal and conservative groups ahead of the 2020 elections.

Control of state governments, Congress and the White House could depend on special interests turning out core supporters and elevating issues such as the Supreme Court’s consideration this term of a potentially landmark abortion case.

Democrats prepare to duel McConnell over year-end wish list
Amid push for legislation benefiting Kentucky constituents, Dems seek their own concessions

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is pushing several initiatives to benefit his constituents, including renewal of tax breaks for bourbon distillers, aid for retired coal miners and appropriations to bolster Kentucky’s hemp industry. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

As former Sen. Wendell Ford often said, with small variations: “Kentucky is beautiful women, fast horses, bourbon whiskey, cigarettes and coal. I represent Kentucky, and that’s what I represent.”

The colorful Ford, a Democrat who died in 2015, had little else in common with Mitch McConnell, the stoic Kentucky Republican who served as the junior senator from the Bluegrass State alongside Ford for 15 years until the latter’s 1999 retirement. But the Senate majority leader is clearly taking a few pages from Ford’s playbook in the year-end legislative scramble as he heads into a potentially difficult reelection campaign in 2020.

Elizabeth Warren has a plan: Here's what it would cost
Massive income redistribution from wealthiest and corporations at heart of Democrat’s plan

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., at a news conference in the Capitol in March. Warren is betting that a massive redistribution of wealth would win her the Democratic nomination and the presidency. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Two years ago, the House rejected a budget blueprint drafted by the Congressional Progressive Caucus that envisioned raising taxes by $9 trillion over a decade, plowing $5 trillion of that into new spending and leaving the rest for deficit reduction. Considered radical at the time, the plan was defeated 108-314, with 79 Democrats opposing it.

Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts is running for president on a platform that makes House progressives’ 2017 budget look milquetoast. Still, by some metrics Warren’s got a plausible shot at the Oval Office: She’s polling well in Iowa and New Hampshire, and handily beats President Donald Trump in head-to-head nationwide polls.