Human Services

Meet the key appropriations players of the fall
List includes budget war veterans as well as relative newcomers

Eric Ueland has been the White House legislative affairs chief since June. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

It’s the behind-the-scenes work of top legislative aides that makes the Capitol Hill machinery work, and that’s never truer than when lawmakers are trying to hash out spending bills as Congress and the White House will be focused on this fall and winter.

After initial decisions by Republican and Democratic clerks — the top staffers on the Appropriations subcommittees — full committee staff will step in to help work out any remaining issues. Leadership staff will be on hand to address the most intractable disagreements and questions about what legislation can ride with the spending bills, and to make sure the measures have enough votes to pass.

Pelosi says key component of drug pricing bill not open to negotiations
Pelosi rejects idea of negotiating bill that doesn’t allow the government to negotiate prices

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House committee leaders started briefing members on Democrats’ drug pricing plan this week. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

House Democrats on Thursday released the outline of a long-awaited drug price proposal, taking a step toward fulfilling one of the party’s signature campaign promises: requiring Medicare to negotiate drug prices.

The bill would allow commercial insurers to benefit from the Medicare-negotiated price as well, and base Medicare’s highest-acceptable price on the lower prices other wealthy countries pay.

Health care group backs Democrats with seven-figure ad campaign
Effort boosts freshmen who flipped red districts

Iowa Rep. Abby Finkenauer is among the 10 beneficiaries of a seven-figure ad campaign by the Democrat-aligned group Protect Our Care. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A Democrat-aligned group focused on health care is seeking to give 10 vulnerable House members an early political boost through a new $2 million ad campaign.

Protect Our Care plans to launch a digital ad campaign Wednesday to promote the work by 10 Democratic freshmen on health care issues, touting votes to protect preexisting condition protections.

E-cigarette deaths prompt bipartisan response

Signs in the window of the Smoke Depot advertise electronic cigarettes and pods by Juul, the nation's largest maker of e-cigarette products, on Sept. 13, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Trump orders end to flavored e-cigarette sales amid vaping-linked illnesses
Flavored e-cigarette makers will need to apply to the FDA for sales authorization

President Donald Trump speaks on the South Lawn of the White House in July. (Photo by Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Trump administration on Wednesday said it planned to halt the sales of flavored e-cigarettes amid a national outbreak of lung illnesses that may be linked to vaping devices.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said the Food and Drug Administration will issue a new policy within several weeks that will require all flavored e-cigarettes to come off the market.

Senate appropriations process continues to devolve
Labor-HHS-Education and State-Foreign Operations spending bills mired in abortion dispute

Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard C. Shelby, R-Ala., has seen the Senate’s appropriations process begin to fray this week. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Senate appropriators have abandoned plans to mark up two spending bills Thursday that have become mired in a partisan dispute over abortion policy.

The Appropriations Committee announced it will postpone consideration of its fiscal 2020 Labor-HHS-Education bill and its State-Foreign Operations bill. As of Wednesday evening, the panel still planned to take up its Defense and Energy-Water bills at a full committee markup, along with a measure that would divvy up total discretionary spending among the 12 subcommittees.

House drug price negotiation plan could apply beyond Medicare
Draft plan would have government set prices based on those in other wealthy countries

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has been heavily involved in House Democrats' drug price plan. A spokesman emphasized that it's still a work in progress. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

A comprehensive drug price bill being developed by House Democrats would give private insurers the benefit of government-negotiated prices, according to a summary of the measure obtained by CQ Roll Call.

Under the Democrats’ draft plan, the government would set prices based on what is paid in other wealthy countries, according to the summary. That is similar to how a proposal by the Trump administration would work.

Democrats question lack of flu vaccines, quarantine procedures for migrant children
Senators, led by Elizabeth Warren, also ask about medical screenings

Senate Democrats want to know more about the decision to not give flu vaccines to migrant children in U.S. custody. (Jinitzail Hernández/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A group of 13 members of the Senate Democratic caucus, led by Massachusetts' Elizabeth Warren, are expressing new concerns about a decision not to provide seasonal flu vaccines to migrants in U.S. detention.

“This dangerous decision not to administer vaccinations for a disease that has already proven fatal to migrant children in CBP’s custody is immoral and irresponsible, placing entire communities at risk of the flu and its associated complications,” the senators wrote to acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan and Health and Human Services Secretary Alexander Azar.

Trump’s family separation policy amplified children’s trauma
Report: Zero tolerance policy ‘added to the trauma that children had already experienced’

House Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson, D- Miss., said “President Trump’s zero tolerance and family separation policies inflicted massive pain and trauma on children and their families." (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Through its “zero tolerance policy” at the southwest border during 2018, which led to separation of migrant children from their parents, the Trump administration “added to the trauma that children had already experienced and put tremendous pressure on facility staff,” according to a report Wednesday by a government watchdog.

The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General visited 45 of about 90 facilities holding migrant children in August and September of 2018 and conducted interviews with operators, medical coordinators, mental health clinicians and other staff. In the resulting report, these officials and practitioners described significant challenges in meeting the mental health needs of children in their care, who had been traumatized long before coming to the United States, then were re-traumatized by policies at the border and further aggravated by being kept in government custody for long periods of time.

Energy, Health departments at risk for cyberattacks, OMB says
EPA, FCC, FTC also ranked as being ‘at risk,’ with email threats most prevalent

EPA has “significant gaps in cybersecurity capabilities” according to an Office of Management and Budget report. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

Several large federal agencies continue to be at risk for cyberattacks even as the number of cyber incidents reported during fiscal 2018 fell compared with the previous year, the Office of Management and Budget said in a report sent to Congress on Friday.

The number of cyber incidents reported by federal agencies fell 12 percent to 31,107 during fiscal 2018 but “drawing conclusions based on this data point, particularly as agencies have adjusted to several new sets of reporting guidelines over the last few years, would be concerning,” the report said.