Top lawmakers to watch on health care this Congress



Good morning! Here’s one sign of a long night on Capitol Hill: a cart wheeling pizza boxes. 

Today’s edition: The South Carolina Supreme Court strikes down the state’s “heartbeat” abortion ban, while Idaho’s highest court upholds its near-total ban. The Food and Drug Administration rejects citizen petitions on abortion pills from both sides. But first …

Your guide to the lawmakers most likely to shape health policy this year

It’s Day Four, and there’s still no House speaker.

Signs of a possible deal emerged last night, though it’s still unclear when exactly several holdouts could switch their vote to Kevin McCarthy. The idea is that doing so would show momentum, while McCarthy allies then pressure more holdouts, The Post’s Marianna Sotomayor, Jacqueline Alemany and Amy B Wang report.

No matter who wins the speakership, it doesn’t change the balance of power in the House, where Republicans hold a slim majority. And unlike Democrats — where progressives support universal coverage, while moderates want to build on Obamacare — there isn’t a ton of daylight among the various Republican factions’ thinking on health care.

With that in mind, here’s our list of the top lawmakers to watch in the 118th Congress:

Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.): In 2021, McMorris Rodgers stepped into the top GOP slot on the Energy and Commerce Committee. She’s now poised to lead the panel for the first time and has laid out an agenda that includes probing the Biden administration’s covid policies and the high rate of deaths from fentanyl. She’s also planning oversight into how the federal health department decides to implement Democrats’ new drug-pricing policies and transparency into how much hospitals charge, the latter of which has been bipartisan. 

James Comer (R-Ky.): It’s no secret that Comer has been itching to investigate the Biden administration — and he’s poised to do so in his new position as chair-elect of the House Oversight Committee, a post that comes with subpoena power. Comer has been open about his plans to probe the origins of the coronavirus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, federal funds supporting research done at the Wuhan Institute of Virology and more. 

Lauren Underwood (D-Ill.): The registered nurse and former federal health department official is stepping into a new role this Congress: co-chair of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee. During her time in the House, she’s been a strong proponent of policies to shore up the Affordable Care Act, as well as improve the nation’s maternal health outcomes, particularly for Black women — and we expect those to be issues she spotlights in her new position. 

There’s one notable question mark. Who will chair the powerful Ways and Means Committee? That won’t be decided until there’s a speaker in place. Republicans Vern Buchanan (Fla.), Jason Smith (Mo.) and Adrian Smith (Neb.) are vying for the job. 

More from McMorris Rodgers:

Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.): It almost seems as if Sanders has been working to this moment his entire career. The self-proclaimed democratic socialist — whose rise has led to the embrace of more liberal health policies — will helm the Senate HELP Committee for the first time. While Medicare-for-all is technically under the Senate Finance Committee’s purview, the spot still gives him a platform to promote the far-reaching proposal, while also giving him real power over other aspects of health policy, like drug importation and many federal health agencies. 

Bill Cassidy (R-La.): The gastroenterologist — who is known as a policy wonk — will serve as the ranking Republican on the Senate health panel, his first time in a top leadership post on the committee. Though his powers will be limited in the minority, he previously told The Health 202 he wanted to conduct oversight into how the federal government is implementing a law to stop surprise medical bills. One outstanding question is how Sanders and Cassidy will work together — and where the two will find common ground.

Ron Wyden (D-Ore.): Not much is changing for Wyden here. He’s set to continue to chair the Senate Finance Committee, where he’s been involved in an array of health policy legislation, such as Medicare payment fixes, drug-price negotiations and more. But with Democrats losing the House, the party will no longer be able to pass sweeping health deals without Republican support, meaning he’ll need to work closer with his GOP counterpart to get bills across the finish line this year. 

The ranking members: After Republicans lost the House, former congressman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) frequently referred to himself to reporters as a “chairman in exile.” That’s likely how Democrats in the House now feel.

The position of a ranking member on a committee holds far less power than the chair. But it’s still an important one, particularly in a divided Congress, where bipartisan dealmaking will be needed to send legislation to President Biden’s desk. 

In the House, New Jersey’s Frank Pallone Jr. is set to be the top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Richard Neal (Mass.) is on tap to be the ranking Democrat of the House Ways and Means Committee. And Sen. Mike Crapo (Idaho) is expected to continue on as the Senate Finance Committee’s top Republican. 

One more thing: Two new doctors were elected to Congress — Colorado Democrat Yadira Caraveo, who is a pediatrician, and Georgia Republican Rich McCormick, an emergency medicine physician.

What we’re watching: Today is the deadline for the Food and Drug Administration to decide whether to grant accelerated approval to Eisai and Biogen’s experimental Alzheimer’s drug.

Lecanemab has appeared to slow the rate of cognitive decline, according to Phase 3 trial results, and would provide patients with a glimmer of hope.

However, some doctors have doubted that the drug’s benefits are significant enough to outweigh its potentially serious safety risks. The expected action on lecanemab comes shortly after two House committees issued a scathing report criticizing the agency’s controversial accelerated approval of Aduhelm, an Alzheimer’s drug manufactured by the same two companies.

South Carolina Supreme Court strikes down abortion ban

The South Carolina Supreme Court ruled the state’s ban on abortion after fetal cardiac activity is detected was unconstitutional. 

The details: In a 3-2 ruling, the justices found that the ban on abortions after roughly six weeks of pregnancy ran afoul of the state’s right to privacy. The restriction had been temporarily blocked since August while the high court considered a legal challenge brought by abortion providers. The decision means that abortions will continue to be legal until 20 weeks beyond fertilization. 

The majority opinion notes that states can set some limits on abortion, but it says those regulations should give women “sufficient time to determine she is pregnant and to take reasonable steps to terminate that pregnancy.” Six weeks is “not a reasonable period of time” for that to occur, the court concluded.

What we’re watching: The decision could complicate the GOP-controlled legislature’s push to further ban abortions in 2023 after failing to do so last year. Republican Gov. Henry McMaster tweeted: “With this opinion, the Court has clearly exceeded its authority. The people have spoken through their elected representatives multiple times on this issue,” our colleagues Kim Bellware and Silvia Foster-Frau report.

Karine Jean-Pierre, White House press secretary:

Idaho’s Supreme Court upheld the state’s near-total abortion ban and civil enforcement law allowing providers to be sued for performing the procedure, tossing out a lawsuit by Planned Parenthood, the Idaho Capital Sun reports.

In a 3-2 decision, the court found that the state constitution offers no fundamental right to abortion. In their ruling, the justices maintain that if they were to interpret the document as implicitly protecting the procedure, the constitution “would be effectively replaced by the voice of a select few sitting on this Court.” 

In its legal challenge, Planned Parenthood had argued that the state’s laws are unconstitutionally vague, discriminate against people on the basis of sex and that there is an inherent right for women to obtain abortions under the Idaho constitution.

Raúl R. Labrador, Idaho’s Republican attorney general:

Idaho Democratic Party: 

FDA denies petitions on abortion pills from both sides of the debate

The Food and Drug Administration declined requests from two citizen petitions this week to adjust the rules around mifepristone, a drug used in medication abortions.

In one petition, the antiabortion group Students for Life of America asked the agency for a number of restrictions, such as rolling back the FDA’s pandemic-era decision to allow the pill to be prescribed via telehealth. The group also petitioned the agency to reduce the use of mifepristone to the first seven weeks of pregnancy, rather than the current 10 weeks.

  • “Your petition does not provide any new data or evidence” beyond what other groups submitted in 2019 in a similar, and unsuccessful, challenge, Patrizia Cavazzoni, head of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, wrote in her denial.

The agency also denied a petition from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which had asked the FDA to add miscarriage management to mifepristone’s label to make it easier for patients to obtain it for purposes other than an elective abortion. Cavazzoni said that only drug manufacturers could ask to change labeling, and to do so, they must present data showing that the drug is safe and effective for the new use.

The Senate’s new antiabortion leader

Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) will serve as the chair of the Senate Pro-Life Caucus. She will replace founding chairman Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), who was elected to lead the National Republican Senatorial Committee in the new Congress.

In other news … Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) announced yesterday that he was diagnosed last month with prostate cancer and will undergo surgery. He is expected to make a full recovery with minimal disruption to his work in the Senate, our colleague Donna Cassata reports.

Casey, 62, is up for reelection in the critical swing state in 2024, when Democrats will try to hold onto their razor-thin majority in Senate.

Mexico captures son of El Chapo, alleged fentanyl trafficker, ahead of Biden visit (By Mary Beth Sheridan and Kevin Sieff | The Washington Post )

‘You Have to Learn to Listen’: How a Doctor Cares for Boston’s Homeless (By Tracy Kidder | The New York Times )

As covid surges in China, US begins testing more travelers (By Laura Ungar and Shelby Lum | The Associated Press)

Thanks for reading! See y’all Monday.


Source link

Related Articles

Back to top button