E&C Leaders Probe Role of CDC Within Trump Administration

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) and Oversight Subcommittee Chair Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) have written to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to voice concerns about how the Trump administration is incorporating the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) into its response to the coronavirus pandemic. The letter cites reports about how the White House has silenced the public health agency or overlooked its scientific advice since the outbreak of COVID-19 began. “It is clear that CDC is being positioned as a scapegoat for the Administration’s own COVID-19 pandemic response failures,” the lawmakers state. The letter requests a response from Secretary Azar by July 15.

Congress Aims for Next Stimulus by August Recess

Negotiations on the next round of virus relief are ongoing and are expected to begin in earnest when the Senate returns from recess on July 20. There is a general consensus among Republicans that the next piece of coronavirus legislation should prioritize COVID-19 testing and vaccine research and address expanded unemployment benefits (which expire at the end of July). Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) is taking the lead on drafting the proposal for the health care aspects of the bill. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) is drafting liability limits for the legislation, which are expected to be released later this month. Cornyn’s provisions would allow employers to pick which government guidelines they follow in order to be protected against lawsuits if their employees or customers contract the virus. There is not yet agreement from Republicans around the President’s desire for more direct payments to Americans. Senate Republicans have indicated that they are willing to spend approximately $1 trillion total on an additional stimulus plan. Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) stated that work on the next stimulus package should be complete by the August recess, saying that “if we need to move and we need to act, we will.”

Senate Finance Drug Pricing Bill Stalled

The Senate Finance Committee’s bipartisan drug pricing legislation remains stalled, despite a push from Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) in recent weeks to drum up support for the bill. In a Wall Street Journal op-ed last week, Grassley accuses Democrats of having left the negotiating table on S. 2543, the Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act, at the direction of party leadership as a part of an election year strategy. Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) responded that Republican reluctance to support the legislation is to blame for the bill never receiving a vote on the floor. Grassley plans to reintroduce the bill with or without Democratic support and is calling on his colleagues to include the measure in the next coronavirus relief package. He is asking Senate leadership to allow debate on the bill and urging President Trump to help mobilize support for the issue.

Orgs Request Guidelines on Facial Covering Requirements

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Retail Foundation, the Business Roundtable, and other trade organizations have written to the Trump administration urging the White House to issue guidelines on facial covering requirements. “Absent stronger measures to prevent transmission, communities across America risk another round of shutdowns, broad restrictions on non-essential activities, and irreparable economic harm,” the letter states. The groups argue that the choice to impose a facial covering mandate should reside with state and local governments, but that guidelines would aid in coordinating rules and lessening public confusion. The groups go so far as to state that particularly in areas with growing community spread, “voluntary guidance on masks is insufficient to protect the public health.” The trade groups also push for liability protections for businesses and non-profits that refuse entry or services to an individual who is not complying with face covering requirements. The President suggested last week that while helpful, facial coverings need not be required.

Hart Health Strategies COVID-19 Resources

Hart Health Strategies Inc. continues to update the following resources related to the coronavirus pandemic. Please remember to clear your cache to ensure you download the most recent documents.

Upcoming Congressional Hearings and Markups

House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs markup of FY 2021 State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs; 4:00 p.m., 2118 Rayburn Bldg.; July 6

House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies markup of FY 2021 Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies; 6:00 p.m., 2118 Rayburn Bldg.; July 6

House Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies markup of FY 2021 Military Construction, Veteran Affairs, and Related Agencies; 8:00 p.m., 2118 Rayburn Bldg.; July 6

House Appropriations Subcommittee on Department of Homeland Security markup of FY 2021 Homeland Security; 9:00 a.m., 2118 Rayburn Bldg.; July 7

House Education and Labor Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Investment hearing “A Major Test: Examining the Impact of COVID-19 on the Future of Higher Education;” 12:00 p.m., WEBEX; July 7

House Homeland Security Committee hearing “Examining the National Response to the Worsening Coronavirus Pandemic;” 12:00 p.m., location TBA; July 8

House Financial Services Committee hearing “Task Force on Artificial Intelligence: Exposure Notification and Contact Tracing: How AI Helps Localities Reopen Safely and Researchers Find a Cure;” 12:00 p.m., location TBA; July 8

House Budget Committee hearing “Fueling American Innovation and Recovery: The Federal Role in Research and Development;” 1:00 p.m., WEBEX; July 8

House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Recovery hearing “Pandemic Response: Confronting the Unequal Impacts of COVID-19;” 12:00 p.m., location TBA; July 10

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