PREP Act Expanded to Increase Vaccine Administration

HHS has broadened the use of the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act to increase the number of health care providers authorized to administer the COVID-19 vaccine. The amendment authorizes any health care provider licensed or certified in a state to prescribe, dispense, or administer COVID-19 vaccines in any other state or U.S. territory, and authorizes any physician, registered nurse, or practical nurse whose license or certification expired within the past five years to prescribe, dispense or administer COVID-19 vaccines in any state or U.S. territory so long as the license or certification was active and in good standing prior to the date it went inactive. More information on the PREP Act amendment can be found here.

Trump Impeachment Trial to Begin This Week

Opening arguments in former President Donald Trump’s Senate impeachment trial will begin on February 9. The proceedings are not expected to take as long as Trump’s first impeachment trial, which lasted three weeks, as the case against the former president relies in large part on public events and the personal experiences of lawmakers themselves. Democrats have not yet said what witnesses, if any, they want to offer testimony in the upcoming trial. The single article of impeachment passed by the House of Representatives charges Trump with inciting the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6; it also notes the former president’s effort to overturn the certified presidential election results. Some Republicans have questioned the constitutionality of a Senate impeachment trial that takes place after a president has left office; the Senate recently overruled an objection by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) seeking to declare the trial unconstitutional by a vote of 55-45. Non-presidential impeachments of the past, however, suggest that the Senate has the authority to try Trump even though his term has ended. At least 17 Republicans would have to join Democrats in order to reach a conviction, which seems unlikely given the number of GOP members who voted to declare the trial unconstitutional. Should he be convicted, a follow-up vote supported by a simple majority of senators could disqualify Trump from ever serving in federal office again. Under Senate rules, the trial will begin every day at noon and run six days a week. President Trump will be defended by David Schoen, who previously represented Trump adviser Roger Stone, and Bruce L. Castor Jr., former acting attorney general of Pennsylvania.

Senate Adopts Power-Sharing Agreement

The Senate has adopted a power-sharing agreement (S. Res. 27) for the 117th Congress, setting procedure for the chamber’s 50-50 split by unanimous consent. The Senate’s filibuster and cloture rules will remain unchanged. The resolution provides for the majority and minority leaders to “seek to attain an equal balance of the interests of the two parties when scheduling and debating legislative and executive business generally.” It provides that committee budgets and office space will be divided equally. If a committee vote is tied, leadership could try to bring the nomination or legislation to the floor through a motion to discharge, and the measure would be placed on the calendar if the motion is successful. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) committed to “dramatically” increasing the number of member-initiated amendments offered, and expressed opposition to limiting amendments by “filling the tree.” In response, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) acknowledged that this commitment should help alleviate the practice of debates on motions to proceed.

Senate Committee Assignments Announced

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced Senate Democratic committee memberships for the 117th Congress last week. The memberships have been agreed upon by the Democratic conference. Of note regarding the committees with health jurisdiction, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is rotating off the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee and on to the Senate Finance Committee. Sens. Ben Ray Lujan (D-N.M.) and John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.) will be joining HELP. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) also announced the GOP committee assignments for the 117th Congress last week. Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) is the ranking republican of the Finance Committee and Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) is the ranking republican of the HELP Committee. Newly elected Senators Roger Marshall, MD (R-Kan.) and Tommy Tuberville, (R-Ala.) will serve on the HELP Committee.

Republicans Announces Ways and Means Subcommittee Membership

Last week, House Ways and Means Committee Ranking Member Kevin Brady (R-Texas) announced subcommittee leaders and assignments for the 117th Congress. Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) will be the top Republican on the Health Subcommittee, which will also be comprised of Reps. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.), Adrian Smith (R-Neb.), Tom Reed (R-N.Y.), Mike Kelly (R-Pa.), Jason Smith (R-Mo.), David Schweikert (R-Ariz.), and Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio).

Wyden, Grassley Subpoena United Network for Organ Sharing

Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) have subpoenaed the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) for information related to its oversight of U.S. organ-transplant centers. The lawmakers express serious concerns about the group’s oversight functionality, arguing that organ procurement organizations (OPOs) “have been severely underperforming for decades.” They also cite reports of the improper use of Medicare funds. The subpoena was prompted because UNOS had not responded to previous inquiries from Wyden and Grassley.

E&C Looks to Combat Vaccine Misinformation

Leadership of the House Energy and Commerce Committee are asking big tech companies about how they are acting to prevent or limit false and misleading information on their platforms about COVID-19 vaccines. In letters to Facebook, Twitter, and Google the lawmakers ask for details on the five most targeted advertisements that appear next to vaccine misinformation or disinformation and whether the companies are coordinating with each other to combat misinformation or disinformation. The panel requested responses by February 16.

Lawmakers Request More Guidance on High Quality Masks

Reps. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), and Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) have sent a letter to President Joe Biden calling on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to provide updated guidance on the type of masks most effective in preventing the spread of COVID-19. “While we grappled with shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) in hospitals and made a concerted effort to conserve supplies early in the pandemic, medical grade masks including surgical masks, KN95 masks, and other options are now more widely available,” the letter states. “Your Administration can and should take additional steps to increase their supply and availability to Americans.”

Barragan, Bush Highlight Vaccine Disparities

Reps. Nanette Diaz Barragan (D-Calif.) and Cori Bush (D-Mo.) have sent a letter to President Joe Biden calling on the White House to ensure that underserved communities are not overlooked in the administration’s vaccine distribution plans. The lawmakers cite data indicating that four percent of the white population has received a COVID-19 vaccine, compared to only 1.9 percent of the Black population and 1.8 percent of the Latino population. They suggest that the administration look for “creative approaches” to solve this problem, such as the use of mobile vaccination units.

House Dems Request Premium Assistance in Stimulus Bill

More than 20 House Democrats signed on to a letter asking congressional leadership to include a measure to increase health insurance premium affordability in the pandemic stimulus package. The letter suggests that the bill ensure that no one pays more than 8.5 percent of their income for health care coverage. This policy, which was passed by the House of Representatives during the 116th Congress, was reintroduced this year as the Health Care Affordability Act of 2021 (H.R. 369).

Sen. Shelby Considering Retirement

According to recent reports from sources close to Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), the senator is considering the decision to not seek a seventh term in 2022. No official announcements have been made. Shelby is the upper chamber’s fourth- most senior member; he is currently serving in his sixth term. He was first elected in 1986 as a Democrat but switched to the Republican Party in 1994. He is the top Republican of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Freshman Rep Stripped of Committee Posts

The House of Representatives voted to strip freshman Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) of her committee posts. Eleven Republicans joined Democrats in passing the motion by a vote of 230-199. Greene has made controversial remarks including calls for violence against Democratic politicians and embracing QAnon conspiracy theories. As a result of the vote, she was removed from the Budget and Education and Labor committees.

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.

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