Emergent Biosolutions Under Congressional Investigation

The House Oversight and Reform Committee and the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis have launched an investigation into Emergent Biosolutions and its federal contracts for COVID-19 vaccines. The lawmakers seek to determine whether the company leveraged its relationship with the Trump administration to profit from federal contracts, despite a history of raising prices and failing to meet contract requirements. They will also probe whether the company’s performance impeded pandemic response, as well as actions taken to “unduly influence anthrax vaccine assets currently stockpiled in the Strategic National Stockpile.” A hearing on the subject is scheduled for May 19.

Lawmakers Encourage Banning of Menthol Cigarettes

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), House Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy Chair Raja Krishnamoorth (D-Ill.), and Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) are urging the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ban menthol-flavored cigarettes. The lawmakers cite data that 70% of African American youth age 12 to 17 use menthol cigarettes, and that smoking-related illnesses rank as the number one cause of death among African Americans. The letter argues that a ban would protect both public health and racial equity.

Gillibrand Requests Flexibility on Medicare Accelerated and Advanced Payments

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) has sent a letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) asking the administration to act to alleviate the financial burdens stemming from the Medicare Accelerated and Advanced Payments Program, which was authorized in response to the COVID-19 pandemic through the CARES Act. Sen. Gillibrand argues that it will still be years until hospitals have recovered financially from the pandemic’s effects. She requests that CMS evaluate options for total loan forgiveness, adjustments to repayment interest rates to reduce interest burdens, and extensions to repayment schedules to afford providers more time as they continue to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Stivers to Retire in May

Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio) announced that he plans to retire in May. He has accepted a position as president and CEO of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce. Stivers has represented the 15th Congressional District of Ohio for the past decade. His district is considered relatively safe for the GOP. Stivers’ last day in Congress will be May 16. A special election will be held to determine his replacement.

Hoyer Announces Promotions, Additions to Leadership Staff

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) announced the following changes last week to his leadership office staff: • Courtney Fry, Director of Legislative Operations

  • Ray Salazar, Deputy Floor Director and Senior Advisor
  • Deborah Rowe, Senior Floor Advisor
  • Jacob Trauberman, Floor Aide
  • James Leuschen, Policy Director
  • Mark Iozzi, National Security Advisor
  • Margaret Mulkerrin, National Press Secretary
  • Maya Valentine, Maryland Press Secretary
  • Vidhya Jeyadev, Press Assistant
  • Julie Merz, Director of Member Services
  • Claudia Urrabazo, Deputy Member Services Director and Senior Advisor • Brian Duckworth, Senior Member Services Advisor
  • Jake Bayer, Member Services and Outreach Advisor
  • Chloe Brown, Research and Outreach Advisor

Capitol Buildings Loosen Visitor Restrictions

Members of the House of Representatives and their staff are once again allowed to escort certain visitors into the Capitol building after more than a year of pandemic-related restrictions. The same policy will apply to House office buildings beginning April 29. The Senate already allows for official visits with a staff escort.

HHS Renews PHE Declaration

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra has renewed the public health emergency (PHE) declaration that was first issued on January 31, 2020. The declaration was issued April 15, 2021, effective April 21, 2021. Statute requires that the declaration be renewed every 90 days.

Pause on J&J Vaccine Lifted

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have lifted the pause on the use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine in the U.S. The agencies express confidence that the vaccine is safe and effective in preventing COVID-19, and that the data indicates that the risk of thrombosis-thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS) is very low. The agencies have conducted extensive outreach in recent weeks to providers and clinicians to ensure that they recognize the potential for TTS and can appropriately manage and treat it. The decision follows a 10-4 vote by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) to reaffirm their support of the vaccine’s emergency use authorization (EUA) on Friday. More than 8 million Americans have received the J&J vaccine; ACIP reviewed evidence from 15 women who suffered from the rare side effect. The panel also recommended that the FDA include a warning statement about the risk of clots.

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 Science, Space, and Technology Subcommittee on Research and Technology hearing “National Science Foundation: Advancing Research for the Future of U.S. Innovation;” 10:00 a.m.; April 28

Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee hearing “Examining Our COVID-19 Response: Using Lessons Learned to Address Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders;” 10:00 a.m.; April 28

Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies hearing “Addressing Health Disparities in Indian Country: Review of the Indian Health Service’s COVID Response and Future Needs;” 10:00 a.m.; April 28

Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee executive session to consider legislation including S.1260, Endless Frontier Act; 10:00 a.m.; April 28

House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health hearing “The Long Haul: Forging a Path Through the Lingering Effects of COVID-19;” 11:00 a.m.; April 28

Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies hearing “Review of the Activities and Fiscal Year 2022 Funding Priorities of the Office of U.S. Trade Representative;” 2:00 p.m.; April 28

House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health hearing “Charting the Path Forward on Telehealth;” 2:00 p.m.; April 28

Senate Judiciary Committee hearing “Stop Gun Violence: Extreme Risk Order/”Red Flag” Laws;” 2:30 p.m.; April 28

Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies hearing “VA Telehealth Program: Leveraging Recent Investments to Build Future capacity;” 3:00 p.m.; April 28

4/29 – Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee nomination hearing for Eric S. Lander to be Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy; 10:00 a.m.; April 29

House Small Business Committee hearing “Supply Chain Resiliency and the Role of Small Manufacturers;” 1:00 p.m.; April 29

House Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law hearing “Treating the Problem: Addressing Anticompetitive Conduct and Consolidation in Health Care Markets;” 1:00 p.m.; April 29

House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade hearing “Advancing U.S. Economic Competitiveness, Equity, and Sustainability Through Infrastructure Investments;” 1:30 p.m.; April 29

House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health hearing “Negotiating a Better Deal: Legislation to Lower the Cost of Prescription Drugs;” 11:30 a.m.; May 4

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