Hart Health Strategies provides a comprehensive policy briefing on a weekly basis. This in-depth health policy briefing is sent out at the beginning of each week. The health policy briefing recaps the previous week and previews the week ahead. It alerts clients to upcoming congressional hearings, newly introduced bills, regulatory announcements, and implementation activity related to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) and other health laws.


Supreme Court Justice Breyer to Retire

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer has announced plans to retire at the end of the Supreme Court’s current term, which is expected to end in late June or early July. At age 83, Breyer is the court’s oldest justice. He is known as a pragmatist who typically sides with the liberal wing of the court in divisive cases. It has been his position that “it is wrong to think of the court as another political institution.” Breyer has served in the Supreme Court since 1994 when he was nominated by President Bill Clinton. President Joe Biden has committed to nominating a Black woman to replace Breyer on the nation’s highest court and has said that he will announce a nomination by the end of February. Vice President Kamala Harris and five others in the White House—Ron Klain, Dana Remus, Louisa Terrell, Cedric Richmond, and Paige Herwig—will lead the search for a new justice. Possible candidates include U.S. Circuit Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, District Judge Michelle Childs, and California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger. The nominee would reinforce the liberal wing of the court but would not shift its ideological balance, which currently stands with a 6-3 conservative majority. It has been reported that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) will move to confirm the nominee on an expedited timeline, similar to that used to confirm Justice Amy Coney Barrett in 2020. Barrett was confirmed 30 days after she was nominated by President Donald Trump.

HELP Leadership Release Pandemic Preparedness Discussion Draft

Bipartisan leadership of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee have released a discussion draft of their major pandemic preparedness legislation to overhaul the nation’s public health programs. The bill from Chair Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Ranking Member Richard Burr (R-N.C.) would change how the U.S. monitors disease outbreaks, stockpiles supplies, and responds to public health threats. The legislation, the PREVENT Pandemics Act, has been in the works since last year. It would establish a task force comprised of members appointed by bipartisan congressional leadership to assess U.S. pandemic preparedness and to make recommendations for improvement to the President and Congress. It also aims to increase coordination between U.S. health agencies. The bill would make the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) subject to Senate confirmation and would refocus the mission of the CDC to strengthen U.S. genomic sequencing capabilities and improve the reporting and exchange of health data. The draft proposes specific functions for the CDC director and would require the agency to publish a strategic plan every four years. The legislation would mandate more accountability for the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR), requiring ASPR to appear annually before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee and the House Energy and Commerce Committee and requiring an evaluation of the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) every five years. At the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the bill would tweak the agency’s development and review of tests, treatments, and vaccines to increase the use of real-world evidence, revise the way the FDA inspects facilities, reviews products, revises labels, and penalizes counterfeit devices, modernize clinical trials, prevent drug shortages, and increase manufacturing capabilities. The FDA would also be provided with more authority to share the information it uses to issue emergency use authorizations (EUAs). The bill also has a focus on improving state and local readiness and addressing health disparities. Lawmakers are still considering whether to use the bill to establish the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H) or to add provisions to improve laboratory safety and security. The deadline for feedback on the discussion draft is February 4. Comments should be sent to HELPPandemicbill@help. senate.gov. Committee leadership plan to mark up the bill in the coming weeks.

House to Consider China Competition Bill This Week

Following the recent week-long recess, the Senate will return to session today while the House of Representatives reconvenes on Tuesday. The House Rules Committee will meet this week to set the rules for floor debate for the America COMPETES Act (H.R. 4521). The bill aims to strengthen U.S. competitiveness against China and includes funding to shore up supply chains and scientific research. It would authorize $45 billion over six years for a new Supply Chains for Critical Manufacturing Industries Fund, reauthorize programs at the National Science Foundation (NSF), create a Science and Engineering Solutions Directorate, authorize funding for efforts to address climate change, and expand the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS). More than two dozen Democrats sent a letter to House leadership last week urging them to bring the bill to the floor as soon as possible so that it can be passed and go to conference with the Senate-passed U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (USICA) (S. 1260).

Pelosi to Run for Reelection

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calf.) has announced that she will run for re-election in November. Pelosi, 81, has served in the House of Representatives since 1987. She did not say whether she will also seek to remain in her leadership post as the head of the Democratic Caucus, though she has signaled in the past that this term as speaker would be her last.

Wyden Previews Work on Pared Back BBB

Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) stated last week that Democrats are working on a pared back legislative package to revive key provisions in the stalled Build Back Better Act that would expand health care access, lower drug costs, and provide tax incentives for clean energy and should be ready for release soon. Any package would need the support of Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who has previously said he supports proposed reforms to prescription drug pricing and the climate and energy parts of the reconciliation package. Progressive Democrats are pressuring the Senate to pass legislation before the State of the Union address on March 1, with Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) highlighting climate change, the care economy, pharmaceutical pricing, and health care costs as areas of agreement that can win the support of all Democrats and should move forward.

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