Lawmakers Urge Funding for New COVID Therapies

A group of 21 Democrats in the House of Representatives has sent a letter to appropriations leadership asking for additional money for the procurement and distribution of new COVID-19 therapies in the fiscal year (FY) 2022 government funding package currently under negotiation. “Giving the American people access to new treatments is one of the federal government’s most critical missions during this phase of the COVID-19 response,” the lawmakers write. “Rapid deployment of new, effective treatments will reduce the overwhelming burdens placed on our hospital systems and save American lives.”

Senate Votes to End PHE, Repeal Health Care Worker Vaccine Mandate

The Senate voted 48-47 last week to end President Biden’s COVID-19 national emergency declaration, but would not impact the public health emergency declaration. The resolution (S.J. Res. 38) was able to pass due to the absence of several Senate Democrats. Congress can end a declared emergency via a resolution passed by a simple majority vote. However, the largely symbolic Republican-backed legislation is not expected to pass the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives, and President Biden has already threatened to veto any such measure. The Senate also voted 49-44 to block the White House’s vaccine mandate for health care workers (S.J. Res. 32), with six Democrats missing the vote. House Democrats have signaled that they will not consider the joint resolution, which the President has threatened to veto.

GOP Blocks Consideration of Bill to Codify Roe v. Wade

Senate Republicans successfully blocked consideration of standalone legislation (H.R. 3755) to codify abortion rights last week on a 46-48 vote. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) joined Republicans in voting no, while three Democrats and three Republicans did not vote. The Women’s Health Protection Act was previously passed by the House of Representatives in a near party-line vote last September.

Manchin Releases Revised BBB Outline

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) has released a plan proposing a revival of the Build Back Better reconciliation package. Manchin’s slimmed-down version of the President’s economic agenda would split any revenue raised between reducing the federal budget deficit and new spending. He also proposes prescription drug pricing reform and a partial roll back the 2017 tax cuts as two such sources of revenue and expresses support for climate change measures on the spending side. While this latest announcement from Manchin – who is responsible for stalling the originally $2 trillion tax and spending proposal that would require the support of all 50 Senate Democrats for passage – was well received by his congressional colleagues, Congress has largely turned its focus from Build Back Better to government funding, responding to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and confirmation proceedings for the President’s Supreme Court nominee.

Rep. Deutch to Retire

Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) announced that he will not seek re-election at the end of the 117th Congress. He has accepted the position of CEO of the American Jewish Committee. Deutch has served in Congress since 2010. He currently sits on the Foreign Affairs, Judiciary, and Ethics committees.

Members of Congress Test Positive for COVID-19 in Advance of SOTU

Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), and Reps. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.), Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.), Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), and Dwight Evans (D-Pa.) each announced that they had tested positive for COVID-19. Members were asked to provide a negative test before attending the State of the Union address. Some members of congress objected to the required testing and chose not to attend the event.

SUNSET Delayed Through September

The White House is once again delaying the implementation of a Trump-era regulation that would require the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to review each of its regulations at least once every ten years. The Securing Updated and Necessary Statutory Evaluations Timely (SUNSET) rule was set to take effect later this month. HHS proposed withdrawing or repealing the SUNSET rule last year amid ongoing litigation but instead postponed its effective date to March 22. The rule’s implementation has now been delayed again until September 22. The proposal was aimed at reducing government bureaucracy and would have deemed regulations expired unless they had undergone agency review to determine whether they should be amended or rescinded at least once every 10 years.

HHS to Review Surprise Billing Court Decision

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that it is reviewing a recent court decision on the implementation of the No Surprises Act and considering next steps. HHS notified health care providers, emergency facilities, providers of air ambulance services, group health plans, health insurance issuers, Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Carriers, and certified independent dispute resolution (IDR) entities of steps that are being taken to conform to the court’s order:

  • Effective immediately, guidance documents that are based on, or that refer to, the portions of the Rule that the court invalidated are withdrawn. Once these documents have been updated to conform with the court’s order, the updated documents will be promptly reposted.
  • Training will be provided on the revised guidance for certified IDR entities and Disputing Parties. This training will be offered through webinars and roundtable discussions and will occur after the above-referenced documents are updated.
  • The IDR process will be opened for submissions through the IDR Portal. For disputes for which the open negotiation period has expired, submission of a notice of initiation of the IDR process within 15 business days following the opening of the IDR Portal will be permitted.

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