Energy and Commerce Advances Six Bipartisan Bills

Last week, the House Energy and Commerce Committee advanced six bipartisan bills dealing with the protection of public health and the modernization of government. The Committee passed by voice vote H.R. 639, the Improving Regulatory Transparency for New Medical Therapies, which would improve the transparency and consistency of the Drug Enforcement Agency’s (DEA) scheduling of new Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved drugs and its registration process for manufacturing controlled substances for use in clinical trials. The Committee also approved H.R. 471, the Ensuring Patient Access to Effective Drug Enforcement Act, aimed at helping to prevent prescription drug abuse by establishing clear and consistent enforcement standards and promoting collaboration among government agencies, patients, and industry stakeholders. H.R. 647, the Access to Life-Saving Trauma Care for All Americans Act, and H.R. 648, the Trauma Systems and Regionalization of Emergency Care Reauthorization Act, were also advanced. These bills would ensure reauthorization of trauma grant programs.

HELP Discusses Vaccines and Preventable Diseases

There was widespread agreement among Committee members regarding the sound science of vaccination at a hearing on vaccine preventable diseases held by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee. Both parties stressed the importance of immunization, and witness Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the National Center for Immunization at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), spoke to the recent debate surrounding whether parents should have some choice in whether they vaccinate their children. She testified that there is overwhelming and consistent scientific evidence that vaccines are safe and effective. Further, she and other witnesses stated that an earlier published study linking vaccination to autism was discredited due to fraudulent data and that there is no scientific evidence that vaccines cause mental disorders, a concern voiced many parents who choose not to vaccinate their children. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) expressed concerns about the $50 million cut to a CDC vaccination program proposed in the President’s budget. Dr. Schuchat replied that the CDC would try to offset the impact of these cuts by increasing the billing of insurance for vaccines. There have been 121 cases of measles across 17 states since the beginning of the year, with the outbreak centered at Disneyland in California among people who were not vaccinated.

$79.2 Billion in Permanent Tax Credits Pass the House

The House of Representatives has passed H.R. 636, a bill combining three small business tax-extender provisions. The legislation includes a $77.1 billion increase in the amount a small business can deduct from their taxes for the cost of purchases. The bill also contains a measure to extend deductions for S corporations’ charitable contributions. H.R. 636 was approved by a vote of 272-142. The bill follows House approval of a package of tax credits for charitable giving earlier last week. Democrats object to the tax extenders because of their impact on the deficit, and the White House has threatened to veto the measures because they contain no offsets. The Senate has also proceeded in taking a stepwise approach to tax code revisions. Lawmakers sent 17 different tax bills to the Senate floor last week.

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