Murkowski Lifts Hold on Califf Nomination

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) has lifted her hold on the nomination of Robert Califf to lead the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). She had blocked the consideration of the nominee because of concerns regarding the labeling of genetically engineered salmon, but has lifted her hold after working further with the agency on this issue. There now remain four known holds on Califf’s nomination. Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.V.), and Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) have concerns regarding the FDA’s approval of opioid painkillers, and Sen. Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.) opposes Califf’s ties to the pharmaceutical industry. The Senate will hold a procedural vote on the nomination on Monday, February 22.

Committee Leaders Investigate Fraud and Abuse in Medicaid Program

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.), Health Subcommittee Chairman Joseph Pitts (R-Pa.) and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) have requested that the Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General (OIG) examine the degree to which the Medicaid program is paying for deceased beneficiaries or making payments to deceased providers or suppliers. A May 2015 report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found problems with Medicaid verifying whether program beneficiaries and providers were alive or dead, concluding that tens of millions of dollars per year were spent on deceased patients, doctors and suppliers.

Upcoming Congressional Meetings and Hearings

Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing to examine the President’s proposed budget request for fiscal year 2017 for the Department of State; 10:00 AM, 419 Dirksen Bldg.; February 23

Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel hearing to examine defense health care programs; 2:30 p.m., G-50 Dirksen Bldg.; February 23

House Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing: “Persian Gulf War: An Assessment of Health Outcomes on the 25th Anniversary;” 4:30 p.m., 334 Cannon Bldg.; February 23

Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on the Zika virus; 10:00 a.m., 430 Dirksen Bldg.; February 24

Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee executive session on the innovation agenda; time and place TBA; March 9

Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee final markup on innovation agenda; time and place TBA; April 6

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