Progress Continues on 21st Century Cures, Mental Health Reform

The revised 21st Century Cures package will not contain provisions targeting drug pricing, according to the bill’s main sponsor Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.). There had been a recent push by some organizations urging Democrats to seek the addition of drug pricing language in the bill. The final legislative text is expected to be released after the Thanksgiving break, following review by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) has said that there has been some interest in attaching his mental health reform legislation to 21st Century Cures. The idea has been echoed by Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas). Movement on the Senate bill has stalled over disagreements on funding. While Upton has acknowledged that work is being done on both bills, he declined to say whether 21st Century Cures could serve as a vehicle for mental health reform. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) listed both issues as priorities for the lame-duck session. Votes are not expected to be taken up until after the Thanksgiving break.

Trump Administration Staff Announcements

President-Elect Donald Trump named three more members of his Administration last week. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) was asked to serve as Trump’s Attorney General. Sen. Sessions began his legal career as a practicing attorney in Russellville, Alabama, and then in Mobile. Following a two-year stint as Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama, Sessions was nominated by President Reagan in 1981 and confirmed by the Senate to serve as the United States Attorney for Alabama’s Southern District, a position he held for 12 years. Sessions was elected Alabama Attorney General in 1995, serving as the state’s chief legal officer until 1997, when he entered the United States Senate. Sessions currently sits on the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, the Committee on Armed Services, the Committee on the Budget, and the Committee on Environment and Public Works. Michael Flynn was chosen as Trump’s National Security Advisor. Flynn is a retired U.S. Army lieutenant general who last served as 18th Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, from July 22, 2012 to August 7, 2014. Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Ks.) has been tapped as the next Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). He has been the U.S. Representative for Kansas’s 4th congressional district since 2011. Rep. Pompeo currently serves on the Energy and Commerce Committee. Senate confirmation is necessary for the positions of Attorney General and CIA Director, but not for the position of National Security Advisor.

Upcoming Congressional Meetings and Hearings

Senate Judiciary Committee hearing to explore potential Mylan-Justice Department Settlement Over EpiPens; 10:00 a.m., November 30

Recently Introduced Health Legislation

H.R.6300 (introduced by Rep. Luke Messer): To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to exempt certain individuals from the individual health insurance mandate; House Committee on Ways and Means.

(introduced by Rep. Robert J. Wittman): Expressing the sense of Congress that public health professionals should be commended for their dedication and continued service to the United States on “Public Health Thank You Day”, November 21, 2016; to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

(introduced by Rep. Mike Kelly): To amend title XVIII of the Social Security Act with respect to the accreditation of osteopathic residency training programs for purposes of graduate medical education payments under the Medicare program; to House Energy and Commerce.

H.Res.926 (introduced by Rep. Robin L. Kelly): Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the President should award the Presidential Medal of Freedom, posthumously, to Mrs. Henrietta Lacks, in recognition of her invaluable contribution to modern science in the form of her own immortal cells-HeLa cells-without which life-saving medicines and procedures would not have been developed at critical moments in our Nation’s history; to House Oversight and Government Reform.

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