Senate Confirms New Department of Health and Human Services Secretary

After lawmakers completed a deal to reopen the federal government, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) moved to file a cloture motion to proceed with the nomination of Alex Azar to be Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), clearing the way for Azar’s confirmation on Wednesday by a vote of 55-43. All Republicans, with the exception of Rand Paul (R-Ky.), voted in support of Azar’s nomination. Sen. Paul disagreed with Azar about the merits of drug reimportation. Independent Angus King (Maine) joined six Democrats and Republicans to confirm the nominee: Tom Carper (D-Del.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Doug Jones (D-Ala.), and Joe Manchin (D-W.V.).

Azar is a former executive of the drug company Eli Lilly. He previously served as general counsel (2001-2005) and deputy secretary (2005-2007) of HHS during the Bush Administration. Azar faced opposition from the majority of Senate Democrats, who have criticized his ties to the pharmaceutical industry and questioned his ability to lead efforts to address the nation’s rising drug costs. Democrats have also expressed concerns about whether Azar will continue efforts by the Trump Administration to undermine the Affordable Care Act (ACA). His backers, however, tout his managerial experience in both the public and private sector. One key policy issue Senate Majority Leader McConnell and Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chair Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) hope he works to address is the opioid crisis.

Azar replaces Tom Price as HHS Secretary, who resigned in September amid a scandal over his use of tax payer dollars for travel on private jets.

DEA Moves to Implement CARA Provision for Expanded Buprenorphine Access

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has given nurse practitioners and physician assistants the authority to dispense buprenorphine from their offices. In an emailed statement last week, the DEA stated that it will allow the health care workers to become DATA-Waived qualifying practitioners who are allowed to prescribe the opioid maintenance drug to provide more treatment options for those suffering from addiction in rural and underserved areas. The regulatory action brings the DEA into conformity with the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), signed into law in 2016.

WH Budget Expected Feb. 12

The Administration has announced plans for President Trump’s FY 2019 budget to be sent to Congress on February 12. This is one week later than initially planned. According to a White House spokeswoman, the delay is a result of the recent federal government shutdown.

President to Deliver State of the Union on Tuesday

President Trump will deliver his State of the Union address to Congress on Tuesday. His speech will focus on how the policies from the Administration’s first year are building a safe, strong, and proud America. The President is expected to address the impact of drug addiction and the opioid crisis on the nation and has reportedly invited a relevant guest to be present in the gallery. Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-Mass.) has been selected to deliver the Democratic Party’s response to the speech. Virginia State Delegate Elizabeth Guzman will deliver the Democrat’s Spanish-language response.

December 31, 1969: | Page 1 Page 2 Page 3



 -  2019

 +  2018