Monday, September 12, 2016

Catching up with Congress

NBCNews: Congress Faces Five Big Issues Following Summer Recess.

- Funding Zika Vaccines
- Tackling Appropriations
- Appointing a Supreme Court Member
- Impeaching IRS Commissioner
- Finally Addressing Gun Control?

Roll Call: Freedom Caucus to Force Vote on IRS Impeachment Next Week.

House Freedom Caucus member John Fleming told reporters Friday that he plans to go to the floor Tuesday to set up a vote on a resolution to impeach IRS Commissioner John Koskinen.
By noticing his intent to file the privileged resolution on Tuesday, the Louisiana Republican would start a two-day legislative time clock for the House to take up the matter, meaning a floor vote on impeachment would occur no later than Thursday.
The expectation is that Democrats will offer a motion to table the matter or to refer it back to committee and that enough Republicans would join them to make the motion successful.

Reuters: Obama to meet U.S. Congress leaders Monday on spending.

U.S. President Barack Obama has invited congressional leaders to the White House on Monday in an attempt to break deadlocks over government spending plans and funding the fight against the Zika virus.
Congress must pass a temporary spending bill by Sept. 30 or much of the federal government will shut down. With the deadline approaching, Obama is set to meet with House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, both Republicans. Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid and his House counterpart Nancy Pelosi will also be present, White House and congressional officials said on Friday.
Of particular urgency is a program to fight the Zika virus which is running out of money, U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention Director Tom Frieden told reporters.

Roll Call: Congress Turning a New Leaf on Marijuana - Burgeoning business in states with legal sales sparks momentum for reform.

Just two years ago, pot lobbyist Michael Collins was a pariah on Capitol Hill.
Marijuana reform was too much of a risk.

Lawmakers wouldn’t meet with him.

Not anymore.
“I’ve got offices reaching out to me,” said Collins, the deputy director of national affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance, a nonprofit group that supports the legalization of marijuana. “It’s definitely a big change.”
Marijuana-related legislation was on a fast track to nowhere until 2014. That was the year Republicans and Democrats alike approved a measure that kept federal authorities from interfering in states that allowed marijuana use for medical purposes.
Since then, both houses of Congress have seen a flood of similar proposals.
Lobbyists, policy experts and lawmakers who spoke to Roll Call said the trajectory is clear: Congress is leaning toward decriminalizing marijuana at the federal level — and it’s going to happen soon.

CNN: Congress looks to end standoff over Zika.

The big battle over Zika could be coming to an abrupt end on Capitol Hill.
A growing number of House and Senate Republicans now expect Congress will soon pass a $1.1 billion funding package to combat the Zika virus without restrictions on Planned Parenthood, a move designed to overcome a filibuster by Senate Democrats and end the pre-election season with as little drama as possible.
Such a move would represent a win for the White House and congressional Democrats.
No final decisions have been made, particularly in the House where the dynamics are more complicated than the Senate. But negotiations have intensified over the last several days and final votes could occur as soon as next week in both chambers, according to senior GOP lawmakers and Republican officials.
The idea: To tie a must-pass bill to keep the government open beyond the September 30 fiscal year deadline with language to fund vaccines and research to combat the spread of the Zika virus. Senators are likely to reach such a deal, and many Republicans now expect the House to go along as well.

Forbes: How Congress Can Make Drug Pricing More Rational.

The public reproach over the price of Mylan lifesaving drug EpiPen is the latest imbroglio in a much broader debate over drug costs. At issue is the rising list price on drugs. But as Mylan argued, these high reported prices often bear little relation to the real price actually paid, after rebates and discounts, by most health plans.
The question is how we can bring more prudence to this complex system, in which drug discounts don’t flow evenly to the patients who need access to these medicines.
Mylan pointed to a long sequence of drug supply middlemen who get a series of rebates, mostly as economic inducements for helping drug makers sell their medicines. To fund these rebates, drug makers push up the list price of their pills, only to furtively pay much of the money back to pharmacy benefit managers later.
This byzantine model for selling drugs aids both parties – the drug makers who use the rebates to buy access on restrictive drug formularies, and the pharmacy benefit managers that take a cut from these rebates to improve their profit margins.

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