Hart Health Strategies provides a comprehensive policy briefing on a weekly basis. This in-depth health policy briefing is sent out at the beginning of each week. The health policy briefing recaps the previous week and previews the week ahead. It alerts clients to upcoming congressional hearings, newly introduced bills, regulatory announcements, and implementation activity related to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) and other health laws.


Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg Dies at 87

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away on Friday at the age of 87 due to complications of metastatic pancreatic cancer. She was appointed to the Supreme Court by President Bill Clinton in 1993 and was only the second woman to serve on the high court. She was one of the Supreme Court’s most liberal justices and was the senior member of the court’s liberal wing since 2010. The push to fill her seat is expected to start today. If President Trump is successful in appointing his third Supreme Court justice, it could result in the most significant ideological shift for the Court in decades. With the presidential election less than seven weeks away, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has vowed to bring President Trump’s nominee up for a vote on the Senate floor, but McConnell did not clarify the timing of the vote, which will likely occur after the election, during the lame duck session. Democrats are arguing that the seat should remain open through the November 3 election and be filled by Democratic candidate Joe Biden if he wins the presidency. Republicans made similar arguments in 2016 after Justice Antonin Scalia passed away. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) released a statement that the Senate should not hold a vote prior to the election, while Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) went further and noted that the decision for the new judge should be made by the president who is elected on November 3rd. In contrast, other republicans have urged for a vote. Should the Supreme Court see an ideological shift to the right, conservatives are hopeful that challenges to Roe v. Wade, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), gun rights restrictions, and anti-discrimination laws would be successful. Another conservative on the high court could also change the balance of justices in favor of slashing federal regulatory power. The court is scheduled to convene for the October 2020 term and will hear arguments on the 2010 health care law a week after the election.

Congress Expected to Vote on Clean CR This Week

Congress will likely vote this week on a temporary spending measure that would extend current levels of government funding through December 11. The clean continuing resolution (CR) was due to be released on Friday but was delayed due to some ongoing negotiations on funding for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Commodity Credit Corp.

There have been no breakthroughs on the next coronavirus stimulus package, with congressional Democrats and the White House still at odds about the overall size of the legislation. The bipartisan House Problems Solvers Caucus proposed a plan outlining additional resources for unemployment benefits, the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), and schools and would also provide for an additional round of stimulus checks. The proposal includes approximately $500 billion to state and local governments and $450 a week for supplemental jobless benefits. Under the plan, total spending could increase or decrease depending on the state of the pandemic over time. White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows has signaled that the White House would support the $1.52 trillion stimulus plan from the 50-member group, which has a higher total spending figure than that originally endorsed by the administration. The Problem Solvers Caucus proposal, however, was rejected by House Democratic leadership, who argued that it would not go far enough to address the medical and economic needs of the nation. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) states last week that Congress should stay in session until an agreement is reached with the administration on the next stimulus package.

Lawmakers to Investigate Political Interference in CDC Work

The House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis will launch an investigation into reports that the White House has attempted to interfere with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) COVID-19 reporting. Democratic members of the panel sent a letter to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar and CDC Director Robert Redfield requesting information regarding the Trump administration’s role in the publication of the CDC reports. House Energy and Commerce Chair Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) and Oversight Subcommittee Chair Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) also sent a letter to Secretary Azar calling on him to “stand up for public health” and clarify whether he approved the actions taken by political appointees. Politico recently reported that White House aides had requested to read and edit the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports. The administration’s decision to intrude upon the scientific reports has been criticized by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, with Democrats going so far as to call on Secretary Azar to resign. In related news, HHS spokesperson Michael Caputo has taken a leave of absence amidst the scrutiny into his actions, and his aide Paul Alexander has departed HHS.

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