Health Care

Democrats Protest Fetal Tissue Report
Walk out of investigative panel formed in the aftermath of Planned Parenthood video controversy

House Democrats on Wednesday walked out of a meeting of a congressional investigative panel launched in the aftermath of the controversy over Planned Parenthood's abortion practices, charging the proceedings amounted to a "witch hunt."

The meeting of the Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives was to consider a report recommending that the biotech company StemExpress LLC and its founder Catherine Spears Dyer be held in contempt for refusing to comply to subpoenas seeking accounting records relating to research of fetal tissue.

Lawmakers See Synthetics as Growing Drug Abuse Challenge
But actions raise concerns among drugmakers over legislative overreach

The musician Prince — seen here performing in Toronto in 2015 — died in April from what Minnesota officials said was an accidental overdose of self-administered fentanyl. (Cindy Ord/Getty Images for NPG Records 2015 File Photo)

Lawmakers are trying to draw attention to a rapidly emerging overdose crisis caused by synthetic drugs, less than two months after a bill to combat prescription opioid and heroin abuse was signed into law.

The opioid measure included provisions that make it easier for the government to prosecute drug traffickers, but synthetic drugs pose a different kind of challenge that wasn’t addressed in the legislation. While most drugs are on a list of controlled substances, synthetics can escape law enforcement scrutiny if the chemists who make them tweak their formulas slightly.

A Worthwhile Hillary Initiative to End Washington Gridlock
In new book, Democratic ticket veers center, refrains from utopian promises

Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine's compendium of policy proposals is designed to show the seriousness of the Democratic presidential ticket, writes Walter Shapiro. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

In the kingdom of clicks, there are few sets of words more self-defeating than the combination of "Hillary Clinton" and "policy."

If you must write about the Democratic nominee, then the smartest strategy is either to decry the Clinton scandals as the worst since Teapot Dome or to attack the news media for equating Hillary's missteps with the outrages and lies of Donald Trump. But to actually discuss Clinton's policy agenda is to invite comparisons with what columnist Michael Kinsley once dubbed as the most boring headline in history: "Worthwhile Canadian Initiative."

Congress Turning a New Leaf on Marijuana
Burgeoning business in states with legal sales sparks momentum for reform

Stephanie Kahn, right, owner of the Takoma Wellness Center in Washington, D.C., hugs customer Meredith Bower at the medical marijuana dispensary. Bower suffers from phantom limb pain due to the amputation of a leg below the knee after a car accident. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Just two years ago, pot lobbyist Michael Collins was a pariah on Capitol Hill.

Marijuana reform was too much of a risk. 

Obamacare Agency Escapes Congressional Oversight
New Medicare payment models have real world consequences

(iStock)

Our constitutional system was carefully designed to prevent any one branch from seizing too much control over the entire government. Only Congress can write legislation; only the President can execute the laws; only the courts can judge whether the laws are constitutional.

This balance of powers, however, does not maintain itself. It is a dynamic equilibrium requiring each branch of government to protect and fully exercise its rightful authorities. When one branch encroaches on another, that balance is endangered — and so are the freedoms the separation of powers were intended to protect.

Zika Funding Blocked for Third Time in Senate by Democrats
Critics assail "poison pill" policy riders

A mosquito control inspector sprays pesticide to kill mosquitos in Miami Beach, Florida, last month. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

The Senate on Tuesday evening voted 52-46 to not advance the conference report for a spending package containing $1.1 billion to combat the Zika virus and $82.5 billion in fiscal 2017 Military Construction-VA funding. Sixty votes were needed to limit debate.

Obama Takes Troubled Trade Portfolio to Asia
Has current political climate made big accords toxic?

From left, Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, hold a 2015 event outside the Capitol urging congress not to fast track the Trans-Pacific Partnership. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

President Barack Obama goes to Asia this week promoting a trade agenda that appears imperiled by anti-globalization sentiment at home and abroad that could undo years of negotiations.

Tough comments recently from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement and from two European leaders on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership all but signaled the delay and even possible death of both accords.

Poll: Public Wants Congress to Fund Zika Fight
Some not comfortable traveling to areas where people affected by virus

A Miami-Dade County mosquito control worker blows pesticide in a Miami Beach neighborhood last week. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Voters want Congress to make funding to battle the Zika virus a top priority, a new poll shows.

[Administration Sitting on Unspent Funds for Zika]

Clinton's Mental Health Plan Shares Goals With Hill Efforts
How to pay for an overhaul remains a stumbling block

Hillary Clinton's mental health proposal builds on a plan by Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., to make community behavioral health centers eligible for expanded federal aid. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Hillary Clinton’s plan for mental health care has a lot in common with proposals in Congress to improve mental health treatment and expand access, including potential hurdles — namely, how to pay for it.

The Democratic presidential candidate would aim to promote early diagnosis and intervention, especially for children. She would emphasize treatment instead of jail time for low-level criminal offenders with mental illness. Clinton says she would also enforce so-called parity laws, which require insurance providers that offer mental health coverage to provide benefits that are just as good as those for physical health care.

EpiPen Crisis Hitting Senators Close to Home
Klobuchar, Warner among senators with kids with allergies

Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, right, and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar both have adult daughters who rely on the EpiPen. (CQ Roll Call file photo)

The debate over the cost of EpiPens isn't just politics for some lawmakers.

It's personal.

Democrats: EpiPen Cost Curbing Is PR Move, Not a Fix
Blumenthal calls pharmaceutical company's announcement a "baby step"

Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal has been critical of the skyrocketing cost of the EpiPen. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Some Congressional Democrats are criticizing a pharmaceutical company's effort to curb the rising cost of a drug used to combat severe allergic reactions as a public relations move rather than a solution.

Mylan announced Thursday that it would take steps to reduce the price of its EpiPen drug injector for some customers. The company said it would cover up to $300 of the cost through the use of a savings card, and would increase eligibility for a patient program that reduces costs for uninsured or underinsured patients.

No Family Favors for Senator's Daughter and EpiPen CEO
Mylan CEO Heather Bresch is daughter of Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia

Despite being the daughter of a sitting U.S. senator, Mylan CEO Heather Bresch should face a Senate grilling over the EpiPen price hike no different from what other tainted corporate CEOs have endured, writes Patricia Murphy (Courtesy Mylan.com)

Is there anything members of Congress love more than the chance to haul a wayward CEO to Capitol Hill to lecture them about their companies’ un-American transgressions? The CEOs of the Wall Street banks got the indignant Hill treatment in 2008 after the mortgage meltdown. The CEOs of the Big Three car companies did too, only to be scolded at a later hearing for flying private jets to Washington for the first one.

Man-child and bad boy pharmaceutical CEO Martin Shkreli sat in front of House members for hours during a House Oversight hearing in February while angry committee members unloaded on him for price gouging, spurred on by the fact that Shkreli had taken the Fifth at the start of the hearing and called them “imbeciles” on Twitter before and after he appeared in Washington.

Blumenthal: Manchin Connection Shouldn't Affect EpiPen Investigation
Mylan CEO Heather Bresch is Sen. Joe Manchin's daughter

Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal, center, says he wants the Senate Judiciary Committee to investigate Mylan's "appalling astronomic price increases for EpiPens." (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal said Wednesday that a senator's daughter should not get special treatment when it comes to an investigations of her pharmaceutical company.

Blumenthal indicated that the fact the CEO of the company behind the skyrocketing price of EpiPens is the daughter of fellow Democrat Joe Manchin III of West Virginia should not affect related inquiries.

Ep. 20: Funding Fight Doesn't Squelch Zika Research
The Big Story

Though Congress and the Obama administration are still fighting over how to respond to the Zika virus outbreak, the gridlock hasn’t kept government scientists from trying to develop an effective vaccine. CQ Roll Call’s managing editor Adriel Bettelheim talks to senior Senate reporter Niels Lesniewski to learn more. 

Show Notes:

Common Denominator in Spending Bills: Attacking Reproductive Health
Language would erode Americans' family health coverage

Congressional Republicans have a longstanding fixation with restricting access to reproductive health services, writes New York Rep. Nita Lowey, seen speaking at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia in July. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

When you hear the Republican majority talk about “liberty,” watch out. Because they just may be referring to the liberty of employers, health insurers, or the federal government to intrude into Americans’ most personal health choices.

Throughout the fiscal 2017 appropriations process, the Republican majority has deepened considerably its longstanding fixation with restricting access to reproductive health services. Empowering these unprecedented intrusions imperils enactment of responsible spending bills and invades Americans’ personal liberty to make their own health choices as never before.