Puerto Rico aid among issues complicating disaster bill talks
The size and scope of a disaster aid package has become a flashpoint among Senate appropriators

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala., talks with reporters before a meeting with Republican and Democratic negotiators on government spending on Monday, Feb. 11, 2019. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The size and scope of a disaster aid package has become a flashpoint as Senate appropriators construct a supplemental spending bill they hope to move quickly.

The fight appears to be between Democrats who want additional aid for Puerto Rico and states ravaged by 2017 storms, while Republicans are attempting to keep the bill contained to rebuilding from disasters that struck last year.

Azar touts rebate proposal as solution to 'broken' system
The proposal would create safe harbors under the anti-kickback statute for upfront discounts to patients and flat service fees to PBMs

Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar testifying at a hearing called "Prescription Drug Affordability and Innovation: Addressing Challenges in Today's Market" in front of the Senate Finance Committee in the Dirksen Senate Office Building Tuesday, June 26, 2018 (Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar on Friday pitched a proposal he released the day before as a major step in reforming the complex system of the prescription drug supply chain and lowering prices.

The proposed rule released by HHS and the Office of the Inspector General Thursday would eliminate federal protections for manufacturer rebates paid to health plans and pharmacy benefit managers under federal health programs, although Azar expects the rule would also trigger changes in the commercial market. The proposal would instead create safe harbors under the anti-kickback statute for upfront discounts to patients and flat service fees to PBMs.

Foster Youth Come to Capitol Hill, Share Experiences in the System
Foster Youth Shadow Day is in its seventh year in Washington

Megan Simon, 26, of Los Angeles, talks with Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., in the Rayburn subway on Foster Youth Shadow Day on Wednesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Rep. Karen Bass had a busy day ahead of her in the House on Wednesday: a morning meeting with House Democrats, pressing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on a few points during his Foreign Affairs hearing, and introducing a speaker on the House floor.

While the day wasn’t anything out of the ordinary for the California Democrat, it was for Megan Simon, a 26-year-old former foster child shadowing the lawmaker for the day.

Democrats Pan Bill Curbing Lawsuits by People With Disabilities
As ADA-related bill consideration gets under way, protest erupts in Rules Committee

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., who was a sponsor of the landmark American Disabilities Act in 1990, says new legislation being considered by the House would seriously undermine incentives for businesses to comply with the longstanding law. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Democratic leaders are actively opposing a bill scheduled for a vote in the House later this week that they say would undermine a landmark law providing protections for Americans with disabilities.

The bill would make it harder for disabled individuals claiming discrimination in places such as hotels, restaurants or private schools from filing suit against the business under the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Ben Carson in Line to Lead Housing Department
Former GOP presidential hopeful was considered for multiple roles

A spokesman for Ben Carson has confirmed that he has been nominated by President-elect Donald Trump as his HUD secretary. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 6:50 p.m. | Former Republican presidential hopeful and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson is under consideration to be secretary of Housing and Urban Development in the Trump administration, according to numerous media reports.

Armstrong Williams, a spokesman for Carson and a conservative media personality, on Wednesday disputed a Wall Street Journal story that said President-elect Donald Trump had offered to nominate Carson and that Carson had accepted. The Journal later corrected its story. 

Candidates Miss Opportunity to Address At-Risk Children
Fragmented system jeopardizes nearly 500,000 kids

Rosie O'Donnell during 2009 efforts to rally support for legislation that would authorize $15 million for foster care mentoring programs. (CQ Roll Call)

Presidential candidates are quick to complain that an extended campaign means giving the same rote answers to the same rote questions, the same stump speech to the same political reporters.   But if the candidates take advantage of this time, the campaign is actually an opportunity to have a discussion about a national crisis that, to date, has gone under the radar: how our next leader plans to care for the hundreds of thousands of at-risk children and families across the country.   The current challenge is twofold.  

First, the federal government is struggling to make its budget work. That means elected officials from both sides of the aisle are looking for cost-savings opportunities, and those primarily come from cuts to social and children’s services. At the same time, failures of basic institutions, such as families and schools, mean that children are fending for themselves at a younger age. In short, the family protective system has fewer and fewer resources to support children who are tougher to handle at increasingly younger ages.   The result shouldn’t surprise anyone. The foster care system today is essentially a black hole for the nearly half a million at-risk children. Law enforcement may remove a child from an abusive environment, for instance, but the system then shuffles — and reshuffles — the child between three or four foster homes. Each of these environments has its own rules and each culture change deprives the child of a third and fourth chance at stability.