Here's the scoop on what's happening this week in Congress
February 10, 2023
This Week in Congress
House and Senate
The House and Senate were in session this week and continued to make committee assignments and adopt organizational rules for the 118th Congress.
State of the Union
President Biden’s State of the Union address called on Congress to “finish the job” on a range of policy priorities. It was the 99th time a president personally delivered the State of the Union address to Congress. The President drew more than a few Republican objections, engaging in boisterous back-and-forth banter with the GOP. The highlights of the speech addressed: economic anxiety and the struggles many Americans are facing; a minimum tax on billionaires and quadrupling levies on stock buybacks; aid to Ukraine; abortion rights; an assault weapons ban; and cancer research. A copy of the address can be found here
The House, by a vote of 419-0, condemned China for violating US sovereignty by flying a high-altitude surveillance balloon over the US. According to the State Department, the balloon was outfitted with “multiple antennas and other equipment clearly for intelligence surveillances” offering proof that the balloon was on an espionage mission.
The House Appropriations Committee met for the first time in the new Congress. “We have our work cut out for us this year,” Chairwoman Granger said. “In many ways, the odds are stacked against us. But as I look across the room, I am reminded that we, as appropriators, always find a way to get the job done for the American people.” Ranking member DeLauro pointed to the historic nature of her, Granger, Senate Appropriations Chair Murray, and ranking member Collins, leading the Senate and House Appropriations committees, the first time all four positions have been held by women. “I know that we can work together to ensure the needs of the American people are met and that the work we have done over the last Congress to lower costs for middle-class families, for working families, to create better-paying jobs, and to protect our nation and our communities is not undone.”
Senate Appropriations Ranking Member Susan Collins, R-Maine, laid out her funding priorities in a Friday op-ed column in the Bangor Daily News. Collins wrote the committee will aim to move the panel’s dozen appropriations bills to the Senate floor in regular order, instead of relying on a year-end omnibus package. She wrote that modernizing the military and investing in biomedical research, transportation infrastructure and rural America are her priorities in her new role. The article can be found here
Other Legislative Happenings from Around the Nation
FDA Requests Reporting of Home Test
With a majority of people now using over-the-counter coronavirus tests at home, public health officials are having a hard time tracking COVID-19 case trends. The FDA encouraged people to start submitting their test results on the website here
Public Health Emergency Resource Update
The Biden Administration announced its intent to end the national emergency and public health emergency (PHE) declarations related to the COVID-19 pandemic on May 11, 2023. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has published a resource guide to help in preparing for the end to the PHE. The following materials reflect recent changes and are currently available on the CMS Emergencies page here
COVID-19 vaccines are now included among the routine shots recommended by the CDC for children, adolescents, and adults. The 2023 list includes shots for the flu, measles mumps and rubella, polio, and other inoculations.
Pennsylvania Law Makes It Easier To Treat STIs
The approach, called expedited partner therapy (EPT), allows a person with a diagnosed STD to ask a doctor for a prescription for a sex partner, and the doctor can fill that prescription without evaluating the partner, or even knowing that person’s name, the Pennsylvania Department of Health reported. A doctor can fill out a script addressed simply to “EPT,” and a pharmacist will fill it. The person the prescription is meant for can pick it up at a pharmacy anonymously or can have their partner pick it up. The article can be found here
Pre-Ordering Abortion Pills
Doctors and advocates are urging people to pre-order and stockpile abortion pills while they still can in the face of a looming court decision that could wipe out access to the drugs nationwide. A District Court Judge in Amarillo, Texas, could either strike down the FDA’s decades-old decision to approve mifepristone — the first of two pills used to end a pregnancy — or roll back more recent agency decisions making the pills available via telemedicine, mail delivery and pharmacy pickup. Eighteen states already have restrictions on the pills, many of them as part of near-total bans on abortion. But the Texas ruling could either cut off access to the drugs in the mostly Democratic-led states where they remain legal or reinstate rules mandating that patients only be able to receive them in-person from a physician.
Governor Moore and state lawmakers are scheduled to announce support for measures protecting abortion rights, including a state constitutional amendment that would enshrine it.
Indiana lawmakers this session are eyeing ways to expand contraceptive access to prevent unintended pregnancies in the state after the Republican-led Legislature pushed through an abortion ban this past summer. A House committee considered a proposal that could permit pharmacists to prescribe birth control hours before state Senators approved a bill that would allow Medicaid recipients same-day access to long-acting reversible contraceptives.
The Attorney General of Missouri stated the mailing of abortion pills is a “flawed reading” of the law. Attorneys general from 20 other states with strict abortion bans have issued a stark warning to pharmacies that following through on mailing abortion pills would violate federal and some state laws. Missouri Attorney General Bailey wrote that women who receive the medication could face prosecution.