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Congress

January 12, 2007 | Daily News

As the 110th Congress moves forward with an ambitious health agenda, a handful of staff maneuvers have altered the face of several of the congressional committees overseeing Medicare.

January 12, 2007 | Daily News

Lawmakers seeking to establish a single food-safety agency need to ensure their efforts do not backfire, leading to fewer inspections of facilities regulated by the U.S. Agriculture Department instead of boosting inspections at FDA-regulated facilities, according to sources following the matter. Much of the debate in the past has been over the difficulty of meshing different cultures at FDA and USDA, but some say the biggest challenge would be ensuring there is enough money and authority to beef up inspections.

January 12, 2007 | Daily News

Past congressional proposals to create a single food safety agency did not include any "on-farm" regulations, and the House lawmaker drafting this year's version of the bill does not intend to include such regulations in the new version either. A key consumer advocacy group is petitioning FDA to start regulating growers, but growers say they are already regulated and the marketing agreement they're working on with the federal government suffices.

January 12, 2007 | Daily News

The first several days Congress was back in town, members reintroduced, or made their intentions known to reintroduce, bills regarding generic drugs and RU-486.

Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI) plans to reintroduce two bills from last year meant to stop tactics used by brand-name drug companies to delay generic competition, according to a statement from his office. This month, Kohl gained control of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee with jurisdiction over FDA's budget.

January 11, 2007 | Daily News

Senate Finance Chair Max Baucus (D-MT) vowed Thursday (Jan. 11) to support legislation that would repeal the controversial non-interference clause of the Medicare drug benefit -- an about-face that could pave the way for congressional passage of a measure allowing direct government negotiations for drug prices under Part D. Baucus offered few details of his plans, however, declining to disclose if he would push to require the administration to pursue such negotiations -- as a much-hyped House bill would -- or merely authorize it to do so.

January 11, 2007 | Daily News

Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO) Thursday (Jan. 11) said "a good dozen" GOP members support H.R. 4, the House bill that would require HHS to negotiate Medicare Part D prices directly with manufacturers, just hours before the White House formally announced it would veto the bill if it passed Congress.

Medicare already negotiates prices for oxygen, devices and other products, Emerson noted Thursday at a joint press conference with Democratic House leaders and health care advocates.

January 09, 2007 | Daily News

Two members of the Senate Finance Committee -- a Democrat and a Republican -- plan to introduce legislation Wednesday (Jan. 10) that would require the administration to negotiate directly with pharmaceutical companies for lower prices on prescription drugs under Part D. The move will come just a day before Finance will hold a hearing on the issue, and two days before the House is expected to vote on a similar measure.

January 08, 2007 | Daily News

Consumer advocates think FDA is not doing enough to get trans fat out of processed food so they plan to lobby lawmakers such as Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) to lean on FDA to ban trans fat from commercial foods or tighten labeling requirements.

The American Public Health Association and the Center for Science in the Public Interest are also asking state and local governments to do more, pointing to New York City and Chicago as good examples of how municipalities can ban trans fat.

January 08, 2007 | Daily News

Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA) is calling on FDA to keep better track of unapproved drugs on the market and make it easier for consumers to know whether the drugs they are taking are FDA-approved, despite FDA pledges it is cracking down on the unapproved drug market. A source in Markey's office says it is a strong possibility the congressman will consider legislative action due to his dissatisfaction with an FDA response to a letter he sent to the agency Oct. 11 asking for more information on unapproved drugs, patient safety and regulatory actions.

January 05, 2007 | Daily News

The House Republican Steering Committee this week appointed two new members to the Ways and Means Committee -- Reps. Pat Tiberi (R-OH) and Jon Porter (R-NV), both of whom sat on the Education and the Work Force Committee in the last Congress, according to a Jan. 3 announcement by Ways and Means Ranking Member Jim McCrery (R-LA).

January 05, 2007 | Daily News

FDA has sent to the Office of Management and Budget a proposed rule implementing food irradiation requirements from the farm bill Congress passed in 2002. The food irradiation requirements were pushed by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), who this week took the helm of the Appropriations HHS subcommittee. Consumer advocates already are gearing up to challenge a possible move by FDA to allow companies to substitute the word "pasteurized" for "irradiated" on food labels, pointing to technical requirements included in the law.

January 05, 2007 | Daily News

The Senate Finance Committee will hold a hearing Jan. 11 to examine the contentious topic of having the government negotiate drug prices under Medicare Part D, the chairman's office announced yesterday (Jan. 4). The move comes in the midst of a whirlwind of activity surrounding Part D negotiations, as Senate Democratic leaders introduced a "sense of the Senate" negotiation bill (S. 3) Thursday, and House Democratic leaders are expected to introduce a more specific negotiation bill (H.R. 4) Friday (Jan.

January 04, 2007 | Daily News

Newly anointed Senate Finance Chair Max Baucus (D-MT) said Thursday (Jan. 4) that he is not opposed to the government negotiating with pharmaceutical companies for lower drug prices under Part D, but he plans to hold a January hearing on the issue to separate what he called the myths from the facts. The comments arrive one day before House Democratic leaders are expected to introduce and seek swift passage of a bill requiring the administration to negotiate Part D prices.

January 03, 2007 | Daily News

Just days before Democrats assume power over the 110th Congress, Republican House committee leaders are asking the incoming leadership not to detour the traditional legislative process in a bid to swiftly pass measures that include forcing HHS to negotiate with drug makers for lower prices under Medicare's year-old prescription drug benefit.

January 02, 2007 | Daily News

The House Education and Workforce Committee will have six freshmen members next Congress, the largest number assigned to any committee, the Democratic Steering Committee announced Dec. 12. As a result, incoming Chair George Miller (D-CA) will have some quick educating to do on health and safety issues, as he hopes to launch investigations into the effectiveness of the Bush administration's voluntary compliance focus at OSHA and MSHA.

The following are the freshmen members assigned to House committees for the next Congress, as well as other new committee assignments:

January 02, 2007 | Daily News

House and Senate Democrats are returning to Washington this week with their sights on a major overhaul of the Medicare prescription drug benefit aimed at allowing CMS to negotiate drug prices and form a stand-alone Medicare drug benefit. But there are also a number of smaller tweaks to the program that could generate savings and make the program easier to understand, suggests a policy analyst for Consumers Union.

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