On Monday, July 14, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce began to mark up a selection of health-related bills: H.R. 4771, Designer Anabolic Steroid Control Act; H.R. 4250, Sunscreen Innovation Act, as amended; H.R. 594, Paul Wellstone Muscular Dystrophy Community Assistance, Research and Education Amendments of 2014, as amended; H.R. 669, Sudden Unexpected Death and Data Enhancement and Awareness Act, as amended; and H.R. 4290, Wakefield Act of 2014. The committee is expected to continue the markup on Tuesday, July 15.

Due to the strain of election year politics and the desire to avoid controversial votes on health care issues, members of Congress appear pessimistic on potential legislative action regarding the FY 2015 Labor-Health and Human Services-Education spending bill. Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA), Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies, has stated that he is “not certain” the bill will be marked up in the coming weeks. The Senate Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies approved the bill on June 10. Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) has not scheduled a markup with the full committee.

House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has announced his intention to pursue a lawsuit against President Barack Obama that will focus on the implementation of health care reform and the White House’s decision to delay the employer mandate provision. The Republican-led lawsuit is expected to contend that the delay of the employer mandate was an abuse of executive authority and should have been left to Congress. House of Representatives Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has accused Speaker Boehner of using the lawsuit as a political stunt to distract the electorate from Republican Party dysfunction, describing the lawsuit as a “legal boondoggle doomed to fail.” The House Committee on Rules will conduct a meeting on Wednesday, July 16 to consider a discussion draft of the resolution that would authorize the lawsuit against President Obama. The resolution is expected to be considered on the House floor by the end of July.

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., 573 U.S. ___ (2014), Democrats on both sides of the Capitol have introduced legislation to override the decision, titled the “Protect Women’s Health From Corporate Interference Act.” This legislation would prohibit certain employers, including for-profit corporations, from denying coverage of a specific health care item or service where the coverage is required under federal law, such as contraception. The bill includes an exemption for houses of worship and the Obama administration’s accommodation for religious nonprofits. While no action is expected in the Republican-controlled House, the Democratic-controlled Senate could act as early as this week.

This Week’s Hearings:

  • Tuesday, July 15: The Senate Committee on Finance will hold a hearing titled “Chronic Illness: Addressing Patients’ Unmet Needs.” The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing titled “The Women’s Health Protection Act: Removing Barriers to Constitutionally Protected Reproductive Rights.”
  • Wednesday, July 16: The House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations will hold a hearing titled “Review of CDC Anthrax Lab Incident.” The Subcommittee on Health will hold a hearing titled “Failure to Verify: Concerns Regarding PPACA’s Eligibility System.” The House Committee on Rules will hold a hearing on the “Committee Discussion Draft of H. Res. ___, providing for authority to initiate litigation for actions by the President inconsistent with his duties under the Constitution of the United States.” The House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs will hold a hearing titled “Creating Efficiency through Comparison: An Evaluation of Private Sector Best Practices and the VA Health Care System.” The Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs will hold a hearing titled “The State of VA Health Care.”
  • Thursday, July 17: The House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Communications and Technology and Subcommittee on Health will hold a hearing titled “21st Century Technology for 21st Century Cures.” The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP), Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging will hold a hearing titled “More Than 1,000 Preventable Deaths a Day is Too Many: The Need to Improve Patient Safety.”

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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