Pace of Action Slows on Democrats’ Health Care, Domestic Goals
The Democratic agenda on health care and other domestic issues "appeared to be flying through the Capitol" in the early weeks of the 110th Congress, but "that initial progress has foundered" as lawmakers continue to debate issues related to the Iraq war, the Washington Post reports.
Among other legislation, the House within the first 10 days passed a bill (HR 4) that would allow the federal government to negotiate prices directly with pharmaceutical companies under the Medicare prescription drug benefit and a bill (HR 3) that would expand federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.
The Senate also has passed some bills related to domestic issues. However, none of the legislation has become law.
The Senate version of the Medicare bill (S 3) failed after Republicans "refused to let it come up for debate," and House Democrats are "threatening to attach the bill to must-pass government funding bills," the Post reports.
In addition, although the Senate version of the stem cell research bill (S 5) passed, President Bush has said he would veto the legislation.
According to the Post, the developments have some Democrats "growing nervous that the 'do nothing' tag they slapped on Republicans last year could come back to haunt them."
An ABC News/Post poll released in April found that 73% of U.S. residents believe Congress has done "not too much" or "nothing at all" this year.
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), chair of the House Democratic Campaign Committee, said, "People understand the Democrats in Congress are doing everything in their power to move an agenda forward, doing everything possible to change direction in the war in Iraq, and the president is standing in the way."
Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), chair of the Senate Republican Conference, said that Democrats are "trying to score political points" but have not proven "they can govern" (Weisman/Layton, Washington Post, 5/5).
In related news, the House on Monday likely will vote on a motion to move the fiscal year 2008 budget resolution to conference. The budget resolution likely will not include proposals by Bush to make specific reductions in funding for Medicare or Medicaid but likely will require committees with jurisdiction over entitlement programs to find unspecified savings to cover the cost of expansions of SCHIP and other programs.
Meanwhile, the Senate on Monday likely will vote on a proposed amendment to the Prescription Drug User Fee Act reauthorization bill (S 1082) that would allow prescription drug reimportation and a proposed second-degree amendment that would require the HHS secretary to certify that reimportation would not pose safety risks and would reduce the cost of prescription drugs.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said that the Senate will vote to end debate on the reauthorization bill after the votes on amendments (CongressDaily, 5/7).
American Public Media's "Marketplace Morning Report" on Monday reported on the scheduled vote on the reimportation amendment. The segment includes comments from Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), co-sponsor of the amendment, and John Vernon, an assistant professor of finance at the University of Connecticut (Dimsdale, "Marketplace Morning Report," American Public Media, 5/7).
Audio and a transcript of the segment are available online.
NPR's "Morning Edition" on Monday also reported on the scheduled vote. The segment includes comments from Billy Tauzin, president and CEO of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America; Randall Lutter, acting FDA deputy commissioner for policy; and Dorgan (Neel, "Morning Edition," NPR, 5/7).
Audio of the segment is available online.