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Pence: Healthcare reform fight 'ain't over by a long shot.’ With Congress out of town for the month and most people in Washington assuming the healthcare push is dead, Vice President Mike Pence spoke about the need for healthcare reform at the Tennessee GOP 2017 Statesmen's Dinner at Music City Center in Nashville. While healthcare reform stalled in the Senate last week, Pence said he remained optimistic the GOP can revisit the issue before the end of the year. "This ain't over by a long shot … we won't rest until we end the Obamacare nightmare once and for all," Pence said. "We're going to keep fighting until Congress sends a bill to his desk to repeal and replace Obamacare."
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Senate confirms 65 Trump nominees on last day before August break. The move reflected a deal between Republicans and Democrats that let lawmakers return home for the summer. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell moved the nominations in a large package agreed to by voice vote, meaning no senators objected. Democrats agreed to move the nominees forward quickly, ending months of delays and obstructions to nearly every Trump nominee. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer had been dragging out confirmations to protest the GOP effort to repeal and replace Obamacare by using a procedural move that would have thwarted the ability of Democrats to filibuster. With the effort to move that bill stalled indefinitely and bipartisan hearings on the embattled healthcare law underway, Schumer agreed to move what became known as "the package" of nominees. "The Senate has confirmed more executive branch nominees this week than all of the executive branch nominees confirmed this year combined," said McConnell, R-Ky. "I hope this agreement represents a way forward on confirming nominees so our government can be fully staffed and working for the American people."
Senate passes FDA funding package. The Senate overwhelmingly passed legislation to reauthorize key funding for the Food and Drug Administration, with the measure including key amendments to tackle high drug prices and access to experimental drugs. The Thursday vote of 94-1 sends the legislation on the FDA's user fee program to President Trump, who is expected to sign it, according to a White House aide. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., was the lone no vote. The bill reauthorizes the FDA's program through which it charges fees for new drug or device applications. The FDA in turn uses that money to speed up approval of new drugs and devices. The program must be reauthorized every five years and traditionally receives bipartisan support.
Included in the package are amendments to boost competition for generic drugs. One measure lets the FDA speed up approval of a generic drug to compete with a drug that has limited or no competition and its manufacturer has jacked up its price.
Ryan Zinke under investigation for healthcare pressure play. The Interior secretary is under investigation by his own agency's inspector general over reports that he threatened Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, with repercussion for her healthcare vote last week. The Interior Department's Office of the Inspector General said Thursday that it has started a "preliminary investigation" into the reports after two senior House Democrats filed a formal petition with the IG and the Government Accountability Office a week ago to determine if Zinke violated anti-lobbying laws. "The OIG is undertaking a preliminary investigation into this matter," Deputy Inspector General Mary Kendall stated in a letter to Energy and Commerce Committee ranking member Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., and Natural Resources Committee ranking member Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz. "We will advise you about what further action the results of this inquiry lead the OIG to take." The investigation was announced just hours after Zinke tweeted a photo of him and Murkowski having beers together, calling her a friend.
Murkowski details Trump's pressure on Obamacare repeal. The Alaska Republican told President Trump directly she wasn’t going to toe the party line on Obamacare repeal during a recent visit to the White House. Murkowski was one of three Republicans to vote against Obamacare repeal in the Senate last week. “I had an opportunity when we were at the White House. It was a very directed appeal that we need to come together as Republicans,” Murkowski said in a CNN interview alongside Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who also bucked her party. “I made a statement to the president with my colleagues and his team there that I am not voting for the Republican Party. I am voting for the people of Alaska.”
Murkowski refused to go into details about a call with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke soon after she voted against starting debate on a repeal bill. She only told CNN that the call was on healthcare and that he said the health bill was "very important to the president.” Collins said she remembers “being so proud” of Murkowski for telling the president what her obligations were. “The people of Maine don’t expect me to be a rubber stamp,” Collins added.
Sen. Mike Lee raises doubts about Congressional Budget Office projections. In an opinion piece for the Washington Examiner, the Republican senator from Utah writes, “ Congress does need a scorekeeper to provide budgetary estimates for the policy changes it considers. But at a bare minimum, that scorekeeper should be forced to show how its models work. Currently the CBO doesn't have to do that. It's a ‘black box,’ a secret formula even Congress can't be allowed to see, yet which the House and Senate must treat as if they were handed down on stone tablets at Mt. Sinai.” Read more.
Lawyer sues GOP over Obamacare repeal failure. Looks like Republicans could take heat in the courtroom in addition to town halls over their failure to repeal Obamacare. A retired lawyer in Virginia Beach is suing the national and Virginia Republican parties to recoup political donations he made, according to a report in the Virginia Pilot. He says the GOP engaged in fraud and racketeering by taking donations on the pretense of repealing Obamacare while “knowing they weren’t going to be able to” overturn it, the Pilot reported. The attorney, Bob Heghmann, said he believes he can sue the party because he gave $875 to New Hampshire’s state GOP. It isn’t known if he gave any money to the national Republican Party. Heghmann moved to Virginia Beach last year.
ProPublica Accreditors can keep their hospital inspection records secret, feds decide
Politico Republicans leave town with no clear path on Obamacare
Axios Why 2018 could lead to more Medicaid expansion
Roll Call Bipartisan healthcare work taking shape in the Senate
Bloomberg Big health insurers beat on Wall Street, ignoring D.C. chaos
New York Times With few wins in Congress, Republicans agree on need to agree
NPR After healthcare collapse, GOP seeks redemption with tax cuts
Wall Street Journal FDA emails offers rare look into internal battle over a drug’s approval
SUNDAY | Aug. 6
Aug. 6-9. Philadelphia Marriott Downtown. National Association of Insurance Commissioners summer meeting. Details.