This blog post covers the damage that the Trump Administration – and the GOP – have done in an effort to restrict and remove access to health care from the American people. The series could be described as “receipts”.
The good news is that the Trump Administration ends on January 20, 2021. The Biden-Harris Administration will replace them.
Joe Biden was Vice-President during the Obama Administration – when the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act went into affect. I believe the incoming administration will put great effort into ensuring that people have affordable health care.
There is more good news! The results of the 2020 election – including the Georgia runoff election – put Democrats in a good place. We will have a President who is a Democrat, a Democratic majority in the House, and a Democratic majority in the Senate.
This blog post also highlights everything that the Democrats (and other people outside of government) have done in an effort to protect American’s access to health care – of all types. That includes protections for DACA recipients and people who are LGBTQ+.
You may want to take a look at previous blog posts in this series. Doing so will give you an overall picture of what the Trump Administration and the GOP have done to harm American’s health since 2017.
December 2, 2020: California Attorney General Xavier Becerra posted a press release titled: “Attorney General Becerra Secures Appellate Court Victory in Lawsuit Challenging Trump Administration Public Charge Rule”. From the press release:
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today secured an order from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirming a prior preliminary injunction in a multistate lawsuit challenging the Trump Administration’s public charge rule. The rule targets working immigrants and their families by turning the use of critical health, nutrition, and housing programs that supplement their modest incomes into barriers to lawful admission to the United States. The appellate court’s order applies to the multistate coalition and states involved in related Ninth Circuit cases.
“We applaud today’s decision blocking the Trump Administration from enforcing its immoral public charge rule while we make our case in court,” said Attorney General Becerra. “As we continue to face an unprecedented economic and public health crisis, forcing hardworking families to choose between basic necessities and maintaining their immigration status is inhumane. Attacking the healthcare of even one community is an attack on us all. Today’s victory is critical, but the fight is not over. We won’t let the Trump Administration’s assault on our immigrant communities go unchecked.”
Longstanding guidance by the federal government defined a public charge as a person who is primarily dependent on either public cash assistance for income maintenance or institutional long-term care at the government’s expense. The Trump Administration has sought to expand this definition by declaring that the use of additional government programs constitutes grounds for a public charge determination, including healthcare through Medi-Cal (California’s Medicaid program), nutrition and food support through CalFresh (California’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), and housing for families through Section 8 housing assistance. The public charge rule has an outsized impact on California, where one in four people are immigrants and one in two children have an immigrant parent. The rule discourages eligible immigrant and mixed immigration-status families, who are not otherwise subject to the rule, from applying for benefits that they need and are entitled to. It also makes it harder for low- and moderate-income immigrants to be admitted into the United States or obtain green cards…
…Attorney General Becerra is joined in the case by the attorneys general of the Maine, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia.
A copy of the decision is available here.
December 2, 2020: American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) posted a news release titled: “ACOG Appleauds CMS for Finalizing Obstetric Payment Updates, Urges Congress to Act on Gynecologic Care”. From the news release:
The following statement was released by Eva Chalas, MD, FACOG, FACS, president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), and Maureen G. Phipps, MD, MPH, FACOG, chief executive officer of ACOG, on the final rule announced yesterday by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) for the 2021 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule:
“ACOG applauds the CMS for finalizing the proposed payment update for obstetric services. This is just one of many steps to ensure continued access to quality medical care for pregnant and postpartum women. We strongly encourage state Medicaid programs and commercial payers to follow suit and recognize the importance of fair, equitable payment rates for obstetric services. ACOG and its members advocated for the CMS to amend a prior proposal that would have cut rates for obstetric services and threatened access to quality maternity care and we are pleased that our members’ voices were heard.
“ACOG is also unwavering in our commitment to ensuring that women have access to care throughout their lifespan, as the health of women, their families, and their communities depends on it. ACOG is gravely disappointed that CMS finalized deep cuts in surgical services, including gynecologic services and cancer care. At a time when patients experience the consequences of barriers to care daily, cuts could further decimate access to lifesaving care and create additional barriers.
“We are also disappointed in the CMS’s disregard for the challenges that frontline health care professionals face in securing personal protective equipment and the rollback of several telehealth provisions at the end of 2021. The CMS had the opportunity to provide stabilization to physician practices and preserve patient access to care by finalizing payment for the increased cost of personal protected equipment and permanently implementing changes to telehealth payment. ACOG is committed to continuing to work to ensure that frontline health care professionals have the PPE that they need and that evidence-based telehealth services are available for our members and their patients.
“ACOG has continually advocated for the CMS to value women’s health services equitably and ensure that women’s health services value is on par with other evaluation and management value increases. We are surprised that the agency ignored the voice of the medical community in finalizing these cuts. While the final decision by the CMS is disappointing, Congress has the power to avert these harmful cuts and ensure that people do not face increased barriers to lifesaving care. This action is even more urgent during the COVID-19 pandemic, during which many physician practices are experiencing hardships and even closing.
“To ensure that the United States has a foundation for care after the pandemic ends, Congress must act now to preserve patient access to critical gynecologic care.”
December 2, 2020: NARAL Pro-Choice America posted a press release titled: “Reproductive Freedom Is Under Threat in States Across the Country”. From the press release:
Upon taking office in January, President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris are poised to begin undoing the Trump administration’s egregious attacks on reproductive freedom over the last four years.
However, anti-choice state lawmakers across the country remain determined to criminalize abortion – putting the advancement of their unpopular idelogy above the health and well-being of the American people, even during a still-raging pandemic. Thanks to the efforts of these anti-choice, anti-freedom legislators as well as Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s efforts to stack the federal judiciary with judges hostile to Roe v. Wade, reproductive freedom remains in jeopardy:
“Anti-choice, anti-freedom lawmakers are determined to do whatever it takes to end the legal right to abortion—and thanks to Trump and Mitch McConnell’s takeover of the federal judiciary, reproductive freedom is in real jeopardy,” said Kristin Ford, national communications director at NARAL Pro-Choice America. “We must remain vigilant as attacks on reproductive freedom continue at the state level and do all that we can to ensure that every body has the freedom to control their own lives, bodies, and futures.”
State lawmakers and judges hostile to our fundamental rights are putting reproductive freedom in danger in states across the country:
- In Arkansas, anti-choice Republicans in the state legislature recently filed legislation to criminalize abortion. The bill’s sponsor said the measure was meant to challenge Roe v. Wade in light of Amy Barrett’s confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court.
- A federal appeals court allowed Texas and Louisiana to block Medicaid patients from accessing healthcare at Planned Parenthood health centers. According to the Associated Press, though the Fifth Circuit previously blocked Texas and Louisiana’s bans on Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood, last month’s decision to allow the bans to proceed comes after the addition of six Trump nominees to the court, four of whom participated in this case.
- A federal appeals court allowed provisions of Tennessee’s expansive abortion ban passed earlier this year to go into effect, giving the green light to yet another attempt to chip away at the right to abortion.
- Last week in Nebraska, a law banning a safe and common method of providing abortion care went into effect.
Just before Election Day, Donald Trump and Senate Republicans jammed through the confirmation of Amy Barrett, a judge with a record of hostility towards the legal right to abortion, to the Supreme Court. Barrett’s presence on the Court solidifies an anti-choice supermajority on the bench that could threaten our fundamental rights for decades. Dozens of cases that put Roe and access to abortion care at risk are making their way to the Supreme Court. Barrett has already proven her willingness to be the deciding vote on cases weighing ideology versus science, such as when she voted in last week’s 5-4 decision to block enforcement of New York’s public health guidelines that restricted attendance at houses of worship to prevent COVID-19 transmission.
The confirmation of Trump nominee Brett Kavanaugh, another justice hostile to reproductive freedom, tipped the Court to an anti-choice majority in late 2018. With a newly minted majority opposing abortion rights, anti-choice state lawmakers launched an all-out assault on Roe in hopes that a challenge would make its way to the Court and lead to the rollback of the landmark case. Bans on abortion were introduced, passed, or signed in 31 states in 2019 alone.
December 4, 2020: Senator Chuck Schumer (Democrat – New York) posted a press release titled: “Following National Push Launched In Upstate New York, Schumer Announces Must-Pass National Defense Bill Will Authorize $8 Billion In New Critical Health Benefits For Vets Suffering From Agent Orange-Linked Illnesses”. From the press release:
After successfully securing in July an amendment to the Senate’s Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which expanded the list of diseases associated with Agent Orange exposure, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today announced that the final version of the FY2021 NDAA includes his amendment, which authorizes $8 billion in new benefits for vets suffering from Agent Orange-linked illnesses. Schumer explained that upon the president’s signature, nearly 240,000 veterans around the country who might be suffering from bladder cancer, hypothyroidism and parkinsonism will be able to access healthcare and benefits, numbers that have expanded because of the senator’s amendment associating additional diseases with exposure to Agent Orange.
“After years and years of suffering and fighting, I proudly stood shoulder to shoulder with our Vietnam Vets who were exposed to Agent Orange to get Congress to finally take a major step forward so they get access to the medical care they need,” said Senator Schumer. “It’s taken far too long, and we still need to see this change signed into law. But veterans across the country are celebrating today as a victory, and we will work together to get this across the finish line in the very near future so those who put their lives on the line for our freedom can get the healthcare they deserve.”
Schumer added, “I’m especially proud today to have expanded access to this incoming influx of benefits by securing an amendment that adds bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, and Parkinsonism to the list of diseases associated with Agent Orange. Our veterans did not hesitate in the face of danger to fight for our country, and we must not nickel and dime them as they fight for their health now.”..
…Schumer emphasized the importance of adding added bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, and Parkinsonism to the list of diseases associated with ‘Agent Orange’ exposure, and reiterated just how long this fight has been waged. Last year, the Senator secured a provision in the budget deal requiring OMB and the VA to issue a detailed report to Congress on the delay in adding these conditions to the presumptive conditions list, BUT the report was woefully insufficient and Schumer said those agencies failed to properly explain why they were denying veterans. In addition to the failure to include bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, and Parkinsonism on the Agent Orange presumptive conditions list, the VA has never acted on a 2018 National Academies report that found sufficient evidence of association between exposure to herbicides and hypertension.
Schumer also explained that per the Agent Orange Act of 1991, the VA automatically accepts that if a Vietnam Veteran physically served in Vietnam between January 1962 and May 1975, it is probable that the veteran was exposed to an herbicide agent like Agent Orange. Furthermore, the Act established a list of “presumed” diseases that the VA stipulates are caused by Agent Orange exposure. Therefore, if a veteran served in Vietnam at any time between 1962-1975 and is diagnosed with one or more of the diseases VA recognizes as service connected, the VA will compensate the veteran and his or her family. However, even though there has been scientific evidence linking Parkinsonism, bladder cancer and hypothyroidism to Agent Orange exposure, they are not currently on the VA’s list of recognized presumptive conditions.
Schumer said if an Agent Orange-related condition isn’t specifically listed on the presumptive conditions list then the VA forces the suffering veterans and their families to argue their claim in a lengthy, bureaucratic appeals process that can last years and often end in a denial. In many cases the veteran will die before the process is even concluded. Schumer said veterans shouldn’t have to wage their own war to gather the scientific facts and medical opinions about hypothyroidism in order to receive the care and benefits needed to treat the illnesses they contracted because they served our nation. Schumer said that is absolutely crucial that thousands of Vietnam-era veterans in New York State receive the healthcare benefits they need and deserve, and final passage of his amendment in the NDAA will allow that to happen.
December 4, 2020: Senator Bernie Sanders (Independent – Vermont) posted a press release titled: “Sanders Statement on Manchin-Romney COVID19 Proposal”. From the press release:
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) issued the following statement on the Manchin-Romney COVID19 legislative proposal”
“Given the enormous economic desperation facing working families in this country today, I will not be able to support the recently announced Manchin-Romney COVID proposal unless it is significantly improved.
“Unfortunately, despite long-time Democratic opposition, this proposal provides 100% legal immunity to corporations whose irresponsibility has led to the deaths of hundreds of workers. It would continue to provide a get-out-of-jail free card to companies that put the lives of their workers and customers at risk. In fact, the Manchin-Romney proposal will, through this liability provision, encourage corporations to avoid implementing the common sense safety standards needed to protect workers and consumers – and make a bad situation worse.
“Further, during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, when over half of our workers are living paycheck to paycheck, when one out of four workers are either unemployed or make less than $20,000 a year, when 92 million Americans are uninsured or under-insured, when tens of millions of people face eviction and when hunger in America is exploding, it is unacceptable that the Manchin-Romney proposal does not even do what the CARES Act did and provide, at the very least, a $1,200 direct payment to working class Americans and $500 for their kids. Tens of millions of Americans living in desperation today would receive absolutely no financial help from this proposal. That is not acceptable.
“Last March, with unanimous support in Congress, President Trump signed the $2 trillion CARES Act into law that provided a $600 a week supplement in unemployment benefits and a $1,200 direct payment to every working class adult, $500 per child and significant help for small businesses, states and cities. In October, as part of the negotiating process, the Trump Administration and a bi-partisan coalition in the House supported over $1.8 trillion in COVID-relief that also included another $1,200 direct payment.
“Today, however, at a time when the COVID crisis is the worst that it has ever been in the U.S. with record-breaking levels of hospitalization and death, the Manchin-Romney proposal not only provides no direct payments to working families, it does nothing to address the healthcare crisis and has totally inadequate financial assistance for the most vulnerable. That is wrong morally and it is wrong economically if we hope to rebuild the economy.
“The American people need help and they need help now. In my view, we have got to make sure that every working class American receives at least $1,200 in direct payments and that we do not provide a liability shield to corporations who break the law.
“I look forward to working with my colleagues in the House and Senate to significantly improve this bill. But, in its current form, I cannot support it.”
December 4, 2020: Senator Elizabeth Warren (Democrat – Massachusetts) posted a press release on her website titled: “Warren, Pressley Ask Independent Watchdog to Investigate Racial Inequity in Pandemic Response”. From the press release:
United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, and Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), a member of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, sent a letter to Gene L. Dodaro, U.S. Comptroller General, requesting a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on how COVID-19 relief funds have been distributed to disproportionately affected communities. The request seeks to examine how much federal COVID-19 relief funding went to businesses and providers located in low-income and medically underserved communities, as well as Tribal businesses and health care providers, community health centers, and other organizations serving high-need populations.
“The health and economic effects of the pandemic have been especially severe in communities of color and Native communities, yet it is not clear whether federal relief resources have reached these communities in proportion to their need. We, therefore, request an evaluation of supplemental appropriations provided under COVID-19 relief laws, including the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, with regard to how funds have been distributed to disproportionately affected communities,” wrote the lawmakers.
The coronavirus pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on communities of color and Native communities. Black, Hispanic/Latino, and American Indian/Alaska Native people are being hospitalized with COVID-19 at higher rates and are dying from COVID-19 at younger ages. People living on tribal reservations are more than four times as likely to have been diagnosed with COVID-19 as the U.S. population as a whole. The same communities have also been hit hardest by the economic fallout: every month since the economic crisis began in March 2020, Black and Latino workers have had significantly higher unemployment rates than white workers, even after adjusting for age and education status.
To date, the federal government has spent trillions of dollars to sustain our health system and mitigate the economic fallout during this public health emergency. However, it is not clear whether that relief has successfully reached the communities that are most in need. A survey of Black and Latino business owners found that only 12% of those who applied for a loan from the Paycheck Protection Program were approved for the full amount, and half expected their businesses to permanently close within six months.
In health care, a study of the Provider Relief Fund found that hospitals with the most revenue from private insurance received more than twice as much funding per hospital bed as the hospitals with the least private insurance revenue – raising the question of whether funds truly reached health care providers serving communities that are most in need. COVID-19 testing may also be harder to obtain for people of color: one analysis found that testing sites located in predominantly Black and Hispanic neighborhoods of major cities face higher demand than those in predominantly white areas of those same cities, leading to longer wait times. Independent analyses have found that ZIP codes with large white populations have had more testing sites throughout the pandemic than ZIP codes with more people of color, and 35 percent of rural Black Americans live in a “highly vulnerable testing desert.”…
December 4, 2020: California Attorney General Xavier Becerra posted a press release titled: “Attorney General Becerra Leads Coalition Opposing Dangerous HHS Deregulation by the Trump Administration”. From the press release:
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today led a coalition of attorneys general in submitting comments opposing the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ (HHS) misguided proposal to automatically “sunset” any HHS regulation that the agency does not review within a short time frame. The rule is an unprecedented and dangerous attempt by the Trump Administration to impede the incoming Biden Administration while the country grapples with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The rule impacts all of HHS’s regulations, putting in jeopardy the Department’s programs and services nationwide. Under the proposed rule, these regulations could abruptly end if not reviewed in the short time frame allotted, threatening critical programs like Medicaid, food safety, and medical and pharmaceutical research. The unlawful rule gives the agency just two years to review the regulations, unnecessarily hamstringing the incoming Administration.
“As he’s on his way out, in the midst of a pandemic, the president is sowing chaos in our healthcare system,” said Attorney General Becerra. “This rule is an attempt by the outgoing Trump Administration to make it more difficult for President-elect Biden and his incoming administration to put in place useful policies that will see our country through the pandemic. This medieval proposal places American’s healthcare across the country in jeopardy. We urge Secretary Azar to withdraw this proposal.”
In today’s letter, the coalition of attorney’s general argue this deregulation attempt by the Trump Administration will mire HHS in red tape during a global pandemic when the country needs the agency’s resources most, making it nearly impossible for the new Administration to enact new pandemic-related regulations. In addition, the drastic scope of the rule will put trillions of dollars in federal funding on which the states rely at risk.
The coalition argues the proposed rule:
- Is unprecedented and dramatic in scope and poses a threat to the States’ healthcare systems and as a result, the health and safety of the states’ residents;
- Is legally questionable since it claims to implement the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA), which Congress enacted to minimize the impact regulations have on small entities with limited resources. Instead. the rule would add expiration dates to all HHS regulations. Further, HHS lacks the legal authority for such action;
- Will drain agency resources and create significant uncertainty for state programs that would have to deal with the consequences if they federal regulations they rely on suddenly expired; and
- Is deeply problematic given it was proposed just a month before a new president takes office and while the country continues to weather the pandemic, and gives the public only 30 days to comment, in spite of the fact that it impacts every HHS regulation.
In submitting today’s comment letter, Attorney General Becerra was joined by the attorneys general of Colorado, Connecticut. Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia.
A copy of the comment letter is available here.
December 7, 2020: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (Democrat – California) posted a press release titled: “Pelosi Statement on Biden-Harris Appointments in Health Care”. From the press release:
Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued this statement after President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris announced appointments for key health care roles:
“President-elect Biden has nominated an outstanding health care team, whose leadership, will be critical in the fight to crush the coronavirus and defend every American’s right to quality, affordable health care.
“Attorney General Becerra is a towering champion of health care, whose strategic leadership, keen intellect and outstanding policy expertise were essential in the defense of the Affordable Care Act in the Courts. As Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, he will be a vital force for progress.
“Jeff Zeints, Dr. Anthony Fauchi, Dr. Vivik Murthy, Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, Dr. Rochelle Walensky and Natalie Quillian bring great understanding and expertise to the challenges to health and financial security facing hard-working American families. Their leadership during this precarious moment will be life-saving, and our Democratic House Majority looks forward to working with this outstanding team.”
December 8, 2020: NARAL Pro-Choice America Responds to Hearing on Hyde Amendment’s Discriminatory Ban on Abortion Coverage”. From the press release:
Today, the U.S. House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies held a hearing on the harms of the racist and discriminatory Hyde Amendment and related abortion coverage bans.
NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue released the following statement in response:
“Discriminatory bans on abortion coverage like the Hyde Amendment are designed to push needed care out of reach—particularly for marginalized people who are already burdened by multiple structural barriers that block access to abortion. We must end this harmful policy in order to realize a future where reproductive freedom is a reality for every body, regardless of who they are or how much money they make. Pregnant people with low incomes and women of color must have access to reproductive healthcare that centers their dignity and decision making when they are trying to avoid unintended pregnancy, end a pregnancy, or give birth to healthy children.”
The Hyde Amendment refers to a series of bans on coverage of abortion care for those who receive their health insurance through the federal government, including those who are insured through Medicaid, Medicare and CHIP, federal employees and their dependents, military service members, veterans, and their dependents, Peace Corps volunteers, Indigenous communities, women who are incarcerated or held in immigration detention facilities, and people with low incomes in Washington, DC. Abortion coverage bans like the Hyde Amendment disproportionately hurt people already harmed by disparities in our healthcare systems, especially Black and Brown women, transgender and non-binary people, and those with lower incomes.
Today’s hearing comes during a momentous year when an invigorated Movement for Black Lives, an unprecedented pandemic, and imperatives for economic justice have all taken center stage and highlighted a system that upholds white supremacy and perpetuates life-threatening racial disparities in healthcare, criminal justice, education, and more. It also comes at a moment when the future of reproductive freedom is front and center now that Trump, Mitch McConnell, and Senate Republicans rammed through the confirmation of Amy Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court and solidified an anti-choice supermajority on the Court hostile to Roe v. Wade. Their anti-choice, anti-freedom agenda could not be more out of step with the majority of Americans who support reproductive freedom. Polling shows that the majority of Americans support ending the Hyde Amendment and that 77% of Americans support the legal right to abortion.
In August, House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said that the Hyde Amendment would not be included in funding bills starting next year. U.S. Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), who convened today’s hearing and was elected last week as chair of the House committee that is responsible for funding the federal government’s functions, recently reiterated her commitment to ending the discriminatory budget amendment.
During the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, candidates including both President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris coalesced around the party’s core values by voicing their support for ending the Hyde Amendment’s ban on abortion coverage once and for all. In July, NARAL Pro-Choice America joined a national coalition of progressive groups in their successful effort to urge the Democratic Party to deepen its advocacy for reproductive freedom by reaffirming key proposals included in the 2016 platform such as ending the Hyde Amendment. Politicians should never be allowed to interfere and deny coverage for abortion care based on how much money somebody has or how they get their insurance.
December 8, 2020: Representative Ayanna Pressley (Democrat – Massachusetts) posted a press release titled: “Rep. Pressley Continues Fight to End Discriminatory Hyde Amendment”. From the press release:
Today, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), Chair of the Pro-Choice Caucus’s Abortion Rights and Access Task Force, submitted a letter for the Congressional Record to Reps. Rosa DeLauro (CT-03) and Tom Cole (OK-04), Chairwoman and Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies, expressing her unequivocal support for eliminating the Hyde Amendment and all other harmful abortion coverage bans.
The Congresswoman’s letter comes as the Committee holds a historic hearing on the harm caused by the Hyde Amendment and the need to repeal the 44 year old policy.
“As our nation continues to face a moment of reckoning and transformation, it is absolutely critical that we remain unapologetic in our efforts to dismantle systems of oppression and stand against racist and discriminatory policies that push comprehensive health care—including abortion care—out of reach for our nation’s most vulnerable,” the Congresswoman wrote. “It is clear that the legal right to an abortion has never been enough and it is incumbent upon us to ensure that our policies and our budgets affirm the dignity and worth of all people, no exceptions.”
In her letter, Congresswoman Pressley commended Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro and Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13) for their leadership on these issues and for holding today’s hearing and emphasized the need to pass clean appropriation bills to ensure that comprehensive reproductive health care is available to all.
“Congress has a responsibility to proactively legislate racial and reproductive justice and meaningfully advance policies that affirm that abortion care is health care and that health care is a fundamental human right,” the Congresswoman continued.
First introduced 44 years ago by anti-choice, Republican lawmaker Rep. Henry Hyde in 1976, the Hyde Amendment has been included in federal funding bills every year since. This abortion coverage ban disproportionately harms low-income people, Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) communities, transgender and gender nonconforming people, and targets those who receive Medicaid coverage. Currently, an estimated 30 percent of Black women and 24 percent of Latina women of reproductive age are covered by Medicaid — in comparison to just 14 percent of white women. Additionally, research has found that abortion coverage bans like the Hyde Amendment perpetuate cycles of poverty and economic inequality.
As Chair of the Pro-Choice Caucus’s Abortion Rights and Access Task Force, Congresswoman Pressley has fought tirelessly to protect comprehensive reproductive health care for all, including abortion care…
December 9, 2020: Senator Elizabeth Warren (Democrat – Massachusetts) posted a press release titled: “As Nation Grapples With COVID-19 Surge, Warren, Smith Release Their Findings on National Testing Capacity and Pediatric Testing Availability”. From the press release:
United States Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Tina Smith (D-Minn.), members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, sent a letter to Alex Azar, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) summarizing the findings from their investigation into the nation’s testing capacity and the availability of pediatric testing and making recommendations for how the federal government can improve national testing infrastructure.
On August 26, 2020, Senators Warren and Smith wrote to five of the largest COVID-19 testing laboratories regarding each company’s capacity to process COVID-19 diagnostic tests and deliver prompt results. From the responses to these letters, the lawmakers learned that lab companies experienced a large surge in COVID-19 diagnostic testing needs during the summer surge, straining lab company capacity and slowing test turnaround times in some cases. Supply shortages hampered their efforts to develop additional capacity. They also experienced confusion about payment and reimbursement in different scenarios – for instance, whether insurers or the government was responsible for payment when a test was not considered “medically necessary.”
Furthermore, in response to reports that families were having difficulty obtaining COVID-19 testing for their young children, on October 7, 2020, Senators Warren and Smith wrote to the retail providers participating in the HHS Community-Based Testing Sites partnership to ask for information about their policies regarding pediatric testing and their plans to expand testing to more age groups. They found that pediatric testing is becoming more widely available, though most retail providers were not currently offering testing for young children. The responses from the retail providers indicated that the primary barrier to expanding pediatric testing is the providers’ use of “self-swab” test kits, which are difficult for children or their caregivers to use. Additionally, independent pharmacies have had difficulty obtaining the tests needed to participate in the HHS program. Following Senator Warren and Smith’s letters, Walgreens announced that it would begin offering testing for children as young as three years old, and Rite Aid announced that it would offer testing for children as young as 13.
“Together, our findings reveal significant gaps in COVID-19 testing capacity, exacerbating the ongoing public health threat. Addressing these problems will require aggressive federal government action. We have previously called for dedicated federal funding and a national testing plan to ensure that everyone who needs a COVID-19 test can access one quickly and easily,” wrote the lawmakers…
December 10, 2020: California Attorney General Xavier Becerra posted a press release titled: “Attorney General Becerra Issues Statement on Unanimous U.S. Supreme Court Decision Upholding States’ Rights to Regulate the Rising Cost of Prescription Drugs”. From the press release:
Attorney General Xavier Becerra issued a statement today on the unanimous decision by the United States Supreme Court in Rutledge v. Pharmaceutical Care Management Association that upholds the rights of states to regulate and address the rising cost of prescription drugs. In March, the attorney general led a bipartisan coalition of 46 attorneys general in filing an amicus brief in the Supreme Court supporting the state of Arkansas’ position that federal law does not prevent states from regulating pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs). In the brief, the coalition also argued that regulation of the prescription drug market, including PBMs, is a critical tool states use to protect residents and address the access and affordability of prescription drugs. The Court agreed that federal law does not preempt these widespread and important state regulations.
“States are on the frontlines of the fight to keep prescription drug prices down and make them more accessible to those who rely on them,” said Attorney General Becerra. “We are happy the Supreme Court recognized today that states must be able to regulate PBMs, the pharmaceutical middlemen who manipulate drug prices and access. Today’s decision will ensure states are able to improve prescription drug marketplace transparency and protect access to affordable medication.”
PBMs act as intermediaries between pharmacies, drug manufacturers, health insurance plans, and consumers. They develop and maintain prescription drug formularies, contract with pharmacies, negotiate discounts with drug manufacturers, and process and pay prescription drug claims, and in this position, they have exercised their market power in a manner that harms consumers.
In submitting the amicus brief in March, Attorney General Becerra was joined by the attorneys general of Alabama, Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia.
A copy of the decision can be found here.
December 10, 2020: Senator Bernie Sanders (Independent – Vermont) posted a press release titled: “Sanders, Hawley Introduce $1,200 Direct Payments Amendment to Attach to End-of-Year Legislation”. From the press release:
Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) are introducing a bipartisan amendment to attach to must-pass legislation to be considered by Congress, which would provide $1,200 in direct payments to working-class adults and $500 to each of their children. This amendment, similar to what was passed in the CARES Act, would be attached to must-pass legislation to keep the government going.
“In the midst of this terrible pandemic and economic crisis, this amendment would make certain that working families get the urgent, direct support they need to survive,” said Sanders. “A direct payment of $1,200 for adults and $500 for kids would help desperate families pay rent and heating bills, put food on the table, and be able to go to the doctor. In the midst of so much economic desperation, Congress cannot go on recess without providing this $1,200 emergency assistance to the American people in their time of need. I look forward to working across the aisle with Senator Hawley to ensure that the United States Senate passes this amendment.”
“It would be a dereliction of duty if Congress adjourns for Christmas without having a vote on providing working families with direct payments,” said Hawley. “Working people are struggling. And they should be the first people given relief, not last. The crisis of rising unemployment claims, ever-expanding food lines, evictions, and growing credit card debt has been staring us in the face for months. It’s time we do something about it and provide emergency relief to Americans.”
The amendment is modeled on the $1,200 direct payment for working-class adults plus $500 for their children passed by Congress unanimously in the $2.2 trillion CARES Act in March and signed into law by President Trump.
Watch Sanders’ and Hawley’s floor remarks on this proposal here.
Read the text of the amendment here.
December 11, 2020: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (Democrat – California) posted a press release titled: “Pelosi Statement on Bipartisan, Bicameral Surprise Billing Agreement”. From the press release:
Speaker Nancy Pelosi released this statement on the bipartisan, bicameral agreement on legislation to end surprise billing:
“The bipartisan, bicameral agreement announced tonight will finally protect patients from surprise bills in both emergency and scheduled care. And with the patient taken out of the middle, the legislation creates a fair process for health care providers and health plans to sort out the out-of-network costs between themselves.
“The surprise billing of patients for unexpected out-of-network care is deeply unfair and financially devastating to families. It must be stopped.
“I especially congratulate Chairman Frank Pallone of the Energy & Commerce Committee, Chairman Bobby Scott of the Education & Labor Committee, and Chairman Richie Neal of the Ways & Means Committee as well as Senator Alexander, Chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee, for their leadership and dedication in reaching this bipartisan agreement. The House will push for this critical legislation to end surprise billing to be passed as part of the end-of-year package.”
December 14, 2020: Senator Bernie Sanders (Independent – Vermont) posted a press release titled: “Sanders on Manchin-Romney Deal: Congress Cannot Go Home Until Working Class Receives $1,200 Direct Payments”. From the press release:
Senator Sanders (I-Vt.) issued the following statement in response to the Manchin-Romney COVID19 legislation to be released this afternoon:
“As a result of the pandemic, tens of millions of Americans are facing economic desperation. They can’t afford to pay their rent and face eviction, they can’t afford to go to the doctor, they can’t afford to feed their children and they are going deeper and deeper into debt. Congress cannot go home for the Christmas holidays until we pass legislation which provides a $1,200 direct payment to working class adults, $2,400 for couples, and a $500 payment to their children. This is what Democrats and Republicans did unanimously in March through the CARES Act. This is what we have to do today.”
December 14, 2020: California Attorney General Xavier Becerra posted a press release titled: “Attorney General Becerra Leads Bipartisan Coalition on 340B Drug Pricing Program Requirements”. From the press release:
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today joined Connecticut Attorney General William Tong, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, and Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson in leading a bipartisan coalition of attorneys general urging the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to hold accountable drug manufacturers that are unlawfully refusing to provide discounts to federally qualified health centers, hospitals, and other providers that serve vulnerable patient populations through the 340B Drug Pricing Program. The 340B Drug Pricing Program provides discounts to covered healthcare entities that serve uninsured and low-income patients, and helps these providers keep costs low even as prescription drug prices rise. In today’s letter addressed to Health & Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, the attorneys general argue that by withholding or threatening to withhold these critical discounts, drug manufacturers Eli Lilly & Company, AstraZeneca PLC, Sanofi SA, Novartis Pharmaceuticals, Merck & Co., United Therapeutics Corp., and others, put low-income patients at risk of losing access to affordable medications while communities continue to battle the COVID-19 pandemic. The 340B Drug Pricing Program has strong bipartisan support, and Congress has acted numerous times to ensure drug manufacturers continue to comply with the program’s mandates.
“While Americans grapple with COVID-19, it is critical that we protect access to affordable care,” said Attorney General Becerra. “Discounts afforded under the 340B Drug Pricing Program are more critical now than ever. They ensure that low-income and uninsured patients have access to affordable medication as they deal with the substantial impact of the pandemic. We call on HHS to hold these non-compliant drug manufacturers accountable and provide immediate relief for healthcare centers and the Americans they serve.”
As a condition of having their drugs covered by Medicaid and Medicare Part B, Congress required drug manufacturers to enter into Pharmaceutical Pricing Agreements (PPA) with the HHS Secretary to limit the amount public hospitals, community health centers, and others serving indigent patients have to pay drug manufacturers for medications. These PPAs require the companies to offer each covered medication to providers “at or below the applicable ceiling price”. Instead of complying with their obligations, Eli Lilly & Company, AstraZeneca PLC, Sanofi SA, Novartis Pharmaceuticals, Merck & Co., United Therapeutics Corp., and others have unlawfully refused to provide discounts, potentially depriving Americans who rely on them with essential healthcare resources that they need as the country deals with a public health crisis. Under the 340B Drug Pricing Program, HHS has the authority to address violations of the program by drug manufacturers. For example, HHS may require manufacturers to reimburse covered healthcare centers and/or terminate manufacturers’ PPAs. While HHS has recently published regulations establishing an administrative dispute resolution (ADR) process under which covered entities can file complaints and seek relief, the ADR process is not sufficient to address immediate harm caused by drug companies.
In submitting today’s letter, Attorney General Becerra was joined by the attorneys general of Connecticut, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia.
A copy of the letter to HHS is available here.
December 15, 2020: Center for Reproductive Rights posted a press release titled: “Federal Appeals Court Denies Rehearing in Case Challenging Arkansas Abortion Restrictions”. From the press release:
The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals denied today the ACLU and the Center for Reproductive Rights’ request for en banc rehearing of an August 2020 decision that paved the way for Arkansas abortion restrictions to go into effect.
With this order, the four Arkansas laws at issue in the case could go into effect as soon as Dec. 22. Absent further court intervention, that would completely block many people from obtaining abortion care and would leave Arkansans with even more limited access to abortion. These laws are just four of the more 480 abortion restrictions states have passed across the country since 2011. These four laws were passed to:
- Ban the standard method of abortion provided after approximately 14 weeks of pregnancy in Arkansas;
- Require that patients’ partners or other family members be notified of their abortion;
- Force the health care center to report a teenage patient’s abortion to local police and allow the state crime lab to indefinitely hold their personal medical information; and
- Force physicians to request a vast number of medical records for each patient with no medical justification, violating physician-patient confidentiality and delaying – or outright blocking – access to abortion care.
“These Arkansas laws represent the worst motives of anti-abortion politicians: to shame, stigmatize, and humiliate abortion patients, and to make abortion care difficult if not impossible to access, ” said Ruth Harlow, senior staff attorney in the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project. “While we’re disappointed with this order from the Eighth Circuit, we’re not backing down — this fight is nowhere near over. To the state of Arkansas: We’ll see you back in court.”…
December 16, 2020: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (Democrat – California) posted a press release titled: “Pelosi Floor Speech in Support of Veterans Health Care and Benefits Improvement Act”. From the press release:
Speaker Pelosi: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I thank the gentleman for yielding and for his great leadership. He makes us so proud as Chair of the Veterans Affairs Committee, and I proudly rise in support of H.R. 7105, a strong, bipartisan package of legislation that meets or strives to meet our responsibility to honor the service and sacrifice of those who don the uniform.
The strength of this package and its support across the aisle is a testament to the outstanding leadership of Chairman Mark Takano. We are very proud of him, as a Californian, as a Member of this House.
And the bill has been all hands on deck effort, and I salute the many Members whose provisions and perspective have strengthened it. Congresswoman Julia Brownley, the Chair of the Health Subcommittee, on the Women’s Veterans Task Force, who has worked tirelessly to achieve gender equity at VA, including, now, through the landmark Deborah Sampson Act, included in this omnibus…
…Mr. Speaker, last year, many Members were blessed to be able to travel to Europe to mark 75 years [since] the Normandy landing and of the Battle of the Bulge on another visit. I mentioned Johnny, the Senator, at Normandy. At the commemoration of the Battle of Bulge, almost one year ago this day, I met a veteran in his nineties who urged us to pray for peace. To pray for peace…
…In that spirit of peace, hope and respect, the Congress has honored our veterans, their families and caregivers with transformative action. From the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act to expand benefits to those exposed to Agent Orange, to the really, cruelly unfair Widows Tax and Kiddie Tax – remember that? To passing the COMPACT Act to combat – combat veteran suicide, and to investing nearly $20 billion in VA readiness and pandemic research.
Now, the House is building on this bipartisan momentum with this omnibus, which includes provisions from nearly 60 House-passed bills. This bill strengthens veterans’ education, investing nearly $350 million in improving GI benefits for surviving family members, increasing work study options and fellowship opportunities for veterans, securing benefits for those who cannot complete courses due to the pandemic and more.
It safeguards veterans’ benefits, including by modernizing the benefit system with commonsense reforms, investing in benefits for surviving spouses and improving eligibility for housing and home loan assistance for National Guard and Reserve Members.
This bill protects veterans’ health, including care for those exposed to the coronavirus and burn pits, improving VA scheduling process, increasing reporting from state veteran homes in the light of the COVID outbreaks.
This bill is focused on justice, equality and opportunity. And we are particularly proud of the steps taken to help servicemembers transition to civilian work force, and to improve services and VA access to Native American veterans, including eliminating their copays.
House Members can take pride in the inclusion of Congresswoman Brownley’s Deborah Sampson Act, the crown jewel in this package and the most comprehensive women’s veterans bill in over a decade. This bill improves the health, benefits, education and VA support system for women veterans, including by repairing – requiring the VA to create the anti-harassment and anti-assault policy, improving women-specific primary care, expanding access to child care and strengthening mental health initiatives.
This bill could not be more timely. Last week, the VA Inspector General’s report found an appalling coverup and discrediting of a woman veteran who works in the taskforce that creates – that created this legislation, at the hands of Secretary Wilkie and top VA officials. It is a profound injustice for any patriot with the courage to serve to have to experience having his or her voice silenced and integrity questioned.
Congress will not relent until every servicemember, every veteran and every woman can live free from the fear of assault or abuse. This package was drafted in consultation – this is what I’m so proud of because, on a regular basis, we meet with the veterans service organizations and it is their opportunity to tell us what their priorities are…
…This package was drafted in consultation with leading veterans groups and we’re proud to have the support of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion, the Military Officers Association of America, Student Veterans of America, Disabled American Veterans, the National Military Family Association, Iraq and Afghan Veterans of America, the Association of the U.S. Navy, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Veterans Education Success, just to name a few. The list goes on.
As we send this package to the President’s desk, House Democrats are ready to take further action to honor our veterans in the next Congress working alongside the Biden-[Harris] – the Biden-Harris Administration…
December 16, 2020: NARAL Pro-Choice America posted a press release titled: “Trump Administration Petitions Supreme Court to Undercut Medication Abortion Care During Global Pandemic”. From the press release:
Yesterday, the Trump administration submitted yet another petition to the U.S. Supreme Court seeking to reinstate a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rule that requires patients to travel to a health center during a global pandemic in order to obtain medication abortion care. Last week, the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland upheld an injunction blocking this requirement, making it easier for people to access care without jeopardizing their health by unnecessarily exposing them to COVID-19.
In response to news of this petition, NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue released the following statement:
“This petition is just another politically-motivated attempt to block abortion access by a lame duck president hellbent on causing this country as much harm as possible in his final weeks in office. Instead of focusing on a pandemic that has killed more than 300,000 Americans, Trump is focused on blocking people from the time-sensitive essential care they need. Patients’ health and safety must always come first. Especially during this pandemic, healthcare policy should be guided by sound science—not an ideological agenda.”
Medication abortion is a safe, effective, and FDA-approved option for ending an early pregnancy. It involves taking two different prescribed medications. The ACLU’s lawsuit challenges the FDA’s current requirement that forces patients seeking medication abortion care to travel to a hospital, clinic, or medical office to pick up the first medication used in the two-step process, mifepristone. The ACLU filed the lawsuit on behalf of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, and others.
December 16, 2020: University of Vermont Medical Center posted a press release titled: “UVM Medical Center Rebukes Baseless Federal Enforcement Actions Threatening Access to Patient Reproductive Rights”. From the press release:
The University of Vermont Medical Center sent a letter today to the United States Department of Health Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) reaffirming its compliance with federal laws that provide hospital employees the ablity to opt-out of participating in medical procedures they oppose on religious or personal beliefs, which include reproductive care, sterilizations, blood transfusions, and others. The letter is in response to December 11 and December 14 correspondence from HHS threatening the hospital with federal enforcement stemming from an August 2019 “Notice of Violation” OCR issued to UVM Medical Center and the press, despite lacking any legal authority to do so. The administration’s new threat of litigation is an abrupt turnaround by HHS’s and OCR’s leaders, who agreed late last year to not recommend any further enforcement of OCR’s 2019 allegations, following multiple decisions by federal courts rejecting OCR’s interpretation of the law.
In the letter, UVM Medical Center informed HHS that it declined to further alter its opt-out policies and practices in a manner that would create barriers to the delivery of safe, legal, and effective reproductive health care and is also not required by law. In fact, since receiving OCR’s “Notice of Violation” last summer, the hospital has only strengthened its already-compliant provider opt-out policies and practices. For instance, the hospital has improved the way it schedules both patients and staff for pregnancy termination procedures, utilizing regular, designated operating room times for those procedures whenever possible and staffing them with providers who have opted into participating. Through this and other recent changes, UVM Medical Center’s goal is to eliminate those instances – already exceedingly rare – in which employees’ religious or moral beliefs come into conflict with the hospital’s patient care obligations, while enhancing the care provided to patients.
“As the primary tertiary care center for our region, we have an obligation to provide access to safe and legal reproductive health care to our patients who rely on us,” said Stephen Leffler, MD, President and Chief Operating Officer of UVM Medical Center. “At the same time, since we were first contacted by OCR last year, we have taken a thorough look at all of our policies and practices and have modified and strengthened them to respect the many beliefs of the thousands of care givers that work here. OCR’s latest threats are not just baseless from a legal standpoint, they’re an attack on reproductive care and we will do everything we can to protect our patients’ access to the services they need.”
The response by UVM Medical Center points out that the latest threat by HHS defies recent decisions issued by federal courts across the country, which have rejected the legal theory on which the current presidential administration is relying in its attempt to prevent the hospital from providing pregnancy termination services…
December 16, 2020: Planned Parenthood posted a press release titled: “Planned Parenthood Health Centers Selected for New Initiative Aimed at Expanding Patient Access to Contraception”. From the press release:
Today, as part of the We’re for Her initiative, Bayer announced that four health centers across the country will recieve grants from Direct Relief to help provide service to regions where there are high unintended pregnancy rates, steep barriers to accessing essential health care, and pressing need for sexual education. Two of the grantees named are Planned Parenthood affiliates, Planned Parenthood Great Plains (PPGP) and Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky (PPINK); they will each receive $40,000 to fund innovative projects in 2021, focused on expanding reproductive and sexual health and education in Indiana and Arkansas.
Statement from Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America:
“Planned Parenthood is thrilled to work with other nonprofits, corporate partners, and public health organizations to expand people’s access to expert, high-quality care and accurate health information. We’re grateful that Bayer and Direct Relief support sexual and reproductive health care and education, and understand that all people deserve access to the care they need, when they need it, no matter what.
“Throughout this pandemic, Planned Parenthood has been working to expand access to essential health care, reaching patients and communities in new and innovative ways, and providing sexual and reproductive health care services and information people need to stay healthy during this unprecedented health and economic crisis. Sexual and reproductive health doesn’t stop for a pandemic, and neither does Planned Parenthood…
December 17, 2020: Senator Chuck Schumer (Democrat – New York) posted a press release titled: “Schumer, Gillibrand Announce Nearly $892 Million in Federal Funding For New York’s Hospitals Battling Second Wave Of COVID Pandemic”. From the press release:
U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand announced today that 4,941 hospitals across New York will receive a total of $891,935,762 designated through previous COVID relief bills. The funding comes from the Provider Relief Fund and will make up for at least 87% of lost revenue at all hospitals and providers through Q2.
“As New York battles a second wave in COVID cases, our hospitals are once again stepping up to the plate, making incredible sacrifices by putting public health above profit for months, and working ceaselessly to help New York beat back the virus,” said Senator Schumer. “Today’s funding is critical to making up for lost revenues from the first wave and keeping our hospital doors open. New York and its hospitals have been amongst the hardest hit in the nation, and with this funding going out, the continuing frontline fight being waged by our health care system and its incredible workforce will receive the dollars they need, and so very much deserve, to keep saving lives.”
“We have asked so much of our doctors, nurses, hospital workers, and public health professionals across New York, and they continue to give it their all on the frontlines,” said Senator Gillibrand. “But the fact remains that they are being stretched to the limit, and are in desperate need of more resources to battle another dangerous surge. Today’s funding announcement is a great step in the right direction, but I won’t stop fighting until Washington delivers critical relief to hospitals and health care providers.”
Schumer was the lead author and architect of the ‘Marshall Plan for Healthcare’, included in previous COVID relief legislation, securing hundreds of billions of dollars in support and relief for the health care system. The senators said the funding announced today is the first revenue-based tranche going out to New York’s hospitals.
Across the state, hospitals and health systems reported losing hundreds of millions of dollars per month because of cancelled elective procedures, increased staffing and overtime costs, expanded bed capacity, and increased spending on supplies and equipment to meet the surge in COVID patients. As New York experiences a second wave of COVID cases, hospitals are facing huge financial risks again. Schumer and Gillibrand said today’s funding is imperative to keeping the state’s hospitals open and able to serve COVID patients.
December 17, 2020: NARAL Pro-Choice America posted a press release titled: “NARAL Pro-Choice America Responds to Trump Administration Attacking California for Safeguarding Reproductive Freedom”. From the press release:
Today, the Trump administration announced an inhumane effort to try to strip California of at least $200 million in federal healthcare funds during a global pandemic. This politically motivated announcement in the final days of the Trump administration is intended to punish the state for ensuring that Californians have access to comprehensive health insurance that includes coverage of abortion care.
This cruel announcement comes just one day after California surpassed its previous highest number of deaths due to COVID-19 in a single day as cases continue to skyrocket. More than 21,000 Californians have lost their lives due to COVID-19, and the state reported more than 53,000 new cases today alone. In the midst of a public health crisis, we should be strengthening and expanding access to healthcare, not rolling back access or punishing states that work to provide comprehensive coverage to their residents.
NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue released the following statement in response:
“The Trump administration’s threat to strip California of hundreds of millions of dollars in critical healthcare funding during a global pandemic is appalling. There is no limit to the destruction Trump is willing to leave in his wake as he is forced from office. He’s clearly attempting to play to a small group of supporters in this attack on healthcare and access to abortion. This pays no attention to the people he is punishing, especially BIPOC communities most hurt by these political games.”
NARAL Pro-Choice California Director Shannon Olivieri Hovis said:
“California is in the midst of a raging pandemic and the soon-to-be-former president of the United States is using his final days in office to attack funding for healthcare. We are proud that our state is committed to ensuring that Californians have comprehensive coverage for all of their healthcare needs — including abortion care.”
The Trump-Pence administration has spent the last four years systematically attacking the right to abortion and undermining reproductive freedom. Now, in the final days of the administration, Trump’s Department of Health and Human Services, led by anti-reproductive freedom Secretary Alex Azar, is arguing that California’s law guaranteeing insurance coverage of abortion care violates the Weldon Amendment, an annual budget rider designed to interfere with policies that expand access to and coverage of abortion care. Ironically, the amendment refers to such policies as “discrimination.” Notably, in 2016, HHS’ Office for Civil Rights rejected complaints about California’s abortion coverage requirement and determined that the requirement does not violate federal law. These kinds of attacks on insurance coverage for the full range of reproductive healthcare, including abortion care, especially hurt communities of color, trans and non-binary people, and those with lower incomes.
The Trump administration also announced today that the Department of Justice has filed a lawsuit against the University of Vermont Medical Center in an attack on the hospital’s policies that ensure patient access to reproductive healthcare, including abortion. This outrageous attack on a hospital, in the midst of a global pandemic, is further evidence that the Trump administration will stop at nothing to prioritize attacks on abortion access in its final days.
December 18, 2020: BuzzFeed News posted an article titled: “Mitch McConnell Is Trying To Block Mandatory Paid Sick Leave For Workers Who Get COVID”. It was written by Paul McLeod. From the article:
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is pushing to let businesses and governments deny sick leave to workers who fall ill with COVID-19.
As Congress negotiates an end-of-year pandemic aid bill, McConnell is trying to block an extension of a paid sick leave program for people who get COVID that expires in two weeks, according to multiple Hill sources with knowledge of the negotiations.
Back in March, Congress passed a law mandating that workers are able to draw two weeks of paid sick leave if they contract COVID, two weeks of paid sick leave to care for a quarantining relative, and up to 10 weeks of paid family leave to care for a child whose school or daycare is closed for COVID-related reasons.
Those provisions are set to expire at the end of the year. Democrats initially sought to broaden the scope of the program and extend it. Those goals were lowered to merely extending the program for several more months due to Republican opposition, according to one Senate aide. Now Republicans, led by McConnell, are opposing an expansion of the program altogether.
Paid sick leave was already watered down to exempt big businesses. Any company with over 500 employees does not fall under the requirement to provide paid leave…
Businesses with under 50 employees can also apply for exemptions to the requirement. The federal government is footing the bill for the entirety of paid leave costs for businesses through refundable tax credits.
But state and local governments are not eligible for the tax credit and must bear the sick leave costs on their own. Sen. Lamar Alexander, the powerful Republican chair of the Senate Health Committee, said this is why he opposes an extension of the program.
“Paid sick leave is a good idea. We do it in my office, the federal government now does it, and many businesses do it. Unfortunately, current paid leave proposals impose billions of dollars in an unfunded mandate on state and local governments,” Alexander said in a statement to BuzzFeed News. “If the federal government wants to require paid leave, the federal government should pay for it.”
The federal government can’t pay for it, however, because Republicans are also blocking funding for state and local governments from being included in the bill. This funding was one of the key demands from Democratic negotiators. But it was stripped out of the package, along with a Republican proposal for immunity from COVID lawsuits for businesses, because these were seen as the two most contentious negotiating points…
December 18, 2020: Planned Parenthood posted a press release titled: “Administration Puts Health Care Access In Limbo for Texans During the Worst Stretch of a Pandemic”. From the press release:
Today, Planned Parenthood is calling on Gov. Greg Abbott to maintain critical health care access for people with low incomes in Texas after the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals issued an order that could allow the state to “defund” Planned Parenthood. This is the latest in a five-year legal battle stemming from Gov. Abbott’s 2015 attempt to block Medicaid patients from getting care at Planned Parenthood health centers in Texas. The federal district court stepped in to prevent this from happening. The night before Thanksgiving, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling that gave Gov. Abbott permission to continue his attack. During legal battles over the last five years, Planned Parenthood affiliates have continued to serve thousands of patients through the Medical program each year, without incident or complaints from the Abbott administration.
Earlier this week, Planned Parenthood affiliates in Texas asked the Abbott administration for time to allow providers time to care for their patients during the COVID-19 pandemic and connect them with new providers. Without this grace period, patients who rely on Planned Parenthood for preventative care would be abandoned during the pandemic and abruptly left scrambling to find care in an already-overloaded Medicaid system.
During the most devastating public health crisis Texas has faced in a century, Planned Parenthood is calling on the Abbott administration to halt its efforts to dismantle health care for the most vulnerable Texans. This worsens the dual public health crises – systemic racism and COVID-19 – that disproportionately harm women and people of color who rely on programs like Medicaid. Blocking Medicaid patients from accessing basic health care at Planned Parenthood health centers would be devastating for the more than 8,000 Texans who rely on Planned Parenthood each year for high-quality, affordable services, including birth control, life-saving cancer screenings, STI testing and treatment, and more…
December 18, 2020: Planned Parenthood posted a press release titled: “Abbott Administration Puts Health Care Access In Limbo For Texans During the Worst Stretch of a Pandemic”. From the press release:
Today, Planned Parenthood is calling on Gov. Greg Abbott to maintain critical health care access for people with low incomes in Texas after the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals issued an order that could allow the state to “defund” Planned Parenthood. This is the latest in a five-year legal battle stemming from Gov. Abbott’s 2015 attempt to block Medicaid patients from getting care at Planned Parenthood health centers in Texas. The federal district court stepped in to prevent this from happening. Then right before Thanksgiving, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling that gave Gov. Abbott permission to continue his attack. During legal battles over the last five years, Planned Parenthood affiliates have continued to serve thousands of patients through the Medicaid program each year, without incident or complaints from the Abbott administration.
Earlier this week, Planned Parenthood affiliates in Texas asked the Abbott administration for time to allow providers time to care for their patients during the COVID-19 pandemic and connect them with new providers. Without this grace period, patients who rely on Planned Parenthood for preventive health care would be abandoned during the pandemic and abruptly left scrambling to find care in an already-overloaded Medicaid system.
During the most devastating public health crisis Texas has faced in a century, Planned Parenthood is calling on the Abbott administration to halt its efforts to dismantle health care for the most vulnerable Texans. This worsens the dual public health crises — systemic racism and COVID-19 — that disproportionately harm women and people of color who rely on programs like Medicaid. Blocking Medicaid patients from accessing basic health care at Planned Parenthood health centers would be devastating for the more than 8,000 Texans who rely on Planned Parenthood each year for high-quality, affordable services, including birth control, life-saving cancer screenings, STI testing and treatment, and more.
Excerpt of remark from Dr. Bhavik Kumar, medical director for primary and trans care, Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast:
“Anytime health care is restricted, people suffer. And it’s important to note that people of color and women rely on publicly funded health care programs like Medicaid at disproportionate rates because of systemic racism and discrimination in our country. There are no two ways about it: Blocking Medicaid patients from care at Planned Parenthood creates yet another sexist and racist barrier to affordable health care at a time when people need it most. Now, we’re asking the Abbott administration to give us time to ensure health care is not disrupted for more than 8,000 Texans. It’s the least they can do for the thousands of people who could soon lose their trusted provider in the middle of a pandemic.”
Excerpt of remark from Vanessa Rodriguez, call center manager, Planned Parenthood Greater Texas:
“Even before COVID-19 pushed our public health infrastructure to the brink, our patients enrolled in Medicaid had trouble getting an appointment quickly. And importantly, they do not feel safe or comfortable seeking sexual and reproductive health care with any provider. Patients should be able to access health care where they choose and, for many patients, that is at Planned Parenthood.”
Excerpt of remark from Jeffrey Hons, president & CEO, Planned Parenthood South Texas:
“We implore the state of Texas to, at the very least, do the minimum: Allow Planned Parenthood to continue providing care in the Medicaid program during the current crisis and give our patients time to find other providers, so they don’t go without care during a pandemic. The health care network for Medicaid recipients is not always easy to manage, and care is not always easy to find. The COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbating existing pressures on our safety- net infrastructure. The people who rely on Medicaid are the most vulnerable Texans, and likely experiencing some of the worst economic effects of the pandemic. Forcing people — many of whom are struggling to make ends meet, and care for their families in a global pandemic — to scramble for basic health care is terrible policy, certainly uncharitable, indeed un-American.”..
December 20, 2020: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (Democrat – California) posted a press release titled: “Pelosi Remarks at Media Availability on Coronavirus Relief & Omnibus Agreement with Leader Schumer”. From the press release:
…Our purpose has always been to crush the virus, put money in the pockets of the American people, which we do in this legislation. Sadly, our third purpose to honor our heroes was not fully appreciated by our Republican colleagues and so our support for state and local government, which significant in this legislation, requires more to be done. So, we consider this a first step. And that, again, more needs to be done. And we’re so excited that that will be happening under the Biden-Harris Administration, about 700 hours from now.
What I’m excited about in this bill – and it is really the Democratic difference – is what it does for America’s working families. As we see food lines all over the country. It was our legislation that had the initiatives for food, for nutrition, for our children in school and seniors, as well as America’s working families, their rental assistance and so many – let me just say about food, maybe 15 million children in America are food insecure. Many adult food insecure people. Highest percentage of them, I believe, is in the state of Kentucky. Nonetheless, the food, the nutrition piece of it has always been central to our Democratic proposal.
With the millions of people on the verge of eviction, we have rental assistance and a moratorium until the Biden Administration. Food, rental assistance, Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit for America’s working poor families. The Democratic difference. CDFI, assistance for Community Development Financial Institutions to help small business, minority-owned businesses, women-, veterans-, rural, Native American-owned businesses to participate in a way. Because they’re not big and they don’t have financial relationships, sometimes they are overlooked. But that is central to what our legislation has done.
Child care, child care. Children learning, parents earning. Very important, especially in the time of the pandemic, when children cannot actually in many cases, go to school. Therefore, their parents can’t go to work. Child care.
In addition, we’re very pleased that investments in transportation system and what that means to our economy, jobs, etc. WRDA is in this legislation. We’re very pleased that bipartisan, bicameral support for WRDA. That is a job creator, as well. The Employment Retention Tax Credit. Some of these things just made it in late this evening. That’s why it’s taking us longer to write the bill to bring it to the Floor. But these are some of the later developments. And, of course, we’re very proud that surprise billing is a part of this.
And again, one thing that we didn’t achieve – the money that was left over from the CARES Act: we wanted to have flexibility, so it could be used for revenue loss, as well as Coronavirus expenses by our communities in our states. Republican and Democratic governors, alike, supported that. We did get an extension of one year. So, perhaps, unfortunately, with the spread of the virus, they will have those kinds of expenses.
So, in any case, whether it’s education, transportation – let me just say this one thing, because I, from time to time, hear a question here, Mr. Leader: ‘What took so long?’ What took so long is because we could not get our Republican colleagues to crush the virus. I couldn’t understand it. Why would they not want to invest in the science that has told us so importantly that it required testing, tracing, treatment, separation, sanitation and the rest?
And when we had the bill in the Heroes Act and even in the smaller Heroes Act, because we reduced the time, they said, ‘We just made a light touch on your language on testing.’ No, 53 percent of it, to take out everything that referred to minority communities. Communities of color was so hard hit and all of this. And now, we see why. They didn’t believe in the science, we knew that. But they did believe in herd immunity. And that’s why they never, they never could come to that first bill pillar, to crush the virus.
So, for these and other reasons, we’re on a new path now. I’m proud of the legislation. It’s a first step, we need to do more. But they – what gives us hope is a vaccine, and we have to make that available, free and fairly, equitably distributed in our country and I encourage everyone to be vaccinated. And, again, what gives me hope is that in that 700 hours, Joe Biden will be President of the United States, bringing his values, his commitment to America’s working families to the fore as we prepare for additional legislation.
With that, I’m very pleased to, again, welcome our distinguished Democratic Leader of the Senate, praise him for his masterful work last evening, to take us from a place where American working families were shortchanged and left out to dry, except for his brilliance in getting the job done for us. In that spirit, I welcome Leader Schumer to the podium.
Leader Schumer: Now, while this bill is far from perfect, nor is it the bill that we would pass if Democrats had a Majority in the Senate, it is a strong shot in the arm to help American families weather the storm.
For the 20 million people who would lose unemployment benefits the day after Christmas, help is on the way. To the millions of small business owners who are worried their businesses would go under, help is on the way. To families struggling with less money, direct payments mean help is on the way. To people who might have been evicted from their homes because they didn’t have a job and couldn’t afford it, help is on the way. To those who need food because they have no money because of the pandemic, help is on the way. And to all of America who wants to make sure that the vaccine is distributed free and fairly and quickly, help is on the way.
So, this bill is certainly not everything we wanted. Our Republican friends stood in the way of so much, but it is a strong, strong shot in the arm to get things going. We all know that President Trump has made the economy a mess by how he treated the pandemic. We all know that President Biden is entering his presidency in an economic deep hole caused by President Trump. This bill helps him begin to get out of that hole. It is $900 billion. That is the second largest stimulus amount of dollars that has ever gone into the economy. The first being the CARES bill, which we negotiated with Secretary Mnuchin, so it is a lot of money.
Unfortunately, the troubles are so deep, the abyss is so, so, so long, that we need more, and this is just a first step. This is an emergency. We need a second bill to continue dealing with the emergency and to start stimulating our economy, so we get back to where we were. And that will be job number one in the new Biden Administration. And whether we have the Majority in the Senate or the Minority, we Democrats are going to push like anything to get a bigger, stronger bill.
This bill is a good bill. Tonight is a good night, but it is not the end of the story. It is not the end of the job. Anyone who thinks this bill is enough does not know what’s going on in America, does not look into the eyes of a small business owner who’s losing his business.
There are a lot of things in this bill that help New York. I’m very proud of the mass transit provision. I’m very proud of the Save Our Stages provisions. And when it came – comes to state and local, even though the Republicans were relentless against it, we found other ways to aid the states. So, the states will get at least some of the aid they need. The localities and the tribes will get some of the aid they need.
But the Republican relentlessness against state aid is just befuddling. Why is it any different when someone who works for the local government loses his or her job and can’t feed their kids or someone from a small business loses it? They’re all for helping the small businesses and so are we, because they employ people. But what’s the difference between that and state and local governments where people are also losing their job and can’t feed their families? Ideology gets in the way, ideology gets in the way.
But this bill gives us hope and confidence that we can do more, and we will do more. We must do more. And when we come back in January, that will be job number one, to fill in the gaps, the many gaps left by this bill and to make sure that this bill, a strong measure gets the – does the job by making sure it gets the money to the people as it was intended…
Q: Speaker Pelosi, quick question, given how hard it was to get this deal, from May you were fighting. Are you under any illusion it’s going to be easy to this part two next year?
Speaker Pelosi. I believe in public sentiment. You know that. And we have a great leader who has the confidence of the people that he is there for them, Joe Biden is. And he would, I think – the soapbox, the bully pulpit that he has to say, ‘We’re here for you. We know what you need, and we are going to fight the fight for you.’ No, I think that it’s – I think we’re going to have a much easier time than we’ve had with the Republican Senate and a Republican President.
Leader Schumer. Let me just say something. The number one reason we didn’t get the bill we needed was the Republican Senate. And Donald Trump just obfuscated the whole issue.
A Democratic President Joe Biden will be able to focus the American people’s attention on the Senate, the Republican Members of the Senate, who are obstructing, getting in the way of what they need. If Joe Biden says we need $1,200 checks instead of the $600 – they didn’t have any money for checks in their bill. Well, he’ll focus on the American people. If we feel we need more money for Unemployment Insurance, he’ll focus on the American people.
And I believe the Republicans who have had – who have been able to hide under Trump’s circus, almost, will no longer be able to do it. I am very optimistic that we can get a lot more done in a Senate, certainly if there’s a Democratic Majority, but even if a Republican Majority remains, with a new President who’s going to focus the issue. He said he’s making COVID his number one issue. Things will be easier, better and will produce even more…
December 21, 2020: Center for Reproductive Rights posted a press release titled: “Arkansas Health Care Providers File Emergency Request to Block Anti-Abortion Laws”. From the press release:
The ACLU and the Center for Reproductive Rights filed for emergency relief to block four anti-abortion laws from taking effect as early as tomorrow in Arkansas.
The action comes after the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals denied a request for en banc rehearsing last week of an Aug. 2020 decision that paved the way for Arkansas abortion restrictions to go into effect. In their filing today in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas, the groups asked the court to block the laws that would completely prevent many people from obtaining abortion care, create intrusive and stigmatizing requirements that violate patients’ privacy rights, and would leave the stat with even more limited access to abortion…
…”Not only are these laws unconstitutional, if they go into effect, they will unnecessarily expose pregnant people to severe and unwarranted harm,” said Jenny Ma, senior staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “If a pregnant person is in an abusive relationship or has a hostile home environment, the law requiring clinics to inform a patient’s partner or family of their abortion could seriously threaten their safety. And that’s just one of the laws. We will exhaust our legal options to make sure all of the challenged laws remain blocked.”
The lawsuit was filed by the ACLU, the ACLU of Arkansas, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and the law firm of O’Melveny & Myers LLP on behalf of Frederick W. Hopkins, M.D., M.P.H. and Little Rock Family Planning Services.
December 21, 2020: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (Democrat – California) posted a press release titled: “Floor Speech on Emergency Coronavirus Relief & Omnibus Agreement”. From the press release:
…I do want to speak to the bill that will be on the Floor shortly. It is a good bipartisan bill. It does – is different from bills that have been proposed by the Senate side by the Republican Leader. It does things that his bill never did and that is, it addresses the food needs of the American people. Maybe 15 million children are food insecure in our country and adults as well. Millions of families on the verge of eviction, and this legislation addresses the rental needs and short-term moratorium.
We can accept the short-term because we’ll have a new president during the length of that moratorium to extend it further, if necessary. We also have in the legislation direct payments, which were not in the Republican bill – to America’s working families. I would like them to have been bigger, but they are significant and they will be going out soon…
…In addition to that, the list goes on of some of the very positive things that are on the bill. And, quite frankly, some of them did not – we did not come to agreement until yesterday. Whether we are talking about the WRDA, the Water Resources Development Act, a big jobs bill; it had bipartisan support, but some disagreement over language. And, by the time that was resolved, it pushed the bill from coming to the Floor later.
We didn’t have, at the start of the day, sick leave. That is in the bill, almost $2 billion for sick leave. It didn’t have the EITC, the Earned Income Tax Credit for working poor people to have that boost, as well as the Child Tax Credit. It did not have the Employment Retention Tax Credit. Bipartisan support, WRDA and on that.
And them, we came to agreement not only on the language, but where that initiative would be placed about. Many of these things need to be precisely written and assembled in order for a bill to come to the Floor, which we anticipate will be not to – pretty soon this morning…
…I think it would be interesting to point out that as enthusiastic as we are about the PPP provisions in this bill, and we all support them in a bipartisan way, it’s important to note that small businesses – I always say there is nothing more optimistic than starting a small business, maybe getting married – but the optimism, the hope, the dream that people have is completely, shall we say, darkened by this assault of this virus.
And that’s why we had to start by crushing the virus. We didn’t do it. We couldn’t pass legislation until now because the Administration simply did not believe in testing, tracing, treatment, wearing masks, sanitation, separation and the rest – scientific approach. It becomes clear to us, now, that they believed in herd immunity, quackery, springing right from the Oval Office, and not denied sufficiently by some of the CDC and the rest…
…So, now we have a vaccine that we hope will reach everyone as soon as possible. What I – what I’m heartbroken about about this bill, though, is, while we make an attempt to crush the virus, we don’t do it adequately enough in terms of recognizing the toll on people of color. But we will have to do that in the public sentiment of it and in the demands that we make on governors and others who are in charge of the distribution.
But we put money in the pockets of American people. We want to do more. But, nonetheless, we are meeting the deadline, December 26, when Unemployment Insurance, which was vital…
…It’s interesting, I think, to note that when we passed – we passed a number of bills in a bipartisan way, and we’ll pass this one, today. In the course of that, in the CARES Act and follow-up on the PPP bill, and this bill now, we are approaching $1 trillion that we are putting out for PPP. If that is what is needed and is spent effectively, that’s a worthy expenditure, but almost $1 trillion, well over $750 [billion]. This bill alone over $300 billion. So, we have PPP now, in order for the private sector to function. In order for us to live our lives, we need to have the public sector: public transportation, public schools, public health, the list goes on…
…Except Republicans insist on saying, ‘We don’t want to give money to blue states where the coronavirus is.’ It’s in red states, too. It knows no borders and it knows no party, this vicious virus. But, somehow or other, Republicans have said to our heroes, our health care workers, our teachers, our transportation, our police and fire and the rest, sanitation workers – so important – food, food, food – you are not worthy of support because, perhaps, you are in a blue state predominantly, and, therefore, we under-value your contribution to our society, to our economy, and especially now as we try to minister to the needs of people in this coronavirus crisis. Who do you think – these vaccines come into a state, they go from the lab to your arm, magically? No. They have to be received, distributed, administered and done so fairly, equitably and free. Who do you think is going to do those jobs if you don’t respect the role of state and local government in all of this? Don’t think about it as government. Think about it as people. Think about yourself needing all of that.
So, I would hope that as we see the need for what we have done in this nearly $900 billion legislation that we’ll vote on today that everyone understands it’s a first step. It’s a first step, as President-elect Biden has said. It’s a first step, and we will need to do more, more to get more virus assistance to crush the virus, but also more money to buy vaccines. We need to have the Defense Production Act in play to hasten the manufacturing of these vaccines, and we need to be able to, as I say, to get the job done, and that takes people. And people need to be respected. Their work needs to be valued. And – again, and their entities for whom – under whose auspices they work, public hospitals, all the rest…
…So, when we say it’s a first step, let us embrace it. Let us – you know, let us thank God Chuck Schumer was able to dismantle, in part, the Toomey resolution that would tie the hands of a President to meet the needs of the American people and our economy by exercising Section 13(3) of the national reserve – Federal Reserve Board.
So, we got past that, which took a long time. I thought Wednesday night we were finished. This monstrosity reared its head the next morning. Chuck effectively was able to fix it. It’s still – it should not even have been initiated, but nonetheless, fix it in a way – excuse me – Leader Schumer, in a way that enabled us to go forward, and that’s why it’s taken us this long to get here in these last few days…
…As we review policy and legislation and negotiation and all that, let’s always have in our hearts every single one of the people who have died from the coronavirus. It can be stopped. It can be crushed, but that is a decision, it is a decision and decision to recognize where it is hurting people the most.
So, with that, I invite – I look forward to strong bipartisan vote today on this legislation, respecting it for what it does, not judging it for what it does not, but recognizing that more needs to be done. Again, with high praise for all of our chairs and, again, special recognition of Madam Chair Nita Lowey for her last bill on the Floor. I say congratulations to them, all the staff who worked so hard…
December 21, 2020: BuzzFeed News posted an article titled: “Businesses Will No Longer Have To Provide Paid Leave For Workers With COVID After Mitch McConnell Objected”. It was written by Paul McLeod. From the press release:
Employers will no longer have to provide paid sick leave to workers who get infected with COVID-19 after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked that extension from being included in Congress’s latest coronavirus aid package.
In March, Congress passed a law mandating that workers are able to draw two weeks of paid sick leave if they contract COVID, two weeks of paid leave to care for a quarantining relative, and up to 10 weeks of paid family leave to care for a child whose school or daycare is closed for COVID-related reasons.
BuzzFeed News previously reported that McConnell was pushing to block the paid leave mandate from being extended. Congressional aides in both parties confirmed Monday that the extension was left out of the aid bill as a concession to McConnell.
The bill does extend a refundable tax credit that fully subsidizes the cost to businesses of paying out sick leave until the end of March. Essentially, the federal government will continue to foot the bill for businesses that offer paid leave over the next three months, but it will be optional for businesses to opt into this program and let their employees take time off.
The bill is set to pass on Monday night and President Donald Trump is expected to sign it into law soon thereafter…
…A Senate Republican aide said a deal on a COVID aid bill could have been reached Saturday night, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi held it up because an extension of the paid leave mandate was not included. The aide said Pelosi held out until Sunday when she settled for the tax credit alone to be included.
Democrats said they would keep pushing for paid leave. The party hopes to pass another COVID aid bill next year after President-elect Joe Biden takes office in January…
December 21, 2020: U.S. News posted an article titled: “Mixed-Status Households Eligible for Stimulus Checks Under New Coronavirus Aid Package”. It was written by Claire Hansen. From the article:
Households with individuals of mixed immigration status will be eligible for stimulus payments under the new coronavirus relief package expected to pass Congress on Monday – a key change from the aid measure passed in March, which excluded millions of people in mixed-status families from direct aid during a pandemic in which immigrants are overrepresented as among front-line workers.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said in a statement Sunday evening that the new coronavirus relief package includes direct payments of up to $600 per adult and child, including for mixed-status families…
…The CARES Act, passed by Congress in March, included direct payments of up to $1,200 per adult and $500 per child for individuals who filed taxes in the last two years using a Social Security number.
Immigrants in the country illegally, as well as some other immigrants who are legally present in the U.S. but not eligible for a Social Security number, use what is called Individual Tax Identification Number, or ITIN, to pay taxes. Under the CARES Act, not only were people using an ITIN to file taxes ineligible for stimulus payments, but anyone filing jointly with someone using an ITIN was also ineligible for direct checks – meaning that, for example, a U.S. citizen married to an immigrant using an ITIN didn’t receive any money for themselves or their children. The act made an exception for military families…
…People in mixed-status families sued the government for excluding them from stimulus payments. Democrats and advocates pushed for the next major relief package to include relief for all people who pay taxes, including immigrants in the country illegally who use ITINs, to receive checks, despite opposition from Republicans. It is not yet clear if immigrants using ITINs to pay taxes will be eligible for this new round of checks or if only U.S. citizens or legal residents will be eligible, regardless of who they filed taxes with.
December 21, 2020: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (Democrat – California) posted a press release titled: “Dear Colleague on Next Steps in Addressing Health and Economic Crisis”. From the press release:
Dear Democratic Colleague,
Now that we have completed the coronavirus emergency relief and omnibus package, we must focus on the work to be done in the new Congress.
While we have recognized the urgent need for resources to crush the virus so we can open our economy and schools safely, we must also recognize what needs to be done. To that end, we must honor our heroes by supporting state and local government. It is important to know that in the COVID relief bills this year, Congress has appropriated nearly $1 trillion for PPP to save small business jobs but only $160 billion to save the jobs of our heroic frontline workers: our health care, first responders, transportation, sanitation, food and our teachers, our teachers, our teachers. It is also important to note that the GOP insisted on a tax break of $160 billion for the wealthiest America in CARES.
The legislation we pass today does acknowledge the role states must play in the distribution and administration of the vaccine, as well as in education and transportation as we go forward. However, state and local budgets are still overwhelmed by coronavirus expenses and revenue losses. As we agreed to the extension of the Coronavirus Relief Fund, I had hoped that Republicans would agree to flexibility, but they did not.
Thanks to the good work of our chairs and their committees in the 116th Congress, we are well prepared to develop strong legislation with the Biden-Harris Administration to Build Back Better.
The pandemic pulled back the curtain on the disparities in our economy and our society – and it also deepened the divide. In the new Congress, I am proposing a select committee to address economic disparities and promote fair growth. In doing so, Members have emphasized that our path forward must prioritize workforce development, child care and mental health.
As we observe the holidays, we carry in our hearts the over 315,000 lives that were lost to the virus, remembering them and their families in our prayers.
We advance this bill today as a first step. We have new hope which springs from the vaccine and from the commitment President-elect Biden has to following science. We are ready for the next step…
December 21, 2020: Representative Ayanna Pressley (Democrat – Massachusetts) posted a press release titled: “Statement from Rep. Pressley on House Passage of COVID-19 Relief Package”. From the press release:
Today, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) issued the following statement on the House passage of compromise legislation to address the COVID-19 pandemic.
“For nearly nine months now, workers and families in my district and across the country have been left to fend for themselves in the midst of an unprecedented public health and economic crisis that has robbed us of over 300,000 lives and shoved thousands of families into poverty. As a result of Republican stonewalling and negligence, our communities are experiencing record levels of food and housing insecurity, thousands have lost their jobs and our immigrant neighbors have been locked out of federal relief altogether.
“I have consistently heard from parents in my district who have exhausted their entire savings to keep the lights on and cover the costs of groceries, diapers and formula. I have heard from evicted seniors, immigrant families going hungry and essential workers deprived of PPE and access to paid leave and sick days. And I have heard from municipal leaders struggling to maintain critical jobs and services as the pandemic continues to worsen.
“I have fought every step of the way to strengthen this legislation and center those most impacted. Our fight continues. I want to recognize the grassroots organizing efforts and the partnership of my fellow progressives and Democrats in improving the legislation from where it stood only days ago. There is no doubt that these negotiations have been difficult given the callous disregard of the other side. It is because of our collective advocacy and organizing that direct cash payments are a part of this package, the Federal Reserve’s authority to address future crises has not been severely limited, and that for the first time, mixed-status immigrant families will be able to access these critical resources. As a result of the efforts of Democrats, this package will include billions in rental assistance, resources to support the safe reopening of our schools, our public transportation systems and resources to combat hunger and food insecurity.
“While I believe the legislation announced today by Congressional leadership failed to provide the comprehensive relief necessary to meet the scale of the crisis in the communities I represent, I voted yes on the package because it will provide a much needed and long overdue stopgap to help workers and families weather the crisis as we continue fighting for additional relief.
“Since the onset of this pandemic, I have fought tirelessly for relief that would truly support our communities. Today’s vote marks a long-overdue step toward delivering relief for the people, but our work is far from over. I will continue to push for bold, comprehensive legislation that meets the moment and sets us on a path to a just and equitable recovery.
“These negotiations have underscored just how clear it is that Mitch McConnell does not care about the health and livelihoods of the American people. He has delayed comprehensive relief for months, strangled the Senate’s ability to serve the people, and must be removed from power.
“I will continue fighting for the people who sent me to Washington to do just that.”
December 22, 2020: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (Democrat – California) posted a press release titled: “Pelosi, Schumer Joint Statement on Coronavirus Relief & Omnibus Agreement”. From the press release:
“Today we have reached agreement with Republicans and the White House on an emergency coronavirus relief and omnibus package that delivers urgently needed funds to save the lives and livelihoods of the American people as the virus accelerates.
“We are going to crush the virus and put money in the pockets of the American people. As part of the agreement, Democrats have secured provisions that include:
- Accelerating vaccine distribution and crushing the coronavirus: The bipartisan COVID relief package finally recognizes that we cannot get our economy working unless we can get the coronavirus under control. The package provides billions in urgently need funds to accelerate the free and equitable distribution of safe vaccines to as many Americans as possible and as soon as possible, to implement a strong national testing and tracing strategy with billions reserved specifically for combating the disparities facing communities of color, and to support our heroic health care workers and providers.
- Ends surprise billing: The package includes bipartisan, bicameral legislation that will end surprise billing for emergency and scheduled care.
- Strong support for small businesses: Democrats secured critical funding and policy changes to help small businesses, including minority-owned businesses, and nonprofits recover from the pandemic. The agreement includes over $284 billion for first and second forgivable PPP loans, expanded PPP eligibility for nonprofits and local newspapers, TV and radio broadcasters, key modifications to PPP to serve the smallest businesses and struggling non-profits and better assist independent restaurants, and includes $15 billion in dedicated funding for live venues, independent movie theaters, and cultural institutions. The agreement also includes $20 billion for targeted EIDL Grants which are critical to smaller businesses on Main Street.
- Community Development Financial Institutions and Minority Depository Institutions: The agreement includes dedicated PPP set-asides for very small businesses and lending through community-based lenders like Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and Minority Depository Institutions (MDIs); $9 billion in emergency U.S. Treasury capital investments in CDFIs and MDIs to support lending in low-income and underserved communities, including persistent poverty counties, that may be disproportionately impacted by the economic effects of the COVID–19 pandemic; and $3 billion in emergency support for CDFIs through the CDFI Fund to respond to the economic impact of the pandemic on underserved low-income and minority communities.
- Rental assistance: Democrats secured $25 billion in critically needed rental insurance for families struggling to stay in their homes and an extension of the eviction moratorium.
- Strengthens the Low Income Housing Tax Credit: The package enhances the LIHTC to help increase affordable housing construction and provide greater certainty to new and ongoing affordable housing projects.
- Direct payment checks: Democrats secured a new round of direct payments worth up to $600 per adult and child, also ensuring that mixed-status families receive payments.
- Strengthened Earned Income Tax Credit & Child Tax Credit: This agreement helps ensure that families who faced unemployment or reduced wages during the pandemic are able to receive a strong tax credit based on their 2019 income, preserving these vital income supports for vulnerable families.
- Support paid sick leave: The agreement provides a tax credit to support employers offering paid sick leave, based on the Families First framework.
- Employee Retention Tax Credit: The agreement extends and improves the Employee Retention Tax Credit to help keep workers in the jobs during coronavirus closures or reduced revenue.
- Enhanced Unemployment Insurance benefits: Democrats averted the sudden expiration of Unemployment Insurance benefits for millions and added a $300 per week UI enhancement for Americans out of work.
- Nutrition assistance for hungry families: Democrats secured $13 billion in increased SNAP and child nutrition benefits to help relieve the historic hunger crisis that has left up to 17 million children food insecure.
- Education and child care: The agreement provides $82 billion in funding for colleges and schools, including support for HVAC repair and replacement to mitigate virus transmission and reopen classrooms, and $10 billion for child care assistance to help get parents back to work and keep child care providers open.
- Historic expansion of Pell Grants: The package includes the largest expansion of Pell Grant recipients in over a decade, reaching 500,000 new recipients and ensuring more than 1.5 million students will now receive the maximum benefit.
- Broadband access: The agreement invests $7 billion to increase access to broadband, including a new Emergency Broadband Benefit to help millions of students, families and unemployed workers afford the broadband they need during the pandemic.
- Fights the climate crisis: The agreement includes sweeping clean energy reforms, R&D enhancements, efficiency incentives and extends clean energy tax credits to create hundreds of thousands of jobs across the clean economy. The package also phases out superpollutant HFCs positioning the U.S. to lead the world in avoiding up to 0.5 degree Celsius of global warming.
- WRDA: The agreement includes the bipartisan Water Resources Development Act of 2020, creating good-paying jobs strengthening and improving the vital water infrastructure that Americans rely on while unlocking the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund.
- Global Health: Democrats secured an additional $3.6 billion for a total of $4 billion for GAVI, the international vaccine alliance, recognizing that we are not truly safe until the whole world is safe from the coronavirus.
“Importantly, the final agreement does not include several dangerous Republican proposals, including a long-demanded GOP provision that could unjustly put the health of workers at risk and take away their legal recourse, as well as an 11th hour attempt to sabotage the incoming administration’s ability to stabilize the economy and save jobs.
“State and local governments will certainly need additional funding to prevent the senseless layoffs of heroic essential workers and critical service cuts. The agreement provides some important new targeted funds for state and local government functions that will help alleviate their overall budget burdens. These targeted funds include the emergency resources for schools, $27 billion for state highways, struggling transit agencies, Amtrak and airports, $22 billion for the health-related expenses of state, local, tribal and territorial government, and an additional year of eligibility for expenses under the CARES Coronavirus Relief Fund.
“The emergency relief in this agreement, the second largest in history only to the CARES Act, is an important first step that Democrats look forward to building on under the new Biden-Harris Administration to meet the remaining needs of the American people during this historic health and economic crisis.
“The House will move swiftly to pass this legislation immediately, so it can quickly be sent to the Senate and then to the President’s desk for his signature. With the horrifying acceleration of daily infections and deaths, there is no time to waste.”
December 22, 2020: BuzzFeed News posted an article titled: “Surprise Medical Billing Is Finally Coming To An End After Congress Reached A Last-Minute Deal”. It was written by Paul McLeod. From the article:
Hospitals will no longer be able to hit patients with surprise medical bills under a new law passed by Congress to address the coronavirus pandemic on Monday.
Surprise billing happens when someone goes to a hospital covered by their insurance network only to be hit with unforeseeable bills because the doctor or specialist who treated them is out of network. Congress has for years talked about ending the practice, but even two weeks ago it seemed clear that a bill to end surprise medical billing was dead in the water yet again, as more than 115,000 people are currently in US hospitals with COVID-19, according to the COVID Tracking Project.
But in a turnaround that stunned observers, Congress finally acted to end the exploitive practice…
…Insurance companies will now be forced to cover those bills. If there is a disagreement on cost between the insurer and healthcare providers — the doctors, specialists, or hospitals issuing the bills — then the price will be decided by an independent arbiter.
The deal only came together after some last-minute changes were made to appease doctor and hospital groups. The final concession, demanded by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, is that arbitrators are not able to consider Medicare or Medicaid rates — which are much lower than private market rates — when ruling on the cost…
…While all sides believed patients should not be hit with surprise medical bills, insurers did not want to pick up all the slack and providers did not want to lose their ability to charge higher prices than in-network rates. These industries battled publicly and privately to avoid having to absorb the cost of a fix.
What started as a gap in the system was turned into a profit driver for private equity firms. Two private equity giants, Blackstone Group and KKR & Co., bought up the largest physician staffing firms which led to more doctors going out of network and charging exorbitant surprise bills.
These private equity firms then created a dark money front group called Doctor Patient Unity and spent tens of millions of dollars successfully opposing legislation to end private billing, denouncing it as “government rate setting.”.
…The initial plan hatched between the House and the Senate was to force insurance companies to cover all emergency room bills and allow health providers to charge only the median in-network costs for fees. Providers fiercely opposed this “benchmarking” plan…
…These late changes softened opposition from providers and raised concerns that doctors and hospitals will be able to continue to inflate prices. The Department of Health and Human Services will oversee the crafting of the arbitration system and a provider-friendly administration in the future could stack the deck in their favor…
December 22, 2020: Senator Bernie Sanders (Independent – Vermont) posted a press release titled: “Sanders Statement on Passage of COVID-19 Relief Package”. From the press release:
Upon the Senate’s passage of the $908-billion COVID-19 spending package, Sen. Sanders (I-Vt.) issued the following statement:
“Tonight, Congress passed a $908-billion COVID-19 relief bill that extends unemployment benefits through the early spring, and provides support for small businesses, schools, healthcare, nutrition, rental assistance, child care, broadband, the Postal Service, as well as funding to help distribute vaccines.
“During the last several weeks, I have been working very hard, along with Republican Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri, to provide direct payments to working families throughout the country. Our goal was to replicate what was in the CARES bill of March, which was $1200 for every working-class adult and $500 for each child. While we did not get as much as we wanted, because of opposition from the Republican leadership and too many Democrats, the bill does include a $600 direct payment for every working-class American earning less than $75,000 a year, and a $1,200 direct payment for couples making less than $150,000 a year, plus $600 for each child. That means that the average family of four will receive a direct payment of $2400.
“While including these direct payments ultimately improved this bill, given the enormous economic desperation that so many working families across this country are now experiencing, there is no question but that this legislation did not go anywhere near far enough.
“When President-Elect Biden assumes office next month and when the Senate comes back into session in January, I will immediately begin fighting for another relief bill to help America’s working families—including another round of direct payments and more relief for the unemployed, the hungry, the uninsured and those who owe back rent and are behind on their mortgage payments. In this unprecedented crisis, it is imperative that we do everything we can to protect the working families of our country, the elderly, the children and the poor.”
December 22, 2020: Center for Reproductive Rights posted a press release titled: “Federal Court Blocks Four Arkansas Anti-Abortion Laws Hours After They Took Effect”. From the press release:
In response to litigation from the ACLU and the Center for Reproductive Rights, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas issued an order blocking four anti-abortion laws in Arkansas hours after they took effect. While the laws were in effect today, clinics were forced to cancel appointments and were only able to offer medication abortion.
Last week, the Eight Circuit Court of Appeals denied a request for en banc rehearing of an Aug. 2020 decision that paved the way for the abortion restrictions to go into effect. The ACLU and the Center for Reproductive Rights then asked the district court to block the laws that would completely prevent many people from obtaining abortion care, create intrusive and stigmatizing requirements that violate patients’ privacy rights, and leave the state with even more limited access to abortion. The litigation is supported by several medical experts and five previous Arkansas abortion patients who spoke to the devastating impact the laws would have enforced.
“Access to abortion in Arkansas has been preserved — for now,” said Ruth Harlow, senior staff attorney in the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project. “We are gratified that the court recognized the irretrievable harm these laws would cause to patients, and that it stepped in quickly. We have a fight ahead of us to ensure that no one is turned away, punished, or humiliated when trying to exercise their right to abortion in Arkansas — and we are not backing down.”
“We’re relieved these harmful and unconstitutional restrictions have once again been blocked by the courts,” said Holly Dickson, executive director of the ACLU of Arkansas. “These laws would decimate access to abortion in Arkansas at a time when families are already struggling to get care. It shouldn’t take a court order to force Arkansas politicians to respect the basic human rights of the people they serve. That’s why we’ll continue to fight in the courts, in the capitol, and in communities to defend the right of every Arkansan to make their own personal medical decisions.”
“Today, we got a preview of what would happen if these laws took effect permanently,” said Jenny Ma, senior staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “It caused uncertainty about whether Arkansans have access to abortion care and forced patients to be turned away, which is absolutely unacceptable. We will continue to fight these laws in court and are relieved they are blocked for now.”
The lawsuit was filed by the ACLU, the ACLU of Arkansas, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and the law firm of O’Melveny & Myers LLP on behalf of Frederick W. Hopkins, M.D., M.P.H. and Little Rock Family Planning Services.
December 22, 2020: The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) posted a news release titled: “ACOG Appalled Congress Declines to Enact Critical Maternal Health Legislation, Calls on Congress to Prioritize Moms in 2021”. From the press release:
Maureen G. Phipps, MD, MPH, FACOG, CEO of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), issued the following statement following passage of the year-end legislation that excluded bipartisan maternal health legislation:
“ACOG denounces Congress’ failure to enact two critical pieces of bipartisan legislation that prioritized the lives of women and famililes and would have helped eliminate preventable maternal deaths in this country. Amid a global pandemic that threatens to worsen the maternal mortality crisis, Congress chose not to protect our nation’s mothers.
“The Maternal Health Quality Improvement Act (H.R. 4995) and the Helping Medicaid Offer Maternity Services Act (H.R. 4996) represent years of congressional and stakeholder collaboration to develop bipartisan legislation that will address our nation’s maternal health crisis.
“Although these bills are supported by legislators on both sides of the aisle and recently passed unanimously in the U.S. House of Representatives, the U.S. Senate failed to advance them and Congress neglected to add them to the end-of-the-year legislative package. The United States is the only developed country with a rising maternal morality rate. According to the CDC, approximately 700 women die each year from pregnancy-related complications – that’s two women per day. Congress’ inaction means the difference between life and death for women.
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, which has further exposed and exacerbated racial inequities, it is inconceivable that policymakers neglected the opportunity to pass meaningful legislation to eliminate racial disparaties in maternal health outcomes.
“While we had hoped to celebrate a victory for America’s mothers before the end of 2020, we applaud the steadfast champions of House-passed H.R. 4995 and H.R. 4996, including Representatives Robin Kelly, PHD, Michael C. Burgess, MD, FACOG, Eliot Engel, Larry Buschon, MD, Greg Walden, and Anna Eshoo. We commit to carry this work forward into the 117th Congress”.
December 22, 2020: New York Attorney General Letitia James posted a press release titled: “Attorney General James Continues Fight to Safeguard Women’s Access to Reproductive Health Care”. From the press release:
New York Attorney General Letitia James, as part of a coalition of 20 attorneys general, today continued her leadership in the national fight to ensure women’s reproductive health care is not stifled or infringed upon in any way. In an amicus brief — filed in Memphis Center for Reproductive Health, et al. v. Herbert Slatery, et al. — Attorney General James and the coalition contest the constitutionality of two abortion bans enacted in the state of Tennessee, and urge the court to affirm a lower court injunction that prevents enforcement of the state law that would create barriers to safe, legal abortions and that would disproportionately impact Black, minority, and low-income women. The attorneys general argue that the laws place unconstitutional restrictions on a woman’s right to choose and that they do not promote women’s health care overall.
“Time and again, Tennessee has used its power to try and turn back the clocks and unconstitutionally restrict women’s reproductive rights,” said Attorney General James. “This is just another power grab by politicians willing to sacrifice a woman’s right to access an abortion in the process, but we are standing up against these bans because Tennessee’s unlawful efforts to deny women their constitutionally-guaranteed rights will not go unchallenged. This is about protecting women’s bodies, their freedoms, and their choices.”
This past summer, Tennessee enacted two different prohibitions on abortions: a so-called “reason ban” and so-called “cascading bans.” The reason ban prohibits abortion at any stage of a pregnancy if a health care provider “knows” that the patient’s decision to terminate the pregnancy is based on a Down syndrome diagnosis, or the sex or race of the fetus. The cascading bans prohibit abortion as soon as a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can be as early as six weeks after gestation. If this six-week ban is invalidated by the courts, the law includes a cascading series of bans that seek to impose the earliest ban that can withstand judicial review. Both of these restrictions would ban abortions before the stage of viability, contrary to the rights recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court. Additionally, because the cascading bans can take effect before some women even know they are pregnant, they amount to an absolute ban on abortion, in violation of clear Supreme Court law.
In the brief — filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit — Attorney General James and the coalition highlight past cases in which the Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that a state may not prohibit any woman from making the decision to terminate her pregnancy before viability. Additionally, the attorneys general emphasize that women’s health outcomes are advanced by meaningful access to the full range of comprehensive reproductive health care services, including abortion. The attorneys general also cite ample scientific evidence that has established the detrimental impact highly-restrictive abortion laws have on women’s health outcomes, as well as how states’ interests are served by promoting women’s health and ensuring access to abortion services.
Further, the coalition points to data that shows that laws — like the one at issue in Tennessee — have a disproportionate impact on Black, minority, and low-income women. Having access to safe, legal abortions leads to better health outcomes, particularly for Black and minority women who are disproportionately represented in Tennessee’s increasing maternal mortality numbers. Low-income women are also disproportionately affected by abortion bans because in states like Tennessee — which have not expanded access to Medicaid — uninsured women are eligible for coverage only while pregnant, and coverage ends 60 days after they give birth. These inequities are exacerbated by the small number of abortion providers in Tennessee and the long distances many women must travel to access abortion services. Attorney General James and the coalition argue states can promote women’s health without curtailing the right to choose. For instance, many states, including New York, provide residents with access to family planning and contraception programs.
Despite Tennessee’s claims that its reason ban law is intended to limit discrimination against those with disabilities, such as Down syndrome, the coalition maintains that combating discrimination should not come at the expense of women’s reproductive rights. States can promote medically-accurate, unbiased information to help women make informed reproductive choices. Further, states can support those with developmental disabilities and their families by providing civil rights protections and delivering social and medical services…
…Joining Attorneys General James in filing today’s amicus brief are the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia.
December 23, 2020: NPR posted an article titled: “Trump Vetos Defense Bill, Setting Up Congressional Vote To Potentially Override Him”. It was written by Claudia Grisales. From the article:
President Trump has followed through on his threats to veto the annual defense bill, triggering plans for Congress to return from its holiday break to potentially override him for the first time in his four-year administration.
“My Administration has taken strong actions to help keep our Nation safe and support our service members,” Trump wrote in a message to the House of Representatives. “I will not approve this bill, which would put the interests of the Washington, D.C. establishment over those of the American people.”
This month, the National Defense Authorization Act won annual congressional approval for its 60th straight year. And the legislation drew overwhelming bipartisan majorities in both chambers, signaling that Congress likely has the support to override Trump’s veto.
Because of Trump’s repeated veto threats, Congress has already scheduled voting sessions to override the move during rare floor votes next week. The House is now slated to meet on Monday to override the defense bill veto, while the Senate is scheduled to follow suit on Tuesday…
…This month, the Senate approved the measure 84-13, while the House passed the bill by a vote of 335-78. This signals that both chambers have more than the two-thirds majority of their members needed to overcome Trump’s rejection of the bill.
Supporters had also hoped that backing the plan by a supermajority would send a message to Trump to not veto.
However, starting in June, Trump began to signal he would reject the legislation. That month, he took aim at Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who spearheaded a provision in the bill to rename military installations that honor figures from the Confederacy.
Then, this month, Trump doubled down on his threats to veto the bill if it didn’t include a last-minute provision to end legal protections for social media companies. But a bipartisan group of lawmakers, including key Republican leaders, proceeded with the legislation even though it didn’t have the repeal Trump demanded…
…Trump had wanted lawmakers to undo Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act over his feud with Twitter and other social media companies. Section 230 provides legal protection for technologies over content from third parties and users…
December 23, 2020: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (Democrat – California) posted a press release titled: “Dear Colleague on Unanimous Consent Request to Increase Economic Impact Payments”. From the press release:
Dear Democratic Colleague,
Just when you think you have seen it all, last night, the President said that he would possibly veto the bicameral agreement negotiated between Republicans and Democrats. He said he would do so, unless the economic impact payments were increased by $2,000.
In the bipartisan negotiations, Leader Schumer and I repeatedly asked Republicans what would be the highest number the President would accept for direct payments, and they responded with Sphinx-like silence. In the negotiations, they would never go above $600 and in some cases proposed $500.
Yesterday, I said that Democrats would go to the Floor and ask for Unanimous Consent to bring up a standalone bill to increase the payments. To do so requires the agreement of the Republican Leader. The agreement is necessary in the House and the Senate.
If the President truly wants to join us in $2,000 payments, he should call upon Leader McCarthy to agree to our Unanimous Consent request.
We are scheduled to go in for a pro forma session tomorrow at 9:00 a.m. We are awaiting word from Leader Hoyer as to whether Leader McCarthy will agree or reject our Unanimous Consent request.
The entire country knows that its urgent for the President to sign this bill, both to provide the coronavirus relief and to keep government open!…
December 23, 2020: BuzzFeed News posted an article titled: “Pelosi Is Daring Republicans To Pass $2,000 Direct Checks After Trump Called For Them”. It was written by Paul McLeod. From the article:
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi offered Wednesday to immediately pass $2,000 direct checks to US residents, hours after Trump called for them to be included in the coronavirus aid bill that passed Monday.
The move puts congressional Republicans in a tough spot. They pushed for smaller stimulus checks during COVID negotiations, only to be immediately undermined by their own president. In a “dear colleague” letter sent to members of the House, Pelosi offered to pass the $2,000 checks by unanimous consent on Christmas Eve if Republicans will go along with it.
It’s unlikely that the checks will actually pass. Congress typically does not make changes to massive, negotiated bills after they are passed and Republicans had already railed about the high price tag of the one they voted on. Trump could still veto the coronavirus package if Republicans don’t meet his new demands, delaying the $600 checks and other critical aid Congress agreed to…
…The debate over checks has made for unusual partnerships. Initially, there were no checks at all in the coronavirus bill. But progressive Democratic Sen. Bernie Sanders and conservative Republican Sen. Josh Hawley teamed up to lead a public pressure campaign demanding the inclusion of $1,200 direct payments similar to what was contained in the CARES Act back in March. They didn’t get that, but negotiators did agree to include $600 checks for most American adults.
Under the current wording of the bill, adults who earn up to $75,000 will receive $600 checks, and couples who earn up to $150,000 combined will receive $1,200. Parents will also receive $600 for each child dependent under the age of 17, but no money for older children or adult dependents. For people who earn above $75,000, the size of the checks is phased out at a rate of $5 for every $100 of income, drawing down to zero at $87,000 or $174,000 for joint filers.
December 23, 2020: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (Democrat – California) posted a press release titled: “Pelosi Statement on President Trump Veto of National Defense Authorization Act”. From the press release:
Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued this statement on the President’s veto of the bipartisan, bicameral National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA):
“The President’s veto of the National Defense Authorization Act is an act of staggering recklessness that harms our troops, endangers our security and undermines the will of the bipartisan Congress. For 60 years, the NDAA has been passed on a bipartisan and bicameral basis.
“In a time when our country was just targeted with a massive cyberattack, it is particularly hard to understand the reasoning behind the President’s irresponsibility. Disturbingly, Trump is using his final hours in office to sow chaos, including by denying our servicemembers a long-overdue pay raise and hazard duty pay; our families paid family leave, child care, housing and health protections; and our veterans the benefits that they need and deserve. The President’s veto also deprives our country and allies of tools to protect global security – including for cyber-security.
“Trump’s veto violates our national values, as it would block action to rename military bases and infrastructure named after those who served in the Confederacy – which is supported by an overwhelming majority of the American people, by House and Senate Democrats and Republicans and by our servicemembers and top military leaders.
“Next week, December 28, the House will take up the veto override with bipartisan support.”
December 24, 2020: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (Democrat – California) posted a press release titled: “Pelosi Statement on House Republicans Blocking Unanimous Consent Request to Increase Economic Impact Payments”. From the press release:
Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued this statement on House Republicans blocking Democrats’ Unanimous Consent request to increase impact payments to $2,000 as the President called for:
“Today, on Christmas Eve morning, House Republicans cruelly deprived the American people of the $2,000 that the President agreed to support. If the President is serious about the $2,000 direct payments, he must call on House Republicans to end their obstruction.
“House and Senate Democrats have repeatedly fought for bigger checks for the American people, which House and Senate Republicans repeatedly rejected – first, during our negotiations when they said that they would not go above $600 and now, with this act of callousness on the Floor.
“On Monday, I will bring the House back to session where we will hold a recorded vote on our stand-alone bill to increase economic impact payments to $2,000. To vote against this bill is to deny the financial hardship that families face and to deny them the relief they need.
“Hopefully by then the President will have already signed the bipartisan and bicameral legislation to keep government open and to deliver coronavirus relief.”
December 24, 2020: Senator Bernie Sanders (Independent – Vermont) posted a press release titled: “Sanders Calls on Mitch McConnell to Pass $2,000 Direct Payments Legislation in the Senate”. From the press release:
In response to President Trump’s disapproval of the $908-billion COVID-19 relief package passed by Congress on Monday, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) issued the following statement:
“In America today, millions of Americans are facing economic desperation and need help now. I have been calling on Congress for months to pass legislation to provide very working class American with $2,000 a month until the pandemic ends. Now that Senator Schumer, Speaker Pelosi, and President Trump have all indicated strong support for a $2,000 direct payment the ball is in Senate Majority Leader McConnell’s court. I say to Senator McConnell: Let the Senate vote immediately on a stand-alone bill to provide a $2,000 direct payment for the working class and $4,000 for couples. If no Republican objects to that bill, it could pass by unanimous consent today.”
Sanders is the co-author, with Senators Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.), of the Monthly Economic Crisis Support Act, which would provide $2,000 direct monthly payments to working-class Americans for the duration of the pandemic.
December 24, 2020: Representative Ayanna Pressley (Democrat – Massachusetts) posted a press release titled: “Reps. Pressley, Tlaib, Jayapal, Ocassio-Cortez & Omar Introduce Legislation to Provide $2,000 Survival Checks”. From the press release:
Today, Congresswomen Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), Rashida Tlaib (MI-13), Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14), and Ilhan Omar (MN-05) introduced legislation to provide survival payments of up to $2,000 to families suffering due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the woefully inadequate relief provided to them so far. For months, the congresswomen have been at the forefront of pushing for substantial direct relief for families during the worst public health emergency in our lifetimes.
“Families in my district and all across the country are struggling under the weight of this unprecedented crisis,” said Congresswoman Pressley. “We’ve been fighting all along for robust survival checks to help people meet their most basic needs, and the broad support that has emerged is a testament to the power of the people and the urgency of this moment. $2,000 in direct cash assistance will help families weather the crisis while we continue fighting for additional relief that meets the scale and scope of the hurt so many are feeling. Let’s get it done.”
While President Trump has indicated support for the $2k direct payments, it is highly doubtful he has done anything to encourage congressional Republicans to support the effort. This morning on Christmas Eve, House Republicans blocked an attempt to provide survival checks.
“This holiday season, families are being forced to make incredibly difficult decisions, such as whether they should keep their lights on or buy groceries,” said Congresswoman Tlaib. “They are suffering to no fault of their own. We must protect public health and the economic well-being of those we serve. Providing $2,000 survival checks would give those struggling right now a lifeline as we continue to fight to defeat COVID-19. It’s time for Trump to stop bluffing and get the members of his party in line so that the government can provide this long overdue relief to people across the country during this time of great need.”
“It’s long overdue that Congress approves COVID-19 relief that actually meets the scale of this devastating crisis,” said Congresswoman Jayapal. “At the heart of any aid proposal must be putting money directly in people’s pockets so they can put food on the table, keep the heat on, pay their bills and withstand this pandemic. Our legislation for $2,000 survival checks will make it happen at a moment when it matters most.”
The text of the bill can be viewed here. The House is expected to convene on Monday, December 28th to take action on showing up for the constituents they serve.
December 25, 2020: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (Democrat – California) posted a press release titled: “Congressman Mike Levin Delivers Weekly Democratic Address”. From the press release:
“Hi, I’m Congressman Mike Levin. I’m proud to represent North County San Diego and South Orange County, with Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton at the heart of my district.
“As we celebrate the holidays this year, we also mourn the loss of more than 320,000 Americans to this pandemic – including more than 5,500 veterans, a profound tragedy for our nation. Each individual lost was somebody’s parent or grandparent, a son or daughter, a friend or co-worker who will be deeply missed, especially during this holiday season.
“The holidays are also challenging for many families who are struggling to make ends meet, for our heroic frontline workers and for small businesses that are trying to endure this pandemic.
“I’m proud that Democrats negotiated an emergency coronavirus relief and omnibus package to save lives and livelihoods and crush the virus. This agreement is an important initial step, which we must build on under the Biden-Harris Administration.
“We also took important action last week to honor the service and sacrifice of those who have worn the uniform. As Chair of the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity, I was proud to sponsor the Johnny Isakson and David P. Roe, M.D. Veterans Health Care and Benefits Improvement Act of 2020.
“This landmark legislation is the product of years of bipartisan work and the strong leadership of House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Mark Takano and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Ranking Member Jon Tester. It includes numerous legislative initiatives from dozens of House Democrats and provisions from nearly 60 House-passed bills.
“It includes the Homeless Veteran Coronavirus Response Act, a bill I introduced to expand and strengthen VA services for homeless veterans during the pandemic, allowing the VA to use existing funds for a wider range of services.
“It includes the Reducing Veteran Homelessness Act, a bill I introduced to fill gaps in HUD-VASH case management.
“It includes the Protect the GI Bill Act, a bill I introduced to increase transparency and accountability among educational programs that receive funding from the VA, and it includes the Pandemic Assistance for Student Veterans Act, which will minimize the impact of the pandemic on student veterans.
“It also includes the Brian Tally VA Employment Transparency Act to support veterans who are the victims of medical malpractice by the VA or its contractors, and the Bill Mulder Transition Improvement Act to make the transition process easier for servicemembers returning to civilian life.
“All of these provisions are critically important for the economic success and financial security of our veterans, and I was incredibly proud to lead them.
“However, Speaker Pelosi said it best on the House Floor last week when she called the Deborah Sampson Act, led by Congresswoman Julia Brownley, ‘the crown jewel in this package.’ The Deborah Sampson Act takes long overdue steps to address the inequities and barriers that women veterans face when accessing VA care and benefits.
“The legislation expands access to care for women veterans, combats sexual harassment and assault, increases cultural competency for all VA staff and improves data collection to ensure that our nation’s nearly two million women veterans get the care, benefits and resources they’ve earned.
“With this legislation, we are fulfilling President Lincoln’s promise to care for those ‘who shall have borne the battle’ and for their families, caregivers and survivors.
“While we celebrate this extraordinary accomplishment, I know that many troops, veterans and their loved ones are spending this holiday apart from one another. Please know that I deeply appreciate your service and sacrifice, and House Democrats will keep fighting for you in the new year.
“Thank you, and happy holidays.”
December 27, 2020: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (Democrat – California) posted a press release titled: “Pelosi Statement on Trump Signing Bipartisan Coronavirus Relief and Omnibus Funding Bill”. From the press release:
Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued this statement after the President signed the bipartisan coronavirus relief and omnibus funding bill:
“The signing of the bipartisan, bicameral coronavirus relief legislation is welcome news for the fourteen million Americans who just lost the lifeline of unemployment benefits on Christmas Weekend, and for the millions more struggling to stay afloat during this historic pandemic and economic crisis.
“This relief legislation is a down payment on what is needed to crush the virus, put money in the pockets of the American people and honor our heroes – our health care workers, first responders, transit and sanitation workers and teachers. We need to ensure robust support for state and local government to distribute and administer a vaccine, keep workers employed and prevent devastating service cuts – and we must do so as soon as possible.
“Now, the President must immediately call on Congressional Republicans to end their obstruction and join him and the Democrats in support of our stand-alone legislation to increase direct payment checks to $2,000, which will be brought to the Floor tomorrow. Every Republican vote against this bill is a vote to deny the financial hardship that families face and to deny the American people the relief they need.”
December 28, 2020: Senator Bernie Sanders (Independent – Vermont) posted a press release titled: “Sanders Demands McConnell Hold Vote on $2,000 Direct Payments”. From the press release:
Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) issued the following statement in response to the House of Representatives’ overwhelming 275-134 passage of the $2,000 direct payments for the working class:
“The House has passed a $2,000 direct payment for working people. It is time for the Senate to act. This week on the Senate floor Mitch McConnell wants to vote to override Trump’s veto of the $740 billion defense funding bill and then head home for the New Year. I’m going to object until we get a vote on legislation that provides $2,000 direct payment to the working class. Let me be clear: If Senator McConnell doesn’t agree to an up or down vote to provide working people of our country a $2,000 direct payment, Congress will not be going home for New Year’s Eve. Let’s do our job.”
December 28, 2020: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (Democrat – California) posted a press release titled: “Floor Speech on Caring for Americans with Supplemental Help Act of 2020”. From the press release:
..I’m interested in the comments made by Mr. Brady, because he said we could be putting more money into small businesses, and we do, indeed, in the COVID package, around $300 billion. And I think it is important to note, Madam Speaker, that that brings it to about almost a trillion dollars since March 27th – 28th – when the President signed the CARES Act, about $950 billion for small business. Nearly a trillion dollars, very important…
…But, if you want to talk about job creation, I hope the gentleman will join us when we go forward to do state and local: our health care workers, honoring our heroes. They are at risk while losing their jobs and they risk their lives to save lives. We are talking about health care workers. We are talking about police and fire, our first responders. We are talking about transportation, sanitation, food workers. We are talking about our teachers, our teachers, our teachers, the custodians of our children for a large part of the day. They are at risk of losing their jobs because of the failure of the Republican side of the aisle to support funds for state and local governments to honor our heroes.
We want to honor them. We cheer them and applaud them. Let’s give them pay. Let’s let them have job security. Let’s give them PPE, the equipment that they need to do their jobs. So, if you want to talk about saving jobs or growing jobs, for the purpose the distinguished gentleman from Texas mentioned, how are we going to administer – focus on the distribution and administration of the vaccine? Where do you think that happens but in city, county and state hospitals in large measure, by health care workers in those places wherever it is distributed on an individual basis? But, they are the heart of the matter.
And that is why we need to go forward with another bill that invests in our state and local governments, not to talk about government, but to talk about services: health care services, education, transportation, making our lives possible, making our very existence possible by what they do. And, without them, how do we function? …
…So, this $2,000 – which, thank you for bringing to the Floor on Christmas Eve. Was roundly rejected by our Republican – we asked for Unanimous Consent, this could already be, exist as a law if it happened, but it didn’t. So, now, today we have another chance.
Some of the Republicans said, ‘Oh, if they really wanted that, they would have called for a vote that day.’ That wasn’t true. It’s important to note that was a pro forma session and you had to have the consent of the Republicans to bring the bill to the Floor. They withheld their consent.
So, here we are today, in a legislative day, where we just act with the Majority to bring the legislation to the Floor. I hope it will enjoy a strong bipartisan support. The President of the United States has put this forth as something that he wants to see and part of his signing the legislation yesterday. I hope that will be – that view will be shared by the Republicans in the Senate. Because we will pass this bill today. Either under suspension or under a rule, where it just requires a majority vote. Under suspension, as you know, two-thirds vote, requires Republican, a large number of Republican votes, which I hope we will have, because I do think the American people would love to see that unity on their behalf.
We are a consumer economy. Putting money into the hands of the American people is a boost to our economy. Not much. This isn’t a big stimulus package. It’s a – the COVID bill is an emergency supplemental. But this piece will make it, will make it something very important to growing – sustaining our economy…
…Republicans have a choice. Republicans have a choice: vote for this legislation or vote to deny the American people the bigger paychecks this need. To reject this would be in denial of the economic challenges that people are facing and it would deny them, again, the relief they need. And with that, I urge a strong bipartisan vote for the aptly named CASH act…
December 28, 2020: The U.S. House of Representatives voted on H.R. 9051 in a Roll Call vote. The vote was “On Motion to Suspend the Rules and pass the CASH Act”. It received 231 YEA votes and 44 NAY votes – which means it passed the House of Representatives.
Votes by Party:
- Democratic: 231 YEAS, 2 NAYs
- Republican: 44 YEAS, 130 NAYs
- Independent: 0 YEAS, 2 NAYs
- Total: 275 YEAS, 134 NAYS
Votes by Representatives (by State):
- Alabama: Aderholt (R) YEA, Brooks (R) NAY, Byrne (R) NAY, Palmer (R) NAY, Roby (R) NAY, Rogers (R) NAY, Sewell (D) YEA
- Alaska: Young (R) not voting
- Arizona: Biggs (R) NAY, Gallego (D) YEA, Gosar (R) NAY, Grijalva (D) YEA, Lesko (R) NAY, O’Halleran (D) YEA, Schweikert (R) NAY, Stanton (D) YEA
- Arkansas: Crawford (R) YEA, Hill (R) NAY, Kirkpatrick (D) YEA, Westerman (R) NAY, Womack (R) NAY
- California: Aguilar (D) YEA, Barragán (D) YEA, Bass (D) YEA, Berra (D) YEA, Brownley (D) YEA, Calvert (R) YEA, Carbajal (D) YEA, Cárdenas (D) YEA, Judy Chu (D) YEA, Cisneros (D) YEA, Correa (D) YEA, Costa (D) YEA, Cox (D) YEA, Davis (D) YEA, DeSaulnier (D) YEA, Eshoo (D) YEA, Garamendi (D) YEA, Garcia (R) YEA, Gomez (D) YEA, Harder (D) YEA, Huffman (D) YEA, Khanna (D) YEA, LaMalfa (R) NAY, Lee (D) YEA, Ted Lieu (D) YEA, Lofgren (D) YEA, Lowenthal (D) YEA, Matsui (D) YEA, McCarthy (R) not voting, McClintock (R) NAY, McNerney (D) YEA, Napolitano (D) YEA, Nunes (R) NAY, Panetta (D) YEA, Pelosi (D) YEA, Peters (D) YEA, Porter (D) YEA, Roybal-Allard (D) YEA, Ruiz (D) YEA, Sánchez (D) YEA, Schiff (D) YEA, Sherman (D) YEA, Speier (D) YEA, Swalwell (D) YEA, Takano (D) YEA, Thompson (D) YEA, Torres (D) YEA, Vargas (D) YEA, Waters (D) YEA
- Colorado: Buck (R) NAY, Crow (D) YEA, DeGette (D) YEA, Lamborn (R) NAY, Levin (D) YEA, Neguse (D) YEA, Perlmutter (D) YEA, Tipton (R) NAY
- Connecticut: Courtney (D) YEA, DeLauro (D) YEA, Hayes (D) YEA, Himes (D) YEA, Larson (D) YEA
- Delaware: Blunt Rochester (D) YEA
- Florida: Bilirakis (R) not voting, Buchanan (R) NAY, Castor (D) YEA, Crist (D) YEA, Demings (D) YEA, Deutch (D) YEA, Diaz-Balart (R) YEA, Dunn (R) not voting, Frankel (D) YEA, Gaetz (R) NAY, Hastings (D) YEA, Lawson (D) YEA, Mast (R) NAY, Mucarsel-Powell (D) YEA, Murphy (D) YEA, Posey (R) NAY, Rooney (R) YEA, Rutherford (R) YEA. Shalala (D) YEA, Soto (D) YEA, Spano (R) NAY, Steube (R) NAY, Waltz (R) NAY, Wasserman-Schultz (D) YEA, Webster (R) NAY, Wilson (D) YEA, Yoho (R) not voting
- Georgia: Allen (R) NAY, Bishop (D) YEA, Carter (R) NAY, Collins (R) not voting, Ferguson (R) NAY, Hall (D) YEA, Hice (R) not voting, Johnson (D) YEA, Loudermilk (R) NAY, McBath (D) YEA, Austin Scott (R) NAY, David Scott (D) YEA,Woodall (R) NAY
- Hawaii: Case (D) YEA, Gabbard (D) YEA
- Idaho: Fulcher (R) NAY, Simpson (R) NAY
- Illinois: Bost (R) NAY, Bustos (D) YEA, Casten (D) YEA, Danny K. Davis (D) YEA, Rodney Davis (D) YEA, Foster (D) YEA, Garcia (D) YEA, Kelly (D) YEA, Kinzinger (R) YEA, Krishnamoorthi (D) YEA, LaHood (R) NAY, Lipinski (D) NAY, Quigley (D) YEA, Rush (D) YEA, Schakowsky (D) YEA, Schneider (D) YEA, Shimkus (R) NAY, Underwood (D) YEA
- Indiana: Baird (R) YEA, Banks (R) NAY, Brooks (R) YEA. Buschon (R) NAY, Carson (D) YEA, Hollingsworth (R) not voting, Pence (R) YEA, Visclosky (D) YEA, Walorski (R) YEA
- Iowa: Axne (D) YEA, Finkenauer (D) YEA, King (R) not voting, Loebsack (D) YEA
- Kansas: Davids (D) YEA, Estes (R) NAY, Marshall (R) NAY, Watkins (R) not voting
- Kentucky: Barr (R) not voting, Comer (R) YEA, Guthrie (R) NAY, Massie (R) NAY, Rogers (R) YEA, Yarmuth (D) YEA
- Louisiana: Abraham (R) not voting, Graves (R) NAY, Higgins (R) YEA, Johnson (R) NAY, Richmond (D) YEA, Scalise (R) NAY
- Maine: Golden (D) YEA, Pingree (D) YEA
- Maryland: Brown (D) YEA, Harris (R) NAY, Hoyer (D) YEA, Mfume (D) YEA, Raskin (D) YEA, Ruppersberger (D) YEA, Sarbanes (D) YEA, Trone (D) YEA
- Massachusetts: Clark (D) YEA, Keating (D) YEA, Kennedy (D) YEA, Lynch (D) YEA, McGovern (D) YEA, Moulton (D) YEA, Neal (D) YEA, Pressley (D) YEA, Trahan (D) YEA
- Michigan: Amash (I) NAY, Bergman (R) YEA, Dingell (D) YEA, Huizenga (R) NAY, Kildee (D) YEA, Lawrence (D) YEA, Levin (D) YEA, Mitchell (I) NAY, Moolenaar (R) NAY, Slotkin (D) YEA, Stevens (D) YEA, Tlaib (D) YEA, Upton (R) YEA, Walberg (R) NAY
- Minnesota: Craig (D) YEA, Emmer (R) NAY, Hagedorn (R) not voting, McCollum (D) YEA, Omar (D) YEA, Peterson (D) YEA, Phillips (D) YEA, Stauber (R) YEA
- Mississippi: Guest (R) NAY, Kelly (R) NAY, Palazzo (R) NAY, Thompson (D) YEA
- Missouri: Clay (D) YEA, Cleaver (D) YEA, Graves (R) NAY, Hartzler (R) NAY, Long (R) NAY, Leutkemeyer (R) NAY, Smith (R) YEA, Wagner (R) YEA
- Montana: Gianforte (R) NAY
- Nebraska: Bacon (R) NAY, Fortenberry (R) not voting, Smith (R) NAY
- Nevada: Amodei (R) NAY, Horsford (D) YEA, Lee (D) YEA, TItus (D) YEA
- New Hampshire: Kuster (D) YEA, Pappas (D) YEA
- New Jersey: Gottheimer (D) YEA, Kim (D) YEA, Malinowski (D) YEA, Pallone (D) YEA, Pascrell (D) YEA, Payne (D) YEA, Sherrill (D) YEA, Sires (D) YEA, Smith (R) YEA, Van Drew (R) YEA, Watson Coleman (D) YEA
- New Mexico: Haaland (D) YEA, Luján (D) YEA, Norcross (D) YEA, Torres Small (D) YEA
- New York: Brindisi (D) YEA, Clarke (D) YEA, Delgato (D) YEA, Engel (D) YEA, Espaillat (D) YEA, Jeffries (D) YEA, Katko (R) YEA, King (R) YEA, Lowey (D) YEA, Caroyn B. Maloney (D) YEA, Sean Moloney (D) YEA, Meeks (D) YEA, Meng (D) YEA, Morelle (D) YEA, Nadler (D) YEA, Ocasio-Cortez (D) YEA, Reed (R) YEA, Rice (D) YEA, Rose (D) YEA, Serrano (D) YEA, Stefanik (R) YEA, Suozzi (D) YEA, Tonko (D) YEA, Velázquez (D) YEA, Zeldin (R) YEA
- North Carolina: Adams (D) YEA, Bishop (R) NAY, Budd (R) NAY, Butterfield (D) YEA, Foxx (R) NAY, Higgins (D) YEA, Holding (R) NAY, Hudson (R) NAY, Jacobs (R) YEA, McHenry (R) NAY, Murphy (D) YEA, Price (D) YEA, Rouzer (R) NAY, Walker (R) not voting, Wright (R) not voting
- North Dakota: Armstrong (R) – NAY, Bishop (R) NAY
- Ohio: Balderson (R) NAY, Beatty (D) YEA, Chabot (R) NAY, Davidson (R) NAY, Fudge (D) YEA, Gibbs (R) NAY, Gonzalez (R) NAY, Johnson (R) YEA, Jordan (R) NAY, Joyce (R) YEA, Kaptur (D) YEA, Latta (R) NAY, Ryan (D) YEA, Stivers (R) NAY, Turner (R) NAY, Wenstrup (R) NAY
- Oklahoma: Cole (R) YEA, Hern (R) NAY, Horn (D) YEA, Lucas (R) YEA, Mullin (R) not voting
- Oregon: Blumenauer (D) YEA, Bonamici (D) YEA, DeFazio (D) YEA, Schrader (D) NAY, Walden (R) YEA
- Pennsylvania: Boyle, Brendan F. (D) YEA, Cartwright (D) YEA, Dean (D) YEA, Michael F. Doyle (D) YEA, Evans (D) YEA, Fitzpatrick (R) YEA, Houlahan (D) YEA, Joyce (R) NAY, Keller (R) NAY, Kelly (R) NAY, Lamb (D) YEA, Meuser (R) NAY, Perry (R) NAY, Reschenthaler (R) NAY, Smucker (R) NAY, Wild (D) YEA
- Rhode Island: Ciciline (D) YEA, Langevin (D) YEA, Scanlon (D) YEA
- South Carolina: Clyburn (D) YEA, Cunningham (D) YEA, Duncan (R) NAY, Norman (R) NAY, Rice (R) NAY, Timmons (R) NAY, Wilson (R) NAY
- South Dakota: Johnson (R) NAY
- Tennessee: Burchett (R) NAY, Cohen (D) YEA, Cooper (D) YEA, DesJarlias (R) NAY, Fleischmann (R) NAY, Green (R) NAY, Kustoff (R) NAY, Roe (R) not voting, John W. Rose (R) NAY
- Texas: Allred (D) YEA, Arrington (R) NAY. Babin (R) NAY, Brady (R) NAY, Burgess (R) YEA, Carter (R) not voting, Castro (D) YAY, Cloud (R) YEA, Conaway (R) NAY, Crenshaw (R) NAY, Cuellar (D) YEA, Doggett (D) YEA, Escobar (D) YEA, Fletcher (D) YEA, Flores (R) YEA, Garcia (D) YEA, Gohmert (R) NAY, Gonzalez (D) YEA, Gooden (R) NAY, Granger (R) YEA, Green (D) YEA, Hurd (R) YEA, Jackson Lee (D) YEA, Johnson (D) YEA, Olson (R) YEA, Roy (R) NAY, Taylor (R) NAY, Thornberry (R) NAY, Veasey (D) YEA, Vela (D) YEA, Weber (R) NAY, Williams (R) NAY
- Utah: Bishop (R) not voting, Curtis (R) NAY, Marchant (R) not voting, McAdams (D) YEA, McCaul (R) YEA, Stewart (R) NAY
- Vermont: Welch (D) YEA
- Virginia: Beyer (D) YEA, Cline, (R) NAY, Connolly (D) YEA, Griffith (R) NAY, Luria (D) YEA, McEachin (D) YEA, Riggleman (R) YEA, Scott (D) YEA, Spanberger (D) YEA, Wexton (D) YEA, Wittman (R) NAY
- Washington: DelBene (D) YEA, Heck (D) YEA, Herrera Beutler (R) YEA, Jayapal (D) YEA, Kilmer (D) YEA, Larsen (D) YEA, Newhouse (R) NAY, Rodgers (R) NAY, Schrier (D) YEA, Smith (D) YEA
- West Virginia: McKinley (R) YEA, Miller (R) NAY, Mooney (R) NAY
- Wisconsin: Gallagher (R) NAY, Grothman (R) NAY, Kind (D) YEA, Moore (D) YEA, Pocan (D) YEA, Sensenbrenner (R) NAY, Steil (R) NAY, Tiffany (R) NAY
- Wyoming: Cheney (R) NAY
Here is the text of H.R. 9051:
To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to increase recovery rebate amounts to $2,000 for individuals, and for other purposes.
To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to increase recovery rebate amounts to $2,000 for individuals and for other purposes.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.
This Act may be cited as the “Caring for Americans with Supplemental Help Act of 2020” or the “CASH Act of 2020”.
Sec. 2. RECOVERY REBATE AMOUNTS INCREASED.
(a) IN GENERAL – Section 6438A of the Internal Revenue Code of 1985, as added by the COVID-related Tax Relief Act of 2020, is amended by striking “$600” each place it appears and inserting “$2,000”, and by striking “$1,200” each place it appears and inserting “$4,000”.
(b) EFFECTIVE DATE. – The amendments made by this section are contingent upon the enactment of the COVID-related Tax Relief Act of 2020 and shall apply (if at all) as if included in the enactment of section 272 of such Act.
SEC. 3. DEPENDENTS TAKEN INTO ACCOUNT IN DETERMINING CREDIT AND REBATES.
(a) Recovery Rebates –
(1) IN GENERAL. – Section 6428(a)(2) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 us amended by striking “qualifying children (within the meaning of section 24(c))” and inserting “dependents (as defined in section 152)”.
(2) CONFORMING AMENDMENTS. –
(A) Section 6428(g) of such Code is amended by inserting “and subsection (a)(2) were applied by substituting ‘qualifying children (within the meaning of section 24(c))’ for “dependent (as defined in section 152)” before the period at the end.
(B) Section 6428(g) of such Code, as amended by the COVID-related Tax Relief Act of 2020 is amended –
(i) in paragraph (1), by striking “qualifying child” each place it appears and inserting “dependent”,
(ii) in paragraph (2)(C), by inserting “(determined after the application of subsection (f)(2))” after “subsection (a)(2)”, and
(iii) in paragraph (3)(B), by inserting “or dependent” after “child” in both places it apepars.
(3) EFFECTIVE DATE.- The amendments made by this subsection are contingent upon the enactment of the COVID-related Tax Relief Act of 2020 and shall apply (if at all) as if included in the enactment of section 273 of such Act.
(b) ADDITIONAL 2020 RECOVERY REBATES.-
(1) IN GENERAL.- Section 6428A(a)(2) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as added by the COVID-related Tax Relief Act of 2020, is amended by striking “qualifying children (within the meaning of section 24(c))” and inserting “dependents (as defined in section 152)”.
(2) AUTHORITY TO MAKE ADVANCE REFUNDS WITHOUT REGARD TO MODIFIED DEFINITION OF DEPENDENT.—Section 6428A(f) of such Code is amended by adding at the end the following new paragraph:
“(7) AUTHORITY TO MAKE ADVANCE REFUNDS WITHOUT REGARD TO MODIFIED DEFINITION OF DEPENDENT.—To the extent the Secretary determines appropriate to make or allow the maximum number of advance refunds by the deadline described in paragraph (3)(A)(ii), the Secretary may determine the advance refund amounts under this subsection without regard to the amendments made by paragraphs (1) and (3) of section 3(b) of the CASH Act of 2020.”.
(3) CONFORMING AMENDMENTS.—
(A) Section 6428A(f)(2)(B) of such Code is amended by striking “qualifying child” and inserting “dependent”.
(B) Section 6428A(g) of such Code is amended by striking “qualifying child” each place it appears and inserting “dependent”.
(C) Section 6428A(g)(4)(B) of such Code is amended by striking “such child” and inserting “such dependent”.
(4) EFFECTIVE DATE.—The amendments made by this subsection are contingent upon the enactment of the COVID-related Tax Relief Act of 2020 and shall apply (if at all) as if included in the enactment of section 272 of such Act.
SEC. 4. Budgetary effects.
(a) Statutory PAYGO Scorecards.—The budgetary effects of this Act shall not be entered on either PAYGO scorecard maintained pursuant to section 4(d) of the Statutory Pay-As-You-Go Act of 2010.
(b) Senate PAYGO Scorecards.—The budgetary effects of this Act shall not be entered on any PAYGO scorecard maintained for purposes of section 4106 of H. Con. Res. 71 (115th Congress).
Passed the House of Representatives December 28, 2020.
December 28, 2020: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (Democrat – California) posted a press release titled: “Pelosi Statement on National Defense Authorization Act Veto Override”. From the press release:
Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued this statement after the House voted on an overwhelmingly bipartisan basis to override the President’s veto of the National Defense Authorization Act:
“With this overwhelmingly bipartisan vote, the House has upheld our sacred Constitutional responsibility to keep our country and our people safe. The National Defense Authorization Act has been passed on a bipartisan and bicameral manner for sixty years, and it will become law, despite the President’s dangerous sabotage efforts.
“The President’s reckless veto would have denied our servicemembers hazard duty pay; our families paid family leave, child care, housing improvements and health protections; and our veterans their benefits. It would have senselessly deprived our allies and country of key protections for global peace and security – including for cyber-security, following a massive attack on the country. And it would have undermined our nation’s values and work to combat racism, by blocking overwhelmingly bipartisan action to rename military bases and infrastructure after officials who served in the Confederacy.
“The President must end his eleventh-hour campaign of chaos, and stop using his final moments in office to obstruct bipartisan and bicameral action to protect our military and defend our security.”
December 28, 2020: Covered California posted a news release titled: “Amid Surging COVID-19 Pandemic and Impending Enrollment Deadline, Covered California Urges Consumers to Sign Up for Health Care Coverage”. From the news release:
With the first open-enrollment deadline approaching this week, Covered California urged consumers to sign up now so they can have their health care coverage be effective on Jan.1.
“Covered California is a critical safety net to help people get quality health care coverage during the surging pandemic and ongoing recession,” said Peter V. Lee, executive director of Covered California. “With our first enrollment deadline coming up this week, we want to encourage anyone who needs coverage to check out their options so they can start the New Year with protection and peace of mind.”
In response to the pandemic, Covered California extended the enrollment deadline to receive Jan. 1 coverage from Dec. 15 to Wednesday Dec. 30. Consumers who sign up by Dec. 30 will need to pay their first bill in order to have their coverage take effect on Jan. 1.
Right now, an estimated 1.2 million Californians are uninsured – even though they are eligible for financial help through Covered California, or they qualify for low-cost or no-cost coverage through Medi-Cal…
…Get Covered, Stay Covered
Covered California mailed masks to 1.5 million enrollees and asked consumers to take all necessary precautions to help prevent the spread of the virus, while sharing the news about open enrollment.
“Getting covered with a mask will help protect Californians and their families and friends; getting covered with a health plan will help protect people if they get sick,” Lee said. “Covered California helps you get access to some of the best doctors and health care facilities in the country, and provides peace of mind during these challenging times where there is so much uncertainty.”…
December 29, 2020: Senator Pat Toomey (Republican – Pennsylvania) tweeted: “Congress should continue helping workers who’ve lost their jobs. But blindly borrowing more than $600 billion so we can send $2,000 checks to millions of people who haven’t lost any income is terrible policy. I won’t consent to a vote.” The tweet included a link to a YouTube video.
On September 25, 2020, 24/7 Wall street (via MSN) wrote the following:
…Senators are paid a salary of $174,000 per year – more than triple the average wage across all American workers of $53,490 and higher than the median earnings of even the best paying jobs in America. Senate majority and minority leaders make even more – $193,400 annually. Further, according to the U.S. Federal Reserve, the typical American family has a net worth of about $97,300. Meanwhile, the estimated median net worth among sitting U.S. senators is around $2.4 million.
December 29, 2020: The Hill posted an article titled: “GOP senator says he’ll block consent for $2,000 stimulus checks”. It was written by Alexander Bolton. From the article:
Republican Sen. Pat Toomey (Pa.) on Tuesday evening announced he would object to a request to swiftly pass House-approved legislation to increase the amount of direct stimulus checks $2,000.
Toomey is one several Republican senators who would object to such a request, including Sens. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.), according to a Senate to a Senate GOP aide…
…Toomey announced he will retire from Congress at the end of 2022 and that he doesn’t have plans to run again for political office.
…His statement shows that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is not the only obstacle to passing legislation approved by the House on Monday to increase the size of direct stimulus checks from $600 to $2,000…
December 29, 2020: The Guardian posted an article titled: “McConnell blocks initial Democratic effort for $2,000 Covid stimulus checks”. It was written by David Smith. From the article:
A growing number of Republicans on Tuesday backed Donald Trump’s demand to increase coronavirus relief payments to US citizens from $600 to $2,000, though the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, blocked Democrats’ efforts to quickly pass the measure.
Trump’s party has been plunged into chaos and conflict over his demands to increase one-off cheques for Americans, a measure that passed the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives on Monday…
…Put on the spot by Trump, more Republicans on Tuesday abandoned their previous opposition to the higher sum and came over to the president’s side…
…Final passage of the aid increase in the Senate would require 60 votes and the backing of a dozen Republicans to hand Trump an unlikely victory. The Georgia runoffs could weigh heavily in McConnell’s thinking on whether to allow such a vote to go ahead…
…McConnell objected, blocking initial consideration of the measure, but was set to come under growing pressure from Democrats and members of his own party to hold an up-or-down vote this week.
While blocking immediate consideration of a measure to increase Covid-19 relief payments, he suggested that the Senate would begin to examine the issue along with two others Trump has raised – the integrity of elections and limits on big technology companies…
…The defense bill is heading to the Senate after the House voted 322 to 87 to override Trump’s presidential veto. It was the first time either chamber of Congress delivered such a rebuke. Some 109 Republicans joined their Democratic colleagues to ensure the required two-thirds majority…
December 29, 2020: The Hill posted an article titled: “McConnell blocks vote on $2K checks, signals new package”. It was written by Jordain Carney. From the article:
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday blocked an attempt by Democrats to set up a stand-alone vote on increasing the amount of recently passed stimulus checks from $600 to $2,000.
Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) both tried to get consent for the Senate to bring up legislation that passed the House in a 273-134 vote on Monday.
The GOP leader did not directly address why he objected, but under the Senate’s rules any one senator can block efforts to set up votes or pass bills.
McConnell signaled separately that he could package the increase in direct stimulus checks, with a repeal of a tech shield that has emerged as a top target for Trump and election-related investigations. Trump, in his statement on signing the $2.3 trillion package, said the Senate would “start the process for a vote” that tackles the three issues.
“During this process, the president highlighted three additional issues of national significance he would like to see Congress tackle together,” McConnell said.
“Those are the three important subjects the president has linked together. This week the Senate will begin a process to bring these three priorities into focus,” he added.
McConnell did not provide additional details during his floor speech about how he might bring the measures up. But the GOP leader later filed a bill that would increase the amount of the stimulus checks, repeal a legal shield for tech companies known as Section 230 and create an election commission that would study the November elections.
He also started the process for getting his bill and the House-passed measure, known as the CASH Act, on the Senate calendar — which would make them each available for a vote but doesn’t guarantee they will be brought up.
But tying the stimulus checks to Section 230 or to Trump’s unsubstantiated claims that widespread election fraud cost him a second term would almost certainly undermine Democratic support for such legislation…
…Without the cooperation of every senator, the Senate is expected to debate Trump’s veto of an unrelated defense bill until Friday or Saturday, leaving them little to time to bring up and vote on a checks proposal before the start of the 117th Congress at noon Sunday.
Democrats want a stand-alone vote on a bill to increase the stimulus checks from $600 to $2,000…
December 29, 2020: Senator Charles E. Schumer (Democrat – New York) posted a blog post titled: “Who’s Blocking $2,000 Stimulus Checks? The Republican Senate Majority”. The blog post is on Data for Progress. From the blog post:
Throughout this pandemic, working Americans have taken it on the chin. Tens of millions of Americans have lost their jobs through no fault of their own. Nearly 26 million had difficulty putting food on the table in the past week, per a US Census study in early December. By January, 12 million Americans will owe an average of nearly $6,000 in back rent and utility payments. Communities of color and the poorest Americans are bearing the brunt of the current economic crisis, the worst in seventy-five years.
As Americans brace themselves for the hardest and darkest stretch of the coronavirus pandemic, the quickest way to help struggling Americans is to send some of their tax dollars right back into their pockets in the form of direct stimulus checks. For weeks, Democrats have pushed for generous direct payments to American families. Unfortunately, our Republican colleagues were only willing to agree to $600 checks in the most recent coronavirus-relief legislation, a pittance compared to the deep hole that many working families have fallen into.
So Democrats are fighting to increase the amount of the stimulus checks to $2,000 per adult.
Here’s the good news. Over the last few days, the idea of $2,000 checks has bridged the massive political divide here in Washington. On Monday, an overwhelming bipartisan majority in the House of Representatives passed legislation to approve immediate, $2,000 stimulus checks. Senate Democrats, too, strongly support $2,000 checks. Even President Trump supports $2,000 checks.
Most importantly, the public supports it as well. A recent Data for Progress poll showed that nearly 80% of likely voters approve of $2,000 in direct financial support, including a majority of Republicans and Democrats who are “strongly” in favor.
But here’s the bad news. When I went to the floor to ask the Senate to take up and pass the House bill to provide $2,000 checks, Majority Leader McConnell objected. It is only the latest example of how out-of-touch Senate Republicans are when it comes to helping struggling Americans during the coronavirus pandemic…
…But some Republican Senators object to these checks…because it might add to the national deficit. These are the same Republicans who added $2 trillion to the deficit in order to give massive tax breaks to billionaires and large corporations, and who fought to include a tax break for three-martini lunches in the most recent coronavirus-relief bill. But now that the economy is on life support, as Americans are queueing up on bread lines and filing for unemployment, and just as a Democratic President is about to take office: all of the sudden the deficit-scolds in the Republican party are back….
December 29, 2020: U.S. News posted an article titled: “Stimulus Checks Gain Momentum in Senate, But McConnell Won’t Commit to Vote”. It was written by Lisa Hagan. From the article:
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell objected on Tuesday to Democrats’ requests for an immediate vote on increasing stimulus checks to $2,000 even as momentum builds among more GOP senators for the House-passed bill that’s also backed by President Donald Trump.
From the floor, McConnell announced that the Senate will “begin a process” to address all three of Trump’s priorities that he highlighted on Sunday: higher stimulus checks, a review of voter fraud claims from the November election and consideration of reforms to Section 230, the regulation that shields tech companies from lawsuits over user content.
For now, the Kentucky Republican is essentially punting on a standalone bill to increase direct payments from $600 to $2,000. And he initially gave little insight or detail on how he’d proceed with Trump’s requests or how he’d tie them all together with only five days left in the legislative session. A new Congress will be sworn in on Jan. 3.
Before the Senate adjourned late Tuesday afternoon, McConnell introduced a long-shot bill that combines all of Trump’s demands: $2,000 stimulus checks, the repeal of Section 230, and the creation of a bipartisan committee that would “study the integrity and administration” of the Nov. 3 election. But no votes are currently scheduled, and McConnell could still decide to take up the House-passed checks bill…
…After McConnell’s announcement committing to move forward with Trump’s priorities, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York and Bernie Sanders of Vermont took to the floor to request immediate consideration and a standalone vote on stimulus checks. But McConnell rejected Schumer’s request for unanimous consent, which only takes one objection to kill the effort. McConnell also objected to Sanders’ request to consider a vote…
December 29, 2020: San Antonio Express-News posted an article titled: “Pregnant, immunocompromised, or have allergies? Here’s what you need to know about COVID-19 vaccines”. It was written by Narina Starleaf Riker. From the article:
…In December, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved emergency use of COVID-19 vaccines made by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech. Unlike many other vaccines that use a killed or weakened virus, these new COVID-19 vaccines harness a groundbreaking technology called synthetic messenger RNA — mRNA for short — that directs cells to produce proteins that trigger the immune system to create antibodies.
Those antibodies fight the real virus if a person becomes infected.
We interviewed Dr. Ruth Berggren, an infectious disease specialist at UT Health San Antonio, to learn more about the vaccines’ safety. She served on a UT Health working group that examined the safety of the Pfizer vaccine and considered how it should be distributed among front-line health care workers…
…What safety concerns have come up so far?
The biggest one is the possibility of having a very severe allergic reaction to one of the vaccine components and a severe allergic reaction we call “anaphylaxis.” That’s the allergic reaction where your throat closes up, and because of swelling back in your throat area, you can’t breathe. Because the vaccine is being given in a closely-monitored medical setting, we treat people who are showing even a glimmer of an anaphylactic reaction with appropriate treatments that can include antihistamines, steroids and then even epinephrine if there’s a real danger of the throat closing off.
That’s the big concern. What are people being allergic to that’s causing this? The ingredients of the vaccine are publicly available in multiple places including FDA and CDC documents. Probably the most important ingredient is polyethylene glycol or PEG, which is not a weird or new compound. Polyethylene glycol is what is in the prep that people take when they’re going to go for a colonoscopy, that liquid stuff that you drink. It’s been used chemically to modify drugs that we give people, such as interferon. So this is not a new thing. There are decades and decades of safety information about it, but like everything else, some people could become allergic, just like some people can become allergic to a bee sting.
Can you talk about the safety of these vaccines for people who are immunocompromised, such as people who have lupus or Type 1 diabetes?
I want to make it really clear that this vaccine is not harmful for people whose immune system is weakened for one reason or another. It does not further harm your immune system, and it doesn’t predispose you to having some problem because you’re immunocompromised. The issue is that people who are immunocompromised need to know that their response to the vaccine may not even come close to being as protective as it is for other people. If my immune system is weak and I get vaccinated, I’ll probably mount some immune response, but I might not mount enough of one to fully protect me from getting infected or to fully protect me from severe disease.
We have that note of caution, and people get asked prior to being vaccinated, “Are you pregnant? Are you immunocompromised?,” so that they can be informed of what this vaccine could or could not do for them. But being immunocompromised does not present a safety concern for the vaccine itself.
It’s important for the public to know that in the Pfizer vaccine trial, people with well-controlled HIV, as well as people with controlled Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C, were included. And there was no problem in people with well-controlled HIV…
…Can you talk about what we know about the safety of these vaccines for people who are pregnant or breastfeeding?
The Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine got up front with a statement recommending that pregnant women who are at risk for getting COVID-19 should not be prevented from getting the vaccine and that they should be allowed to make the decision in conjunction with their doctor. There is no evidence that the vaccine harms the fetus, but we also don’t have any large-scale evidence of intentionally giving this vaccine to pregnant women to watch what happens.
It needs to be an individualized decision. If a pregnant mom is on the front lines of health care — let’s say she is intubating patients who have SARS-CoV-2 infection — that is a high-risk situation. If you add on that that pregnant woman may have gestational diabetes or hypertension — some of the risk factors for a bad COVID-19 disease outcome — it would be a bad thing to prevent such a woman from getting vaccinated. She should be allowed to have access to it…
December 29, 2020: Steven Mnuchin, U.S. Secretary of Treasury tweeted: “.@USTreasury has delivered a payment file to the @FederalReserve for Americans’ Economic Impact Payments. These payments may begin to arrive in some accounts by direct deposit as early as tonight and will continue into next week (1/2)”. This tweet was the start of a short thread.
December 29, 2020: Steven Mnuchin, U.S. Secretary of Treasury, tweeted: “Paper checks will begin to be mailed tomorrow. Later this week, you can check the status of your payment at IRS.gov.GetMyPayment (2/2).
December 29, 2020: The Hill posted an article titled: “Mnuchin: Stimulus payments to begin arriving Tuesday night”. It was written by Tal Axlerod and Naomi Jagoda. From the article:
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that stimulus payments from the most recent coronavirus relief package could begin landing in Americans’ bank accounts as early as Tuesday night…
…He added that paper checks will begin to be mailed Wednesday.
The coronavirus relief package, which President Trump signed on Sunday, provided for direct relief payments of up to $600 per adult and per child under 17. Individuals with income of up to $75,000 and married couples with income up to $150,000 are eligible for the full amount, and the amounts are reduced for people with incomes above those thresholds.
Treasury and the IRS are issuing payments automatically to people who filed a 2019 tax return, non-filers who recieve certain federal benefits and people who provided their information to the IRS earlier this year through the agency’s web tool for non-filers. Most people will receive their payments by direct deposit, while others will get their payments in the mail in the firm of either a paper check or a debit card. Debit cards will be delivered in a white envelope with the Treasury seal, the IRS said.
Under the relief package, the IRS has until Jan. 15 to issue the automatic payments. Eligible people who do not receive their payment or who did not receive some or all of the payment to which they were entitled under March’s CARES Act can claim a tax credit when they file their 2020 tax returns next year. The CARES Act authorized payments of up to $1,200 per adult and $500 per child.
The announcement that $600 payments are starting to be sent out comes amid a push by Trump and some lawmakers to increase those payments to $2,000. Treasury said Tuesday that if further legislation is enacted to increase the payment amount, payments that have already been issued will be “topped up” as promptly as they can be.
December 29, 2020: NARAL Pro-Choice America posted a press release titled: “NARAL Pro-Choice America Celebrates Passage of Abortion Access Provisions in Massachusetts”. From the press release:
Today, the Massachusetts state legislature overrode Republican Governor Charlie Baker’s veto in order to enact legislation that removes critical barriers to accessing abortion care in Massachusetts. This legislation includes key provisions of the ROE Act, a bill that NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts, the ACLU of Massachusetts, and Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund of Massachusetts have advocated for since 2019.
Earlier this month, the legislature rejected Governor Baker’s proposed amendments to this legislation and returned it to his desk as written and passed by the legislature. Baker’s amendments would have maintained the Commonwealth’s medically unnecessary barriers to care. Governor Baker subsequently vetoed the original language on Christmas Eve, sparking outrage and criticism from voters and advocates, and today, the legislature overrode the veto to make this critical legislation law.
The legislation removes several medically unnecessary barriers to care that existed in Massachusetts law. Specifically, it removes the ban on abortion care later in pregnancy in the case of a lethal fetal diagnosis, ensuring Bay State families can get the compassionate care they need in their home state without having to fly across the country. The section also partially repeals the state’s parental consent and judicial bypass law by allowing 16- and 17-year-olds to make their own decisions about abortion care, making Massachusetts the first state in the country to legislatively roll back a mandated parental involvement law accomplish this. It streamlines the judicial bypass process for young people under 16 by allowing remote hearings, removing the onerous and traumatic burden of having to appear in court before a judge. This new process mirrors existing practices set up during the COVID-19 pandemic and minimizes harmful delays to care. The section also affirmatively codifies the right to abortion into Massachusetts state law.
In response to the legislation’s passage, NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts Executive Director Rebecca Hart Holder said:
“This is a proud day for Bay Staters and supporters of reproductive freedom across the country. Today we repealed laws that have been on the books since 1974. Laws designed to prevent women and pregnant people from accessing abortion care when they need it. For far too long, our outdated abortion laws in Massachusetts did not reflect our values or voters’ widespread support for reproductive freedom. That changes today. By removing these medically unnecessary barriers to care, we have taken a major step toward ensuring that all Bay Staters can get the safe, legal abortion care when and where they need it.”
NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue released the following statement:
“The passage of the Massachusetts budget with this key section on reproductive freedom is a huge win. Women and families need understanding, information, and support—not barriers to accessing care. NARAL Pro-Choice America was proud to stand with NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts, the ROE Act Coalition, and our more than 72,000 members across the Commonwealth in fighting to ensure that every body has the freedom to control their own lives, destinies, and futures.”
A recent poll from Change Research finds that more than 3 in 4 Massachusetts voters believe the state should protect the right to abortion care through state legislation and support the core provisions of the ROE Act—including many provisions included in the FY 2021 budget. More than 4 in 5 voters in Massachusetts do not believe that vulnerable teens seeking abortion care need a courtroom judge, including 77% of Independents and 57% of Republicans. Further, nearly 3 in 5 voters supported repealing the parental consent law.
This is a crucial win for reproductive freedom at a time when anti-choice state lawmakers across the country remain determined to criminalize abortion—putting the advancement of their unpopular ideology above the health and well-being of the American people, even during a still-raging pandemic. Thanks to these efforts from anti-choice, anti-freedom legislators—as well as Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s efforts to stack the federal judiciary with judges hostile to Roe v. Wade—reproductive freedom remains in jeopardy.
NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts advocated for this amendment as part of the ROE Act Coalition—a statewide reproductive rights coalition of more than 70 grassroots, community, advocacy, and labor organizations.
December 30, 2020: Politico posted an article titled: “McConnell and GOP reject House’s $2,000 stimulus checks”. It was written by Burgess Everett. From the article:
Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans finished off any imminent chance of approving $2,000 stimulus checks on Wednesday, ending a push from President Donald Trump and Democratic leaders to approve bigger direct payments as the congressional term comes to an end.
The Senate majority leader said he would not detach the $2,000 checks supported by President Donald Trump from other matters demanded by the president: Stripping legal protections from tech companies and establishing an election fraud commission. He declared that the House’s effort to more than triple the size of $600 checks approved earlier this week has “no realistic path to quickly pass the Senate.”…
…But Democrats indicated they would not abandon their efforts. Andrew Bates, a spokesman for President-elect Joe Biden, said he supports the House bill and said “it’s imperative that we build on the bipartisan stimulus downpayment.”…
…Trump continued pressing his case: “$2000 ASAP!” he said on Twitter on Wednesday. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) even printed out massive posters of Trump’s tweets pushing for more cash and read them on the Senate floor…
…The issue has dominated the Senate even as both parties are preparing to roll over Trump’s veto of the annual defense bill. Sens. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Cornyn battled with Democrats on the Senate floor on Wednesday, spurning requests to hold a roll call vote. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Sanders and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) all tried to force votes, but each request was rejected.
Sanders and other Democrats said they would not consent to finishing a critical $740 billion defense bill until they got their vote, as did Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.).
“All that he has to do is give us an up or down vote on the issue of getting $2,000 to every working class adult in this country,” Sanders said of McConnell after the floor fight. “If he wants to bring up another approach, that’s fine too. But give us an up or down straight forward vote.”…
…Democrats and some Republicans oppose a blanket repeal, meaning McConnell’s bill probably can’t get 60 votes in the Senate anyway. Moreover, the House is gone for the year, leaving their standalone bill to boost the $600 checks to $2,000 as the only real option at this point.
“There is no other game in town besides the House bill. The only way … to get to the American people the $2,000 checks they deserve and need is to pass the House bill and pass it now,” Schumer said…
December 31, 2021: Oregon State University posted news titled: “OSU studies find Oregon’s Medicaid expansion improved prenatal care access, birth outcomes”. From the article:
A pair of recent studies from Oregon State University found that Oregon’s Medicaid expansion in 2014 has led increased prenatal care among low-income women, as well as improved health outcomes for newborn babies.
In the three years after the expansion, one study found that Oregon saw an almost 2 percentage point increase in first trimester prenatal care utilization, relative to 18% of the pre-expansion population who lacked any access to prenatal care in the earlier stages of pregnancy.
In the same period, the second study found, Medicaid expansion was associated with a 29% reduction in low birthweight among babies born to women on Medicaid, as well as a 23% reduction in preterm births.
Prior to the state’s Medicaid expansion as part of the Affordable Care Act, low-income women who were not otherwise eligible for Medicaid became eligible when they became pregnant. It was estimated that expanding Medicaid to include everyone earning up to 138% of the federal poverty level would extend coverage to an additional 77,000 women of childbearing age.
“This means that women are getting preconception care before they’re pregnant,” said lead author Marie Harvey, associate dean for research in OSU’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences. “Then when they become pregnant, they’re more easily able to get prenatal care.”
Prior to pregnancy, establishing that connection with a primary care provider means women are able to receive holistic medical and public health care to improve their overall well-being….
…The study found almost twice the magnitude of gains in pre-pregnancy enrollment in Medicaid among Hispanic women compared with non-Hispanic white women, Gibbs said.
In turn, increased pre-pregnancy enrollment in Medicaid likely contributed to the positive impacts on low birthweight and preterm births, researchers said, as women with health coverage had greater access to preventive care and preconception care…
January 1, 2021: The Guardian posted an article titled: “Senate overrides Donald Trump’s veto of defense spending bill”. It was written by Edward Helmore. From the article:
Donald Trump’s fellow Republicans in the US Senate on Friday took the atypical rebellious step of overriding his veto for the first time in his presidency.
The Senate pushed through a bill on defense spending against Trump’s strong objections – just 20 days before he leaves office.
Meeting in a rare New Year’s Day session, the Senate secured the two-thirds majority needed to override the veto with bipartisan support two days before a new Congress will be sworn in on Sunday.
Eight previous vetoes of legislation have been upheld. Under the US constitution, the president has the power to veto a bill passed by Congress, but lawmakers can uphold the bill if two-thirds of both the House of Representatives and the Senate vote to override it.
The Republican-led Senate, following the Democratic-controlled House on Monday, passed the measure without Trump’s support, voting 81-13 on Friday afternoon…
…The $740bn National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) determines everything from military programs and construction projects to how to address geopolitical threats.
Trump refused to sign it into law because of its failure to repeal Section 230, a federal law that provides a legal liability shield for internet companies, and because it includes a provision stripping the names of Confederate generals from military bases…
January 1, 2021: The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) posted a press release titled: “AAP Statement on Passage of Global Child Thrive Act”. It was written by Lee Savio Beers, MD, FAAP, President of American Academy of Pediatrics. From the press release:
“The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) applauds the Global Child Thrive Act becoming law. This vital provision represents important bipartisan effort tha will make significant and necessary strides toward supporting child health around the world.
“Pediatricians understand that healthy, nurturing, and safe environments are critical to a child’s lifelong health and development. Without that support, children can face serious consequences to their overall health. Millions of children in low-and middle-income countries suffer from poor development due to inadequate nutrition, lack of stimulation and nurturing care, and exposure to stress. The Global Child Thrive Act will support children globally by integrating proven early childhood interventions – such as training caregivers to provide mental stimulation and nurturing care like singing and reading – into foreign assistance programs that serve children and their families.
“The Global Child Thrive Act advanced as part of the National Defense Authorization Act, which also included important AAP-supported provisions that limit potential cuts to medical military personnel, helping to ensure access to needed health care services for military children and families.
“Pediatrician advocacy for children extends far beyond our country’s borders. The Academy thanks Senators Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Representatives Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) for their committment to global child health and their leadership on the Global Child Thrive Act. As this legislation becomes law, we look forward to continuing to work with policymakers across the government to support the health of children and families everywhere.”
January 3, 2021: CNN posted an article titled: “117th Congress sworn in Sunday amid pandemic”. It was written by Clare Foran, Kristin Wilson and Ted Barrett. From the article:
The 117th Congress was officially sworn in on Sunday, bringing an influx of new lawmakers to Capitol Hill amid the ongoing pandemic.
The Constitution calls for Congress to convene on January 3 at noon ET — the reason for the rare Sunday session. Newly elected and returning members took the oath of office and the full House of Representatives voted along party lines to reelect Nancy Pelosi as House Speaker.
House Democrats kept control of the House in the November elections, but will now have a narrower majority after suffering a string of losses, despite projections that they would win more seats. House Republicans, meanwhile, outperformed expectations and are now poised to add a significant number of GOP women to their ranks in the new Congress.
In the Senate, the balance of power still has yet to be decided with all eyes on a pair of Senate runoff elections taking place in Georgia on January 5 that will determine which party controls the chamber…
January 5, 2021: Center for Reproductive Rights posted a press release titled: “ACLU and Center for Reproductive Rights Win in Federal Court, Blocking Four Anti-Abortion Laws in Arkansas”. From the press release:
In a critical victory for abortion access in Arkansas, the ACLU and the Center for Reproductive Rights secured an order today from the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas blocking four state anti-abortion laws.
Last month, that court issued a 14-day temporary restraining order blocking the four laws only a few hours after the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals allowed them to take effect. During the short time the laws were in effect, Little Rock Family Planning Services was forced to cancel appointments. Today’s ruling will keep the laws blocked while the case continues.
“This order will ensure that essential reproductive health care services will remain available in Arkansas,” said Ruth Harlow, senior staff attorney in the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project. “The laws blocked by the court today do nothing but place roadblock after roadblock in front of patients, in violation of their constitutionally protected rights. Arkansas politicians may continue this ruthless attack on abortion, but we will see them in court every time.”
If allowed to take effect, the laws would completely prevent many people from obtaining abortion care, create intrusive and stigmatizing requirements that violate patients’ privacy rights, and leave the state with even more limited access to abortion. The litigation is supported by several medical experts and five Arkansas abortion patients who spoke to the devastating impact the laws would have if enforced.
“Arkansas legislators took an oath to protect people’s constitutional rights — not trample on them with harmful dictates and restrictions,” said Holly Dickson, executive director of the ACLU of Arkansas. “We’re relieved the court will continue to block these unconstitutional laws while we keep fighting to have them struck down for good.”
“Today’s decision brings welcome, but temporary, relief to those seeking time-sensitive and essential abortion care in Arkansas,” said Jenny Ma, senior staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “For now, anti-abortion lawmakers have been halted from devastating abortion access in the state. Just last month, we saw the impact of these laws when they took effect for just a few hours: patients were turned away and abortion access was severely limited. We can’t allow that to become the status quo for Arkansas and will continue to fight in court.”
The lawsuit was filed by the ACLU, the ACLU of Arkansas, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and the law firm of O’Melveny & Myers LLP on behalf of Frederick W. Hopkins, M.D., M.P.H. and Little Rock Family Planning Services.
January 6, 2021: Miami Herald posted an article titled: “Warnock, Ossoff win in Georgia, handing Dems Senate control”. It was written by Steve Peoples, Bill Barrow and Russ Bynum. From the article:
Democrats won both Georgia Senate seats — and with them, the U.S. Senate majority — as final votes were counted Wednesday, serving President Donald Trump a stunning defeat in his turbulent final days in office while dramatically improving the fate of President-elect Joe Biden’s progressive agenda.
Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, Democratic challengers who represented the diversity of their party’s evolving coalition, defeated Republicans David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler two months after Biden became the first Democratic presidential candidate to carry the state since 1992.
Warnock, who served as pastor for the same Atlanta church where civil rights leader the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. preached, becomes the first African American from Georgia elected to the Senate. And Ossoff becomes the state’s first Jewish senator and, at 33 years old, the Senate’s youngest member…
January 7, 2020: Houston Chronicle posted an article titled: “As Texas boots Planned Parenthood, Medicaid clients get 30 days to find new providers”. It was written by Jeremy Blackman. From the article:
Thousands of low-income Texans have less than a month to find new providers of birth control, cancer screenings and other non-abortion services as the state moves forward with plans to boot Planned Parenthood from its Medicaid program, according to a letter sent from the state health agency.
The nonprofit had asked for at least a six month extension to help recipients transition to new providers, following a November court ruling that allowed Republican officials to stop reimbursing it for Medicaid services. In the letter sent Monday, however, the health agency said it has only until Feb. 3, and is prohibited from accepting any new Medicaid patients.
Planned Parenthood served about 8,000 Medicaid recipients last year. The program helps low-income Texans, but many health providers don’t participate because of low reimbursement rates from the state.
“The Medicaid network needs more providers, not fewer,” Planned Parenthood said in a statement denouncing the decision, adding that it will harm people of color and women most. “Gov. Abbott knows full well that other providers can’t just absorb Planned Parenthood’s family planning patients — a well-documented fact explained by the experts, including the American Public Health Association.”…
…In a call last month with reporters, Planned Parenthood South Texas President and CEO Jeffrey Hons said its clinics are some of the only options for low-income communities, especially Black and Latina women who have less access to health care than white women and whose families have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.
To qualify for Medicaid in Texas, a single woman with a dependent child can’t make more than $196 per month.
January 8, 2021: CNN posted an article titled: “Trump administration strikes parting blow at Medicaid with Tennessee block grant”. It was written by Tami Luhby. From the article:
Just days before leaving office, the Trump administration took a step toward fulfilling a long-held Republican dream of curbing Medicaid costs and giving states more flexibility to run the program.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Friday granted Tennessee’s request to turn its federal Medicaid funding arrangement into a so-called modified block grant. It is the first state to receive such permission and is similar to a guidance the agency issued in early 2020.
The Biden administration, however, is expected to oppose the approval, which lasts 10 years. While incoming officials can reverse the decision, the state can request a hearing to challenge that determination. The overturning of approvals has rarely, if ever, happened…
…Tennessee’s waiver shifts federal funding for its TennCare program to a lump sum, which will increase annually based on projected Medicaid spending growth rates in the president’s budget. If enrollment rises or falls more than 1%, the block grant is adjusted accordingly. TennCare currently covers about 1.5 million low-income residents.
If the program comes in under budget and meets certain quality metrics, the state can share in the savings. Among the target priorities for the extra funds, officials said, are addressing maternal health, serving individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities currently on a waiting list to receive services and addressing other state-specific public health crises…
…The waiver also gives the state more flexibility in administering its program, including limiting the number of prescription drugs covered and changing the optional benefits — such as prescription drugs and physical therapy — it provides without federal approval.
Tennessee is one of a dozen states that has not expanded Medicaid to low-income adults under the Affordable Care Act…
January 9, 2021: Pink News posted an article titled: “Donald Trump launches “parting assault on the LGBT+ community’ by stripping discrimination protections”. It was written by Lily Wakefield. From the article:
Amid the fallout from extremist riots at the US capitol, Trump’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has officially adopted new rules allowing recipients of federal HHS grants to discriminate against LGBT+ people in the name of religious freedom.
They roll back Obama-era rules which ban discrimination by those receiving grants from HHS against people on the basis of age, disability, sex, race, colour, national origin, religion, gender identity or sexual orientation.
The rules also rescind the requirement for HHS grantees to “treat as valid the marriages of same-sex couples”.
Now, the regulations read: “It is a public policy requirement of HHS that no person otherwise eligible will be excluded from participation in, denied the benefits of, or subjected to discrimination in the administration of HHS programs and services, to the extent doing so is prohibited by federal statute.”
Except federal statute does not protect LGBT+ people from discrimination, therefore Trump has effectively given HHS grantees the green light to discriminate against people based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Where the HHS regulations used to require grantees to treat same-sex marriages as valid, they now read: “HHS will follow all applicable Supreme Court decisions in administering its award programs.”
While the change allow discrimination under the guise of “religious liberty” in healthcare services like HIV and STI prevention programs, opioid programs and youth homelessness services, adoption and fostering services also come under the HSS department.
If faith-based adoption and fostering services are funded by the government, they will be able to refuse to place children with families based on sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status, a change that religious conservatives have been pushing for...
January 12, 2021: SCOTUSblog (which is NOT run by the Supreme Court Justices) tweeted: “BREAKING: SCOTUS grants Trump admin request, reverses nationwide injunction that allowed patients to receive abortion-related drugs via mail during the pandemic. Patients will now have to pick up medication in person. Breyer, Kagen, Sotomayor dissent.”
The tweet included a link to the Supreme Court’s decision.
January 12, 2021: The New York Times posted an article titled: “Supreme Court Revives Abortion-Pill Restriction”. It was written by Adam Liptak. From the article:
In the Supreme Court’s first ruling on abortion since the arrival of Justice Amy Coney Barrett, the court on Tuesday reinstated a federal requirement that women seeking to end their pregnancies using medications pick up a pill in person from a hospital or medical office.
The court’s brief order was unsigned, and the three more liberal judges dissented. The only member of the majority to offer an explanation was Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who said the ruling was a limited one that deferred to the views of experts.
The question, he wrote, was not whether the requirement imposed “an undue burden on a woman’s right to an abortion as a general matter.” Instead, he wrote, it was whether a federal judge should have second-guessed the Food and Drug Administration’s determination “because of the court’s own evaluation of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.”
“Here as in related contexts concerning government responses to the pandemic,” the chief justice wrote, quoting an earlier opinion, “my view is that courts owe significant deference to the politically accountable entities with the ‘background, competence and expertise to assess public health'”.
In dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor joined by Justice Elena Kagen, said the majority was grievously wrong.
“This country’s laws have long singled out abortions for more onerous treatment than other medical procedures that carry similar or greater risks,” Justice Sotomayor wrote. “Like many of those laws, maintaining the F.D.A.’s in-person requirements” for picking up the drug “during the pandemic not only treats abortion exceptionally, it imposes an unnecessary, irrational and unjustifiable undue burden on women seeking to exercise their right to choose.”
She suggested that the next administration should revisit the issue.
“One can only hope that the government will reconsider and exhibit greater care and empathy for women seeking some measure of control over their health and reproductive lives in these unsettling times,” Justice Sotomayor wrote…
January 12, 2021: The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) tweeted: “BREAKING: SCOTUS reinstated a federal policy that makes it harder for people to acces abortion care during the pandemic. The policy forces medication abortion patients to needlessly risk COVID-19 exposure by traveling to a health center just to pick up a pill and sign a form.” This tweet was the start of a thread.
January 12, 2021: The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) tweeted: “This was the court’s first abortion ruling with Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s vote. People of color and people with low incomes, who make up the majority of impacted patients and are suffering from COVID-19 at disproportionate rates, will be particularly harmed by this decision.”
January 12, 2021: The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) tweeted: “The Biden administration could right this wrong by declaring that it won’t enforce the in-person requirement during the pandemic, in line with the government’s treatment of other medications during this time.” This tweet linked to an article on the ACLU website. This is the last tweet in the thread.
January 12, 2021: Forbes posted an article titled: “House Reportedly Imposes Fine On Lawmakers Who Don’t Wear Masks”. It was written by Alison Durkee. From the article:
House lawmakers who don’t wear masks on the House floor will now face a $500 fine on their first offense and a $2,500 fine on their second, multiple outlets report, after three Democratic lawmakers tested positive for Covid-19 after sheltering with unmasked Republican colleagues during Wednesday’s seizure of the Capitol…
…The fines will reportedly come out of the offending lawmakers paycheck, and Politico reports similar fines are being considered for House office buildings.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision to impose fines follows legislation introduced Tuesday by House Democrats that proposed a fine of $1,000 per day for any member of Congress who doesn’t wear a mask while on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol.
House members were already required to wear masks on teh House floor, and Pelosi moved in December to prohibit members of Congress from speaking on the floor if they’re not wearing a mask…
January 12, 2021: Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services Seema Verma posted information regarding the withdrawl of the Medicaid Fiscal Accountability Regulation proposed rule. From the information:
…This document withdraws a proposed rule that was published in the Federal Register on November 18, 2019. The proposed rule would have established new reporting requirements and codified other Medicaid financing requirments, including related to permissible sources for non-federal share financing…
On November 18, 2019, we published a proposed rule to amend our regulations dealing with grants to states for medical assistance programs, state fiscal administration, payments for services, Medicaid program integrity, and allotments to states and grants… After an internal review of the proposed rule, CMS has decided to withdraw the proposed rule.
The proposed rule sought to promote accountability and transparency for Medicaid payments by establishing new reporting requirements for states to provide CMS with certain information on supplemental payments to Medicaid providers, including supplemental payments approved under either Medicaid state plan or demonstration authority, codification of parameters for Medicaid upper payment limit calculations, provider definitions associated with data reporting and Medicaid financing, Medicaid disproportionate share hospital audit requirements and changes to some existing operational processes to better align with technology improvements. This proposed rule also sought to establish additional requirements to ensure that state plan amendments proposing new supplemental payments are consistent with the proper and efficient operation of the state plan and with efficiency, economy, and quality of care. Finally, this proposed rule sought to address the non-federal share financing of supplemental and base Medicaid payments, including states’ uses of health care-related taxes and provider-related donations, and other requirements for sources of the non-federal share.
We received approximately 10,188 individual comments (4,225 unduplicated comment submissions) through the extended comment period.1 We received significant comments on the proposed rule regarding its potential impact on states and their budgets, Medicaid providers and Medicaid beneficiary access to needed services. Many commenters stated their belief that the proposed rule did not include adequate analysis of these matters. Numerous commenters indicated that CMS, in some instances, lacked statutory authority for its proposals and was creating regulatory provisions that were ambiguous or unclear and subject to excessive Agency discretion.
While we continue to support the intent and purpose of the rule to increase fiscal accountability and improve transparency in the Medicaid program, based on the considerable feedback we received through the public comment process, we have determined it appropriate to withdraw the proposed provisions at this time. Moving forward, we want to ensure agency flexibility in re-examining these important issues and exploring options and possible alternative approaches that best implement the requirements of the Medicaid statute. We also believe it is important to re-examine and fully analyze the proposed Medicaid reporting requirements in consideration of the recent Congressional action through the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 (H.R. 116-133, Pub. L. 116-260) which establishes new statutory requirementsfor Medicaid supplemental payment reporting. This withdrawal action does not limit our prerogative to make new regulatory proposals in the areas addressed by the withdrawn proposed rule, including new proposals that may be substantially identical or similar to those described therein.
Finally, the withdrawal of this proposed rule does not affect existing federal legal requirements or policy that were merely proposed to be codified in regulation, including certain provisions related to Medicaid financing and Medicaid Upper Payment Limit (UPL) requirements. For example, without limitation, this includes guidance in State Medicaid Director Letter (SMDL) #13-003, which discussed a submission process to comply with the UPL requirements; SMDL #14-004, which discussed Medicaid financing and provider-related donations; as well as State Health Officials (SHO) Letter #14-001, which addressed health care-related taxes. This withdrawal action does not affect CMS’ ongoing application of existing statutory and regulatory requirements or its responsibility to faithfully administer the Medicaid program
The document is scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on January 19, 2021 – the day before President-Elect Biden will be sworn in and will become President of the United States.
January 13, 2021: Planned Parenthood posted a press release titled: “Supreme Court Reinstates Medically Unnecessary Barriers to Abortion During COVID-19”. From the press release:
Today, the U.S. Supreme Court — which now includes three Trump-appointed justices — granted the Trump administration’s request to reinstate a medically unnecessary barrier to medication abortion during the COVID-19 pandemic. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS) restrictions on mifepristone mandate that patients pick up the medication directly from a doctor’s office, hospital, or health center, rather than from a pharmacy or by mail, as allowed for other equally safe medications. During the pandemic, this unnecessary travel can expose patients to needless COVID-19 risks related to transportation, child care, multiple health center trips, and more…
…In her dissent, Justice Sotomayor wrote:
“Due to particularly severe health risks, vastly limited clinic options, and the 10-week window for obtaining a medication abortion, the FDA’s requirement that women obtain mifepristone in person during the COVID-19 pandemic places an unnecessary and undue burden on their right to abortion. Pregnancy itself puts a woman at increased risk for severe consequences from COVID-19. In addition, more than half of women who have abortions are women of color, and COVID-19’s mortality rate is three times higher for Black and Hispanic individuals than non-Hispanic White individuals”
By reinstating this unnecessary barrier to critical health care during a global pandemic, this order risks the health of people seeking medication abortion. This harm will be felt most acutely by Black, Latino, Indigenous, and other communities of color who already face disproportionate economic and health outcomes, as well as illness and death, due to COVID-19.
Mifepristone is safe, effective, and has been used by more than 4 million people since the FDA approved it 20 years ago. Leading medical associations, such as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and American Academy of Family Physicians, have maintained that the FDA’s long-standing restrictions on mifepristone are not based on evidence and do not benefit patients. In fact, out of 20,000 prescription medications regulated by the FDA, mifepristone is the only home-use medication required to be dispensed in person…
January 14, 2021: Democracy Forward posted an press release titled: “Health Care Providers Sue Trump Admin for Approving Unlawful Georgia Plan to Sabotage Georgia’s ACA Marketplace”. From the press release:
Today, Planned Parenthood Southeast and Feminist Women’s Health Center, represented by Democracy Forward, sued Trump’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), among others, for unlawfully approving the State of Georgia’s plan to ignore essential Affordable Care Act (ACA) requirements and block Georgia residents’ access to healthcare.gov. Up to 100,000 Georgians stand to lose their insurance as a result of the plan, which the Trump administration approved via a “Section 1332” waiver of ACA requirements. The plan will do immense damage to Georgia’s health insurance market, force Georgians to shop for insurance throught private brokers and insurance companies, lead more residents to enroll in junk plans, and increase premiums. The plaintiffs’ lawsuit seeks to vacate the Trump administration’s unlawful approval of Georgia’s Section 1332 waiver and a 2018 Trump administration decision that provided the basis for the waiver approval…
…Nearly 80% of Georgia residents who enroll on the individual market find and purchase their health coverage on healthcare.gov. But, on November 1, 2020, the Trump administration unlawfully approved Georgia’s Section 1332 waiver request, which will terminate the state’s use of healthcare.gov or any other centralized marketplace.
In order to grant stats flexibility to innovate in ensuring their residents are able to obtain affordable, high-quality health insurance, Section 1332 of the ACA allows the federal government to grant states waivers of some ACA requirements – but only if states demonstrate that their plans match or surpass the ACA’s benchmarks with respect to coverage, comprehensiveness, affordability, and deficit neutrality.
The approval of Georgia’s unlawful waiver takes a wrecking ball to the ACA in Georgia and violates the statutory guardrails designed to ensure that Section 1332 waivers or surpass the ACA’s benchmarks. Georgia’s waiver will:
- Decrease enrollment by up to 100,000, violating the coverage guardrail;
- Shift consumers to junk plans that provide inadequate coverage, violating the comprehensiveness guardrail;
- Increase the premiums consumers must pay to recieve coverage, violating the comprehensiveness guardrail;
HHS’s approval of Georgia’s extraordinary waiver request was rushed through in the last months of President Trump’s term with a limited public comment period, in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act. Of the 1,826 total comments HHS received on the waiver, only 8 supported the waiver.
HHS’s decision to approve Georgia’s waiver request depended on 2018 guidance it promulgated, which substantially weakened the standards for approving waivers under Section 1332. The guideance thereby encouraged state plans – like Georgia’s – that will drive consumers to junk plans that fall short of the ACA’s coverage requirements.
The Trump administration’s rushed approval of Georgia’s unlawful waiver is consistent with its endeavor to sabatoge the Affordable Care Act. For years, President Trump promised to decimate the Affordable Care Act. His administration has made good on that promise by promoting junk plans, slashing the open enrollment period and funding for outreach and navigators, and rolling back key protections enshrined by the law.
Democracy Forward filed the lawsuit on behalf of Planned Parenthood Southeast and Feminist Women’s Health Center on January 14 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Read the full complaint here.
January 15, 2021: SF Gate posted an article titled: “Tennessee OKs Medicaid block grant; fate unclear under Biden”. It was written by Kimberlee Kruesi and Jonathan Mattise. From the article:
Tennessee’s GOP-dominant Legislature on Friday approved a contentious decision that would drastically overhaul the state’s Medicaid program, casting quick votes this week in hopes of making it difficult for incoming President-elect Joe Biden’s administration from overturning the deal.
The House vote Friday sets in motion a plan that proponents, including Republicans, argue will produce flexibility and savings that can fuel additional health coverage offerings, with a promise that there won’t be eligibility or benefit cuts. Opponents, including many Democrats, are wary of that promise since the plan banks on big savings. They also point out that there’s no guarantee more patients will be eligible under the block grant, unlike their preferred action of expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.
It’s still not a given that Tennessee will actually become the first state to receive funding in a lump sum for its Medicaid program through a block grant. While Tennessee received approval under President Donald Trump’s administration just last week, Biden has opposed block-grant efforts and can rescind the change.
That tension fueled Republican lawmakers’ determination to prioritize their approval in the first week of the legislative session. The votes are required under the state law the General Assembly initially passed in 2019. Senators approved the plan Thursday…
…The rush to finalize approval infuriated the Legislature’s minority Democratic caucus…
…One reason for the push before Biden takes office is because the Trump administration took steps that could lengthen the process to rescind the deal by extending the waiver period and sending out new guidance on terminating a Medicaid waiver…
…TennCare, Tennessee’s Medicaid program, insures approximately 1.5 million low-income Tennesseans, including pregnant women, children, caretaker relatives of dependent children and older adults, and disabled adults.
Currently, the federal government pays a percentage of each state’s Medicaid costs, regardless of cost increases in any given year. For Tennessee, that means receiving approximately $7.5 billion in federal money for its $12.1 billion Medicaid program, or 65%.
Republicans argue the current system gives states little incentive to control expenses because no state pays more than half the total cost…
January 15, 2021: Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) posted a press release titled: “Changes to Medicare Advantage and Part D Will Provide Better Coverage, More Access and Improved Transparency for Medicare Beneficiaries”. From the press release:
Today, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a final rule that further advances the agency’s efforts to strengthen and modernize the Medicare Advantage and Part D prescription drug programs. The changes finalized today are generally effective for the 2022 plan year and will potentially lower enrollee cost sharing on some of the most expensive prescription drugs. This final rule will allow enrollees to know in advance and compare their out-of-pocket payments for different prescription drugs. The changes will result in an estimated $75.4 million in savings to the federal government over ten years.
“The changes in this final rule provide desperately needed transparency on the out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs that have been obscured for seniors,” said CMS Administrator Seema Verma. “It will strengthen Part D plans’ negotiating power with prescription drug manufacturers so American patients can get a better deal.”
As part of the administration’s commitment to promoting price transparency and lowering prescription drug prices, the final rule will require Part D plans to offer a real-time benefit comparison tool starting January 1, 2023, so enrollees can obtain information about lower-cost alternative therapies under their prescription drug benefit plan. Enrollees would be able to compare cost sharing to find the most cost-effective prescription drugs for their health needs. For example, if a doctor recommends a specific cholesterol-lowering drug, the enrollee could look up what the co-pay would be and see if a different, similarly effective option might save the enrollee money. With this tool, enrollees will be better able to know what they will need to pay before they are standing at the pharmacy counter. This follows a similar CMS requirement that Part D plans support a prescriber real-time drug benefit tool that went into effect January 1, 2021. Congress codified a similar requirement for prescriber real-time benefit tools in the recently enacted Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (Public Law No. 116-260).
In the Medicare Part D program, enrollees choose the prescription drug plan that best meets their needs. Many plans offering prescription drug coverage place drugs into different “tiers” on their formularies. Today, all drugs on a plan’s specialty tier – the tier that has the highest-cost drugs – have the same level of cost sharing. Under the final rule, CMS is allowing Part D plans to have a second, “preferred” specialty tier with a lower cost sharing level than their other specialty tier. This change gives Part D plans more tools to negotiate better deals with manufacturers on the highest-cost drugs and lower out-of-pocket costs for enrollees in exchange for placing these products on the “preferred” specialty tier.
Under the Part D program, plans currently do not have to disclose to CMS the measures they use to evaluate pharmacy performance in their network agreements. CMS has heard concerns from pharmacies that the measures plans use to assess their performance are unattainable or otherwise unfair. The measures used by plans potentially impact pharmacy reimbursements. Therefore, CMS is requiring Part D plans to disclose pharmacy performance measures to CMS, which will enable CMS better understand how such measures are applied. CMS will also be able to report pharmacy performance measures publicly to increase transparency on the process and to inform the industry in its new efforts to develop a standard set of pharmacy performance measures.
January 15, 2021: The Texas Tribune posted an article titled: “Trump administration extends health care safety net for uninsured Texans”. It was written by Jolie McCullough. From the article:
In the final days of President Donald Trump’s tenure, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services agreed Friday to extend for 10 years Texas’ health care safety net for uninsured residents.
The federal funding agreement, known as the 1115 waiver, reimburses hospitals for the “uncompensated care” they provide to patients without health insurance. It alsopays for innovative health care projects that serve low-income Texans, often for mental health services. Safety-net hospitals have relied on the waiver to serve poor, uninsured Texans, and it was set to expire — alarming a broad coalition of doctors, hospitals and patient advocates who feared the funding could be lost.
The new agreement will continue hospital reimbursements until September 2030, but it will allow the innovation fund to expire this year, according to a government letter announcing the waiver extension. A new program will be implemented to partially fund behavioral and mental health clinics.
The state’s first 1115 waiver was approved in 2011 and was meant to be a “bridge” to Medicaid expansion under the newly passed Affordable Care Act. But a few months after the signing of the Texas waiver, a U.S. Supreme Court ruling gutted the Medicaid expansion portion of the sweeping federal health law. And Republican leadership in Texas — which has the nation’s highest rate of uninsured residents — stood fast against expanding Medicaid.
But state officials have worked to keep the waiver’s federal funding, which was last extended for five years in 2017 by the new federal administration under President Donald Trump. Now, his administration has again extended the waiver as one of its last acts, this time by 10 years…
January 16, 2021: The New York Times posted an article titled: “One Sentence in Biden Stimulus Plan Reveals His Health Care Approach”. It was written by Sarah Kliff. From the article:
Tucked into President-elect Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus plan is a one-sentence provision that could drive billions in federal subsidies to help people afford to buy health insurance.
The proposal would do two things: make upper-middle-income Americans newly eligible for premium subsidies on Obamacare marketplaces, and increase the financial help that already goes to lower-income enrollees. Taken together, some experts expect these changes to drive more sign-ups for Healthcare.gov plans after they fell in the Trump era.
Democrats have spent much of the last two years pressing for these policies, outlining ideas in candidate platforms and fine-tuning them in congressional legislation. The House even passed a similar proposal this past summer, but none of it had a shot at becoming law with President Trump in office and a Republican majority in the Senate.
Now, control of the White House and a slim majority in Congress mean the first real prospect of significantly strengthening Obamacare since it became law in 2010. President-elect Biden’s inclusion of policies to shore up the health law in his first major legislative package has raised those hopes further…
…The Biden plan would create a new cap — 8.5 percent of an individual or family’s income on premium contributions — for midlevel health plans, something the president-elect had also proposed during the campaign. This policy would mostly affect higher-earning Americans who do not currently qualify for subsidies.
Experts do not expect large enrollment gains as a result of this policy, because most higher-income Americans already carry insurance. But it would provide economic relief to families that in some cases are spending 15 percent or even 20 percent of their income on premiums…
…For Americans just above the current premium subsidy cutoff, the impact could be large: The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that a family of four earning $110,000 would see monthly premiums for a midlevel health plan fall to $779 from $1,529.
The Biden proposal also describes a second policy that appears to be aimed at increasing subsidies for those who already qualify. These are low-income Americans, who make up the majority of those who still lack coverage in the United States. These people already receive help buying coverage, but are still left with paying a monthly premium share that can be unaffordable.
For this group, the Biden plan proposes increasing the tax credits to lower health premiums or even “eliminate” them. The proposal does not detail how this would be achieved, but analysts expect the incoming White House to use as a model the legislation that House Democrats passed this summer.
That bill lowered the share of income that poor Americans are expected to pay for their coverage. Someone earning 150 percent of the federal poverty line ($19,140 for an individual), for example, would go from paying as much as 4 percent of income for a midlevel health plan to paying nothing if the House Democrats’ proposal became law.
January 19, 2021: The Texas Tribune posted an article titled: “Low-income Texans struggle to find new doctors as state officials boot Planned Parenthood off Medicaid”. It was written by Shannon Najamabadi. From the article:
Planned Parenthood employees are scrambling to help find new doctors for thousands of low-income patients after Texas officials and a court order booted the women’s health provider from Medicaid, the federal-state health insurance program for the poor and disabled.
Experts say there’s a scarcity of places low-income patients can receive non-abortion services like cancer screenings, in part because Texas already has a shortage of doctors who accept Medicaid due to the state’s low payment rates. The coronavirus pandemic has also upended some health providers’ operations and left others with long waiting lists, meaning new patients could face a lengthy delay before they can come in for an appointment. The state’s health commission gave Planned Parenthood’s Medicaid patients until Feb. 3 to find new doctors…
…Dr. John Thoppil, president of the Texas Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, said the reimbursement rates for Medicaid in Texas are low compared to other states — and can be four to six times less than that offered by private insurers…
…Far fewer people are eligible for Medicaid in Texas than in other states. Adults must be disabled or parents and, even then, a single person with two kids cannot make more than $230 a month to qualify. That’s about $2,760 a year, a fraction of the federal poverty level.
Because most people have to be so “destitute” to qualify for Medicaid in Texas, Thoppil said he is just as concerned about access to the state’s Healthy Texas Women program for low- and middle-income residents. A large number of providers listed as participating in the program online, may not be taking new patients, he said…
…Advocates are skeptical other health care providers will be able to take on thousands of new patients during a pandemic that has already driven up demand for affordable health care…
January 19, 2021: The Los Angeles Times posted an article titled: “Four years later, much of Obama’s policy has survived Trump”. It was written by David Lauter and Evan Halper. From the article:
As President Trump prepares to leave office, more than 25 million Americans remain covered by the Affordable Care Act, which he tried to repeal; some 650,000 immigrants get the protections from deportation that he tried to rescind and employment continues to shrink in the coal industry, which he promised to revive…
…But his larger ambitions to uproot key domestic policies of President Obama largely failed. And now Obama’s vice president, Joe Biden, who is scheduled to take the oath of office at noon on Wednesday, will be able to build on the foundations that remain intact, starting with a wave of executive actions he’s expected to take Wednesday…
…On many of the efforts to uproot Obama’s agenda, Trump also suffered from divisions within his own party. The areas in which he had the greatest success largely enacted goals that “have long been the priorities of the Republican Party” — tax cuts and conservative judges, said Princeton University historian Sean Wilentz. On those topics, Trump largely adopted the party’s agenda, rather than the other way around.
By contrast, the unsuccessful effort to repeal Obamacare highlighted Republican divisions.
The repeal effort dominated much of the administration’s first seven months, ending in one of the signature images of Trump’s tenure — Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), less than a week after surgery and his announcement that he had brain cancer, walking onto the Senate floor, pausing for dramatic effect, then turning thumbs down to defeat the repeal bill.
The lengthy congressional debate on repeal increased public support for the healthcare law, and Republican efforts to dismantle it played a major role in Democrats’ winning a majority in the House in the 2018 midterm elections and restoring Pelosi (D-San Francisco) to the speaker’s job.
Opposition to the law continued to decline this year during the COVID-19 pandemic. Currently Americans by 53% to 34% view the healthcare law favorably, according to polling by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation…
…After his initial defeat on repeal, Trump largely gave up his effort, except for one provision, the requirement that Americans purchase health insurance. That individual mandate had never been enforced, but was the law’s least popular major element. Congress repealed it as part of the tax bill, allowing Trump to claim a symbolic victory. Despite worries by healthcare experts, however, the repeal had relatively little impact on the number of people covered.
Trump took other steps to impede the law, and by 2019, the number of uninsured Americans had started to creep back up…
A Timeline of the GOP’s Attempts to Destroy Obamacare – Part 4: December and January is a post written by Jen Thorpe on Book of Jen and is not allowed to be copied to other sites.
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