AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Sci-fi fans rejoice! Trailers for the long-awaited “Avatar” sequel and the new season of Westworld both dropped this week.
Today we’re looking at Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) playing down the possibility of bringing a federal abortion ban up for a vote in the Senate if the GOP wins back control, and Democrats are opening the door to a Title 42 vote.
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GOP leader tamps down potential for abortion bill
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) downplayed the possibility that a Republican-controlled Senate would pass a federal abortion ban.
McConnell, during a weekly press conference, sidestepped a question about if he would rule out bringing up an abortion ban but said that most of the Senate GOP believed abortion should be dealt with at the state level.
“Historically, there have been abortion votes on the floor of the Senate. None of them have achieved 60 votes. … I think it’s safe to say there aren’t 60 votes there at the federal level, no matter who happens to be in the majority, no matter who happens to be in the White House,” McConnell said.
McConnell added that he believed that there were “no issues that Republicans believe should be exempt from the 60-vote threshold.”
McConnell’s comments come after he said that it was possible a GOP-controlled Congress could take up federal restrictions on abortion.
“If the leaked opinion became the final opinion, legislative bodies — not only at the
state level but at the federal level — certainly could legislate in that area,” McConnell told USA Today when asked if a national abortion ban was “worthy of debate.”
Read more here.
Senate Dems open door to giving GOP Title 42 vote
Senate Democrats say a growing number of their caucus are open to giving Republicans a vote on a Trump-era border policy if it means breaking a logjam on stalled coronavirus aid.
The open door is a shift from last month, when Republicans blocked a $10 billion deal on coronavirus relief because Democrats refused to give them an amendment vote on Title 42, the Trump-era pandemic public health policy that allows for the rapid expulsion of migrants at the border and blocks them from seeking asylum.
Republicans view the two issues as related because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is trying to lift the border health policy while the broader public health emergency is still in place.
“Most of the Democrats are prepared — they know how they are going to vote,” said Sen. Dick Durbin (Ill.), the No. 2 Senate Democrat, asked if there was a growing openness within the caucus for having a Title 42 vote as part of the coronavirus bill.
Asked about the coronavirus funds, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), leaving a closed-door caucus lunch, said that “there’s a growing willingness to bring that up and have the amendment votes necessary to get it to a final vote.”
Read more here.
MILLIONS OF COVID VACCINE DOSES DESTROYED: REPORT
Nearly 400 million COVID-19 vaccine doses were destroyed at Emergent BioSolutions’s facility in Baltimore due to the company’s “failure to meet or maintain quality standards,” a congressional report released on Tuesday said.
According to the report, around 240 million doses were destroyed at the facility in late 2020 and early 2021 because of “poor quality control,” more than had initially been believed. Another 90 million newly manufactured doses have since had to be destroyed for quality control reasons, and about 60 million will have to be destroyed due to expiring while in quarantine.
The report was compiled by the House’s Oversight and Reform Committee and Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis.
It alleged that Emergent tried to hide evidence of these ruined vaccine doses from the federal government and drug companies, saying employees hid “hold tags” that indicated potential quality issues when the Food and Drug Administration made a site visit in February 2021. They also allegedly declined to allow Johnson & Johnson’s quality staff members to access the facility.
The report further alleged that the Trump administration, which awarded Emergent a $628 million contract to make the COVID-19 vaccines, was aware of these deficiencies beforehand and knew that they could impact manufacturing.
Read more here.
NY GOV. ANNOUNCES $35M TO PROTECT ABORTION PROVIDERS
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) announced on Tuesday that the state is allocating $35 million to support abortion providers after a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion published last week indicated that the high court is preparing to overturn federal level abortion protections.
Of the $35 million being allocated, Hochul directed that $25 million be used to establish New York’s first abortion provider fund, from which abortion providers can receive either grants or reimbursements. Her office said the fund is intended to both to ensure access to and expand capacity for abortion services in the state.
A separate $10 million will be made available through the state’s Division of Criminal Justice Services through security grants for either reproductive health centers or abortion providers “to further secure their facilities and ensure the safety of patients and staff,” according to Hochul’s office.
“New York has always been at the forefront of the fight for abortion rights, and as the first female Governor of New York, I will not let us go backwards,” Hochul said in a statement.
“I will never stop fighting to make New York a safe harbor for all who need care and a blueprint for other states to follow.”
Read more here.
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Millions could lose Medicaid coverage: study
As many as 14.2 million people could lose Medicaid coverage when the public health emergency for COVID-19 ends, a new analysis finds.
The analysis from the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) projects that between 5.3 million and 14.2 million people could lose Medicaid when the public health emergency ends. Under a coronavirus relief bill passed in 2020, states received extra Medicaid funding in exchange for not removing anyone from the Medicaid rolls for the duration of the public health emergency.
Once the emergency ends, states will resume removing people who are no longer eligible for Medicaid, leading to a significant amount of upheaval, where even some people who remain eligible could fall through bureaucratic cracks in the system.
Others who are no longer eligible for Medicaid might not know that they are eligible for other types of coverage, like subsidized health insurance on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplaces.
The KFF analysis does not estimate how many of the people losing Medicaid would become uninsured and how many would find other coverage, like on the ACA marketplaces.
The potential coverage losses in Medicaid add a complication for the Biden administration as it decides when to end the public health emergency, which it has been renewing every 90 days. It is currently set to expire on July 15.
Officials have said they will give states 60 days notice for when it will end, so that notice would have to come by mid-May if it is going to end this summer.
Read more here.
WHAT WE’RE READING
The panel was supposed to improve efficiency at the NIH. It hasn’t even met for 7 years (Stat) ‘It’s a tsunami’: Legal challenges threatening public health policy (Politico) ‘High and dry’: Abortion bans could be riskiest on women in maternal health care ‘deserts’ (USA Today)
STATE BY STATE
Ohio judge hears if pharmacy chains should pay for driving opioid crisis (The Guardian) Chicago will be ‘oasis’ for abortion if Roe is overturned, mayor says (The Washington Post) In Texas, abortion laws inhibit care for miscarriages (Kaiser Health News)
OP-EDS IN THE HILL
Scientific discovery, not politics, can find the cause of the pediatric hepatitis outbreak COVID isn’t over — we still need protections for children
That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s Health Care page for the latest news and coverage. See you tomorrow.
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