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Harkin: HELP Committee Completes Year of Bipartisan Action by Approving Two Health Bills

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Capping a year of bipartisan accomplishments, the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee met in executive session today to approve two health bills, the Newborn Screening Saves Lives Act and the Poison Center Network Act. Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) issued the following statement to mark the HELP Committee’s productive year in 2013:

“Throughout 2013, Democrats and Republicans on the HELP Committee worked together on a variety of important measures to protect the public health; strengthen federal child care and workforce training and education programs; improve supports and social services for senior citizens; and safeguard Americans from discrimination in the workplace. I am encouraged by the Committee’s growing record of bipartisan accomplishments,” Harkin said. “By working together across party lines, Congress can enact meaningful legislation that benefits all Americans. I thank Ranking Member Alexander and all of the members on the Committee who made these bipartisan accomplishments possible.”

A list of bipartisan bills passed by the HELP Committee in 2013 follows.

Signed Into Law

  • H.R. 2094, School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act (Senators Durbin, Kirk, and Harkin)
    • Addresses the rise in diagnoses of food allergies in children by encouraging schools to maintain a supply of epinephrine injectors and to allow trained school personnel to administer an epinephrine injection if a student is experiencing an anaphylactic reaction.
    • S.1503 in the Senate; approved by the HELP Committee in October 2013; signed into law in November 2013.
  • H.R. 2747, Streamlining Claims Processing for Federal Contractor Employees Act (Senator Harkin)
    • Moves responsibility for wage claims adjustments for federally contracted workers from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to the Department of Labor.
    • Approved by the HELP Committee in October 2013; signed into law in November 2013.
  • S. 1561, CHIMP Act Amendments of 2013 (Senators Harkin, Alexander, Burr, Landrieu, and Collins)
    • Ensures that chimpanzees owned or supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that are no longer used for medical research can continue to receive the care they need in quality settings. The new law will provide flexibility for the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services to use already-appropriated funds to pay for care of chimpanzees housed in federal sanctuaries if doing so would be more efficient and economical for the NIH.
    • Attached to S. 252 in the House.
    • Approved by the HELP Committee in October 2013; signed into law in November 2013.
  • H.R. 3204, Drug Quality and Security Act (Senators Harkin, Alexander, Franken, Roberts, Bennet, and Burr)
    • Clarifies current federal law regarding pharmacy compounding and resolves the patchwork of current federal regulation by applying a uniform standard nationwide. Under Title I of the Drug Quality and Security Act, compounders who wish to practice outside the bounds of traditional pharmacy practice can register as outsourcing facilities, but those who choose to remain traditional pharmacies will continue to be regulated primarily by state boards of pharmacy, as they are in current law. Outsourcing facilities would be subject to oversight by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in much the same way as traditional manufacturers are monitored. FDA will know who these outsourcers are and what they are making, receive adverse event reports about compounded drugs, and have the authority and resources to conduct risk-based inspections.
    • The second title of the Drug Quality and Security Act would replace today’s patchwork of state prescription-drug tracing laws by creating a new uniform framework for tracking drugs from the manufacturer to the pharmacy.
    • Compounding and track-and-trace bills were approved by the HELP Committee in May 2013. The Drug Quality and Security Act, encompassing both bills, was signed into law in November 2013. 

Passed (or attached to legislation) in the Senate

  • S. 1557, Children’s Hospital GME Reauthorization Act of 2013 (Senators Casey, Isakson, Whitehouse, Harkin, and Alexander)
    • Amends the Public Health Service Act to reauthorize support for graduate medical education programs in children’s hospitals.
    • Approved by the HELP Committee in October 2013, passed the Senate in November 2013.
  • S. 815, Employment Non-Discrimination Act (Senators Merkley, Harkin, Kirk, Collins, and Baldwin)
    • Prohibits employers from firing, refusing to hire, or discriminate against those employed or seeking employment, on the basis of their perceived or actual sexual orientation or gender identity.
    • Chairman Harkin oversaw the first Senate markup of this legislation since 2002, and it cleared the bipartisan Senate passage—including 10 Republican votes—just 4 months later. 
    • The bill is pending consideration in the U.S. House.

Reported Out of HELP Committee

  • S.1417, Newborn Screening Saves Lives Reauthorization Act of 2013 (Senators Hagan, Hatch, and Harkin)
    • Amends the Public Health Service Act to extend and improve programs at the Department of Health and Human Services related to newborn screening, and reauthorizes the Federal Advisory Committee on Heritable Disorders in Newborns and Children.
    • Approved by the HELP Committee in December 2013; pending Senate consideration.
  • S.1719, the Poison Center Network Act (Senators Murray, Burr, and Harkin)
    • Amends the Public Health Service Act to reauthorize the poison center national toll-free number, national media campaign, and grant program.
    • Approved by the HELP Committee in December 2013; pending Senate consideration.
  • S.1086, The Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) Act of 2013 (Senators Mikulski, Burr, Harkin, and Alexander)
    • Expands access to and improves the quality of child care for the more than 1.5 million children and families that benefit from the federal child care subsidy program.  This program helps low- and moderate-income parents access and afford child care while they work or attend school.
    • Approved by the HELP Committee in September 2013; pending Senate consideration.
  • S.1356, Workforce Investment Act (WIA) (Senators Murray, Isakson, Harkin, and Alexander)
    • Contains significant improvements to existing job training programs and local workforce systems originally authorized under WIA in 1998.  Harkin worked closely with Ranking Member Alexander on Title V of WIA, which reauthorizes the Rehabilitation Act, including vocational rehabilitation (VR) programs. The updates to Title V are aimed at making sure that young people with disabilities have increased preparation and opportunities for competitive, integrated employment.
    • Approved by the HELP Committee by vote of 18-3 in July 2013; pending Senate consideration.
  •     Addresses the challenges faced by many cooperative associations and charities in providing pension benefits to their workers by ensuring that their pension funding rules both protect workers’ benefits and ensure the organizations are able to provide vital services to local communities.
  •     Approved by the HELP Committee in October 2013; pending Senate consideration.