WASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, released the following statement after the U.S. House of Representatives approved the Children’s Hospital GME Support Reauthorization Act(CHGME), sending the bill to President Obama’s desk for signature. Harkin, Ranking Member Lamar Alexander (R-TN), and Committee Members Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D-PA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Johnny Isakson (R-GA) led the effort to reauthorize the CHGME program.
“The CHGME program has been a critical source of support in helping to grow the number of doctors who choose to become general pediatricians and pediatric specialists, training them to provide everything from well-child visits and preventive care to the most complex cardiac surgeries. This bill, now headed to the President’s desk, will invest in children’s hospitals and the programs that help to train the next generation of doctors serving our sons and daughters,” Harkin said. “I applaud my colleagues in the Senate and in the House for working together across party lines, once again, on a bill that will improve the public health.”
The Children’s Hospital GME Support Reauthorization Act supports graduate medical education at about 55 freestanding children’s hospitals around the country and gives children’s health a critical boost by supporting physicians training to become general pediatricians and pediatric specialists. The legislation also makes important changes to the program by giving the Secretary authority to include a small number of freestanding children’s hospitals, such as children’s psychiatric hospitals, that have been ineligible to participate in the past.
The legislation passed the Senate HELP Committee in October and the full Senate in November 2013. It marks the 13th bipartisan HELP Committee bill to go to the President’s desk in the 113th Congress; four more bills have passed the full Senate and are awaiting consideration by the U.S. House of Representatives. A full list of those bills is below:
Signed into law
- H.R. 1911, Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act of 2013 (Senators Alexander, Blunt, Burr, Carper, Coburn, Durbin, Enzi, Harkin, Heller, Hoeven, Isakson, King and McCaskill)
- Amends the Higher Education Act of 1965 to establish interest rates for new loans made on or after July 1, 2013.
- Signed into law in August 2013.
- 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.
- 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.
- S.1302, Cooperative and Small Employer Charity Pension Flexibility Act (Senators Harkin and Roberts)
- 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; passed the Senate in January 2014; passed the House in March 2014; awaiting signature by President Obama.
Passed (or attached to legislation) in the Senate
- S. 815, Employment Non-Discrimination Act (Senators Merkley, Harkin, Kirk, Collins, and Baldwin)
- Prohibits employers from firing, refusing to hire, or discriminating 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 Committee on a strong bipartisan vote in July 2013. He went on to lead the bill to historic bipartisan Senate passage—including 10 Republican votes—just 4 months later. The bill is pending consideration in the U.S. House.
- S. 689, Mental Health Awareness and Improvement Act of 2013(Senators Harkin, Alexander, Sanders, Franken, and Roberts)
- Reauthorizes and improves programs administered by both the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services related to awareness, prevention, and early identification of mental health conditions.
- S.689 passed the HELP Committee in April 2013 and identical text was passed 95-2 as an amendment (S.AMDT.730) to S.649, the Safe Communities, Safe Schools Act, in the same month.
In addition, two more bipartisan bills have been reported out of the HELP Committee and are awaiting consideration by the full Senate:
- 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.