Week Ahead: Food safety, take two; key House chairmanship to be decided Tuesday

Congress will work quickly this week to try to pass a food-safety bill for a second time, after the version approved by the Senate was thrown out because of a technical error.
The Senate bill had passed 73-25. It creates fees, violating a constitutional requirement that tax bills must originate in the House of Representatives. This means opponents will have a second chance at holding it up before the lame-duck session expires.
Congress will also look to pay for a yearlong fix to the Medicare payment system after approving a monthlong patch earlier this week. Sens. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said they are committed to finding a yearlong solution to the sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula, which determines Medicare payments to physicians. Without the projected $17 billion “doc fix,” physicians face a 25 percent reduction in payments starting Jan. 1.
Nursing home advocates are still hoping the Senate will repeal the delay of a Medicare payment system for nursing homes. The House already approved it.
Also, the Senate is under pressure to quickly pass legislation providing healthcare for the first responders at the scene of the 9/11 attacks in New York. The House passed the $7.4 billion bill, 268-160, in September.
House committee chairmanship elections are expected Tuesday. One of the most contentious races is for the gavel of the Energy and Commerce panel, which has jurisdiction over health policy. Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) is the favorite; the current ranking member, Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), needs a term-limit waiver. Reps. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) and John Shimkus (R-Ill.) are also running.
Off Capitol Hill, on Monday, the Center for American Progress will discuss the socioeconomic effects of the Hyde Amendment’s prohibition of Medicaid funding for most abortions. Panelists include the CEO of Black Women for Reproductive Justice and the director of the Washington chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.
On Thursday, the American Constitution Society will host a panel of law and bioethics experts to discuss whether the Constitution protects the right of a competent, terminally ill individual to choose assistance in dying.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Influence Vaccination Week starts Monday, providing healthcare professionals an opportunity to promote flu vaccination before the typical winter spike in flu activity. Three strands of flu are expected this year, including last year’s dreaded H1N1 pandemic strain.