OVERNIGHT HEALTHCARE: Abortion fight brewing in the Senate

Senate Democrats are itching for a fight over abortion rights, and they might just get one from the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) and its allies. 

The flagship anti-abortion-rights group denounced a sweeping bill from Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) on Monday that is designed to invalidate most restrictions on abortion around the country. 

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Calling it the "most radical pro-abortion bill ever considered by Congress," NRLC President Carol Tobias said voters would be "appalled" that 35 senators support the legislation. 

The Senate Judiciary Committee will hear about Blumenthal's Women's Health Protection Act on Tuesday at a hearing that promises more flare-ups as Tobias appears to testify. 

The fight arrives as Senate Dems seek to build political momentum behind legislation preventing companies from refusing to cover certain medical services on religious grounds. 

The bill, which would reverse the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby ruling, is at the center of Democrats' strategy for energizing women voters ahead of the midterm elections. 

Votes on the measure are expected Wednesday.  

But now, conservative activists see an opening to shift the debate toward Democrats' views on abortion, which Tobias slammed as "abortion without limits until birth." 

The Charlotte Lozier Institute, an anti-abortion group affiliated with the Susan B. Anthony List, added its voice Monday with a paper against the bill. 

And another group, Americans United for Life, highlighted the measure in an alert. 

Blumenthal says the measure strikes at the heart of state laws that are "abhorrent and antithetical to well-established rights."

"A new federal law is necessary to stop anti-choice legislators from using women's health and safety as a ploy to enact unconscionable and unconstitutional state statutes that obstruct and block women from essential healthcare," he said last November.

Read about the NRLC's response here: http://bit.ly/U5gZBR

 

HALBIG, FINALLY? A federal appeals court could deliver a ruling Tuesday that blows a gaping hole in ObamaCare's scheme for providing healthcare coverage. 

The plaintiffs in Halbig v. Burwell argue that the healthcare law does not authorize the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to offer premium subsidies on the federal exchanges. 

It's an issue that strikes at the heart of the Affordable Care Act's insurance benefits and could potentially end financial help for nearly 5 million enrollees. 

That is, if the plaintiffs succeed. Legal experts have generally looked askance at the lawsuit, which has a losing record in federal court so far. 

But some believe that a looming decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit could break that trend. Read more here: http://bit.ly/1qZiMFp

 

WHAT WOULD JUDGE JUDY DO? Television's favorite jurist would throw out the "sham" Republican lawsuit against President Obama "in half a second," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said on Monday.

“Republicans have made a decision on a lawsuit against President Obama. It’s difficult to understand how desperate they have become,” Reid said on the Senate floor.

“If a show trial is what House Republicans want, they should go talk to Judge Judy. I think even she would throw this case out in half a second,” he said.

Led by Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), House Republicans are planning to sue President Obama for delaying the employer mandate in ObamaCare. Read more about Reid's comments here: http://bit.ly/1jsn9b4

 

OPINIONS FLIP ON SUPREME COURT: Forty-seven percent of people approve of the Supreme Court's job performance while a near-record 46 percent disapprove, according to a Gallup poll released Monday. 

The survey found that, since last year, Republicans and Democrats have seen their approval of the court flip.

The numbers come after the Supreme Court finished its term with a controversial decision to allow some companies to opt out of paying for birth control coverage on religious grounds. Read more here: http://bit.ly/1qBchXf

 

NEW LAPSES AT CDC: A new report cited in a Congressional memo lists even more safety lapses at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) than previously reported, including workers not properly securing anthrax.

According to the report, workers left keys in a refrigerator that contained anthrax in an unrestricted area and some workers moved dangerous microbes in plastic Ziploc bags in violation of federal safety rules.

The Congressional memo was issued Monday by the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations before a Wednesday hearing where CDC Director Thomas Frieden is expected to get grilled over recent safety lapses including an anthrax scare at its Atlanta campus.

 

TUESDAY’S SCHEDULE:

The Senate Judiciary Committee will discuss the Women's Health Protection Act, a bill to nullify abortion restrictions around the country. 

The House Energy and Commerce Committee will mark up several healthcare related bills including H.R. 594, the Paul D. Wellstone Muscular Dystrophy Community Assistance, Research, and Education Amendments; H.R. 669, the Sudden Unexpected Death Data Enhancement and Awareness Act; H.R. 4290, the Wakefield Act; H.R. 4771, the Designer Anabolic Steroid Control Act and H.R. 4250, the Sunscreen Innovation Act.

The Senate Finance Committee will hold a hearing on chronic illnesses.

The Coalition for Health Funding is hosting a briefing on a new report, "Faces of Austerity: How Budget Cuts Hurt America's Health."

 

STATE BY STATE:

The feds have had it with Medicaid backlogs: http://wapo.st/1qb0UJY

Report: States shirking Medicaid fraud reduction: http://bit.ly/1nzEzm5

NC Gov. McCrory: 'Door open' to Medicaid expansion: http://wapo.st/1mPthJC

Illinois leads Medicare billings for group therapy: http://trib.in/1tJW4EM

Unpaid hospital bills drop in Ariz. after Medicaid expansion: http://bit.ly/1qZjXVB

 

READING LIST: 

Some docs refuse to see ObamaCare enrollees: http://bit.ly/1npuZNL

ICYMI: Medicaid could emerge as Senate campaign issue: http://bit.ly/1mbDmMA

Will the doctor feel your pain in an e-visit?: http://bloom.bg/1qBd62v

 

WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED AT THE HILL:

Nelson calls for ban on e-cigarette ads: http://bit.ly/1oAYkWS

Lawmakers look to exempt Medicare labs from e-health records: http://bit.ly/1oYWwZ8

Dem dares Hobby Lobby to follow state birth control law: http://bit.ly/1qBdi1A

E-cig group backs childproof packaging: http://bit.ly/U5ieAN

Coons: Banning gays from blood donation is unfair 'relic': http://bit.ly/1qb1ffA

Poll: Dems, GOP flip support of high court: http://bit.ly/1qBchXf

HHS offers states $100M to improve Medicaid: http://bit.ly/U9YJrj