By Peter Sullivan and Sarah Ferris - 03/16/16 07:00 PM EDT
TO THE FLOOR: For much of Wednesday, the Senate floor was dominated with partisan fighting over President Obama's Supreme Court nominee. But in the Senate health committee, senators were thanking each other for working in a bipartisan fashion on a mental health bill.
The bill, a narrow consensus document, passed the committee unanimously on a voice vote. The thornier issues are expected to be addressed later on the Senate floor.
Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderSenate backs equal pay for female soccer players Overnight Healthcare: Momentum on mental health? | Zika bills head to conference | Only 10 ObamaCare co-ops left Overnight Regulation: GOP slams new Obama education rules MORE (R-Tenn.) said the underlying bill is ready to be considered whenever Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellPuerto Rico debt relief faces serious challenges in Senate Overnight Healthcare: Momentum on mental health? | Zika bills head to conference | Only 10 ObamaCare co-ops left Trump outlines ‘America First’ energy plan MORE (R-Ky.) chooses.
Broader provisions are expected to be added to the bill on the floor, however. An area of particular focus is removing a restriction on Medicaid paying for care at certain mental health facilities, known as the "IMD [Institutions for Mental Diseases] exclusion," which is seen as a major barrier to care access.
Sens. Susan CollinsSusan CollinsGOP lawmaker: 'Republicans were wrong’ to block Garland Senate passes broad spending bill with .1B in Zika funds Senators unveil bill to overhaul apprenticeship programs MORE (R-Maine) and Chris MurphyChris MurphyOvernight Healthcare: Momentum on mental health? | Zika bills head to conference | Only 10 ObamaCare co-ops left Senators hope for deal soon on mental health bill Overnight Healthcare: IRS doubted legality of ObamaCare payments, ex-official says MORE (D-Conn.) both stressed the provision on Wednesday.
"There are Republicans who support that," Alexander told reporters. "You heard Sen. Collins comment on it, so I think there's bipartisan support for it." Read more here. http://bit.ly/254QywU
TOMORROW, join us as we take a deep-dive into the defining moments of the past 7+ years of Barack ObamaBarack ObamaMiss. governor to join lawsuit against Obama transgender policy North Korea calls Obama’s Hiroshima trip ‘childish’ Sanders takes different position on superdelegates than he did in 2008 MORE's presidency. Top officials in Congress and the administration, including Josh Earnest, Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, and HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell will reflect on the issues that exemplify Obama's legacy. Limited space is available to attend, or watch online.
FDA QUIETLY TRIES TO KNOCK OUT SHKRELI STRATEGY: A regulatory tweak quietly rolled out by the Food and Drug administration cracks down on drug company CEOs like Martin Shkreli.
Under current policy, companies can legally buy up the rights to decades-old drugs and set any price. That approach, widely condemned on Capitol Hill as "price-gouging," has been made famous by Shkreli's former company, Turing Pharmaceuticals.
The agency's new rules, which were published Friday but not distributed to media, will create an expedited approval process for new uses of generic drugs that would break up that kind of monopoly.
In an interview with The Hill on Wednesday, PhRMA CEO Steve Ubl called the rules "a step in the right direction. PhRMA does not represent Turing Pharmaceuticals." Read the rules here.
GOP REJECTS FLINT AID IN BUDGET: House Democrats on Wednesday forced a vote on expanding federal aid to Flint, Mich., during a day-long debate on the GOP's budget proposal.
The vote failed along party lines, 21-14. Republicans on the committee unanimously opposed the amendment.
Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) offered the Flint aid amendment along with a passionate speech that pleaded for additional funding. "I'm asking my colleagues to do one vote today in a nonpartisan fashion to just give them hope. Read more here. http://bit.ly/1STCZLI
CECILE RICHARDS: 'A LOT WE DON'T KNOW' ABOUT SCOTUS PICK: The president of Planned Parenthood was spotted at the White House Rose Garden for the nomination of Merrick Garland on Wednesday morning. But she wasn't ready to heap on the praise yet.
"Judge Garland seems like a responsible and qualified nominee," Richards wrote in a statement. "There's a lot that we don't know about his judicial approach, and that's why the Senate needs to do its job and hold a fair hearing and up or down vote." Photo via Politico's White House reporter here.
ON TAP TOMORROW:
The interim CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals will testify at a Senate Aging Committee hearing on drug pricing.
Michigan's Republican Gov. Rick Snyder will testify before the House Oversight Committee.
WHAT WE'RE READING:
Former FDA commissioner speaks out about Califf, Cruz and Congress (STAT)
NFL shifts on concussions and game may never be the same (New York Times)
Anthem's $15M deal to end ACA switch suits nears OK (Law 360)
Health Republic's legal crusade against the US government (S&P Global Market Intelligence)
IN THE STATES:
These cities are most at risk for Zika this summer (Vox)
Kentucky governor's attorney makes case for closing abortion clinic (Lexington Herald-Leader)
ICYMI FROM THE HILL:
Former EPA official: Agency did nothing wrong in Flint