Overnight Healthcare: Congress kicks off opioid talks | GOP rebuffs doctors on gun research | Philly passes first soda tax

Congress is moving one step closer to acting on the opioid epidemic.

The upper chamber voted 95-1 to set up a conference committee with the House that will seek to iron out the differences between the chambers' bills. Only Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) voted no.

Opioid legislation is seen as one of the few areas where a bipartisan bill could be signed into law this year, given the breadth of the addiction problem and the fact that many vulnerable lawmakers have talked about the issue in their campaigns.

ADVERTISEMENT

The Senate's version of the legislation, the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), would authorize grants for educational programs, the anti-overdose drug naloxone, programs to monitor prescribing practices and other initiatives against the abuse of heroin and prescription opioid painkillers.

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), a lead sponsor of CARA who is facing a difficult reelection race, called the vote Thursday a "big step." He is pushing for it to be signed into law as soon as possible. Read more here. http://bit.ly/1UlVrvV

CDC: 3 babies born in US with Zika-caused birth defects

Three babies have been born in the United States with birth defects caused by the Zika virus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said Thursday.

The CDC is following the first case of a baby born with Zika-caused birth defects last month in New Jersey.

The Associated Press reported that in all of the cases, the mothers contracted Zika abroad. There has not yet been a case of someone contracting Zika in the continental United States, although that is expected to begin this summer.

The CDC said the birth defects include microcephaly, which is when a baby is born with a head that is too small, causing developmental problems. Read more here. http://bit.ly/1YuU3Kb

ADVERTISEMENT

Meanwhile, Congress keeps looking for Zika deal:

House Republicans say they're planning to put "hundreds of millions" towards Zika in their annual appropriations package. And House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) told The Hill on Thursday that he's standing firmly behind his committee's $622 million, fully offset package.  

That leaves big questions after the opening of the House and Senate's negotiations on Zika, when both House and Senate GOP leaders vowed to move swiftly.  Neither Rogers, nor Labor-HHS appropriations subcommittee chair Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), would give a timeline on those talks.

GOP won't budge on gun research by CDC 

The AMA's lobbying campaign to unfreeze federal funding for gun research is hitting a wall of GOP resistance before it even begins.

Republicans in Congress, including those in the House Doctors Caucus who are members of the group, are already soundly rejecting the AMA's calls to eliminate a 20-year-old budget rule that has prevented research into gun-related deaths.

"I don't particularly see the need for it quite frankly," Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), who leads health funding for the House Appropriations Committee, told The Hill on Thursday.

Rep. Michael BurgessMichael Clifton BurgessOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Supreme Court rules that pipeline can seize land from New Jersey | Study: EPA underestimated methane emissions from oil and gas development | Kevin McCarthy sets up task forces on climate, other issues Texas Republicans condemn state Democrats for response to official calling Scott an 'Oreo' Americans have decided to give professionals a chance MORE (R-Texas), a member of the House Doctors Caucus, said he also opposed the policy change. "Although I'm a member of the AMA, I don't always agree with the position they take," Burgess told The Hill on Thursday.  

"It seems to have worked well. I don't favor changing it," Burgess said of federal researchers staying away from the issue of guns.

Only one current Republican lawmaker is on record in support: Rep. Bob Dold (R-Ill.), who is among the most endangered House members this cycle, quietly signed a letter last December from several medical groups that urged GOP leadership to make the change.

Portman presses HHS on Ohio's failed ObamaCare co-op

Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanMcConnell gets GOP wake-up call Biden shows little progress with Abraham Accords on first anniversary The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - After high drama, Senate lifts debt limit MORE (R-Ohio) is asking the Obama administration for answers on the situation facing 22,000 Ohioans enrolled in an ObamaCare co-op insurance plan that is going out of business.

Portman, who is facing a close reelection race this year, argues that enrollees in Ohio's co-op, known as InHealth, are now facing a painfully uncertain future on their healthcare plans. Enrollees have the option to stay in their current co-op health plan through the end of the year, but they would lose their financial assistance under ObamaCare, making that option difficult for many to afford. Read more here. http://bit.ly/23ePWCK

ON TAP TOMORROW:

ADVERTISEMENT

Finally a break. But for your calendar next week... The Hill will be hosting Sen. Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoBiden's soft touch with Manchin, Sinema frustrates Democrats The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - After high drama, Senate lifts debt limit Here are the 11 GOP senators who helped advance the debt extension MORE (R-W.Va.) and Sen. Ed MarkeyEd MarkeyBiden likely to tap Robert Califf to return as FDA head Biden faces pressure to pass infrastructure bills before climate summit Senate Democrat says Facebook offers 'crocodile tears about protecting children' MORE (D-Ma.) at an event on Alzheimer's disease research and treatments next Thursday, June 23. RSVP here.

WHAT WE'RE READING

California's insurance commissioner urges U.S. to block Anthem-Cigna deal (Reuters)

The Supreme Court ruled Thursday to allow a lawsuit to proceed against a Massachusetts hospital provider accused of defrauding the government in a case involving a woman's death at a mental health facility. (Reuters)

Allowing sexually active gay men to donate blood would raise the risk of H.I.V. infection to one per 375,000 donations, according to the FDA. (New York Times)

More colleges are creating "sober dorms" amid the escalating opioid epidemic among young people (Stateline)  

IN THE STATES

ADVERTISEMENT

Connecticut officials voted Thursday to investigate a state insurance regulator reviewing the proposed Anthem-Cigna merger, who once lobbied for Cigna. (IBTimes)

The CDC is investigating a botulism outbreak at the federal prison in Mississippi after 17 inmates became ill from drinking homemade alcohol. (The Clarion Ledger)

A Kentucky appeals court granted an injunction to Gov. Matt Bevin, saying the state had the right to regulate how abortions were performed and how clinics were licensed. (Reuters)

ICYMI FROM THE HILL:

Philadelphia becomes first major city to approve soda tax http://bit.ly/1W289SL  

The Department of Energy is making its supercomputers available to help Vice President Biden's cancer "moonshot." http://bit.ly/2613c2U

 

Send tips and comments to Sarah Ferris, sferris@thehill.com, and Peter Sullivan, psullivan@thehill.com. Follow us on Twitter: @thehill@sarahnferris@PeterSullivan4