Overnight Health Care: Dems hit GOP with ObamaCare lawsuit vote | GOP seeks health care reboot after 2018 losses | House Dems aim for early victories on drug pricing | CDC declares lettuce e-coli outbreak over

Overnight Health Care: Dems hit GOP with ObamaCare lawsuit vote | GOP seeks health care reboot after 2018 losses | House Dems aim for early victories on drug pricing | CDC declares lettuce e-coli outbreak over
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Welcome to Wednesday's Overnight Health Care.

The government shutdown is well into its third week and shows no sign of ending.

While the Department of Health and Human Services is funded, the Food and Drug Administration is not, and the shutdown is starting to impact food safety.

On Capitol Hill, Democrats are again highlighting the ObamaCare lawsuit, and incoming Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyWhite House denies exploring payroll tax cut to offset worsening economy Schumer joins Pelosi in opposition to post-Brexit trade deal that risks Northern Ireland accord GOP senators call for Barr to release full results of Epstein investigation MORE (R-Iowa) outlined his priorities on drug pricing.

We'll start with ObamaCare:  


Democrats force Republicans to vote (again) on ObamaCare lawsuit

The House on Wednesday passed a resolution backing the chamber's recent move to defend ObamaCare against a lawsuit filed by GOP states, giving Democrats another opportunity to hit Republicans on health care.


GOP Reps. Brian FitzpatrickBrian K. FitzpatrickHouse Democrats targeting six more Trump districts for 2020 Ensuring quality health care for those with intellectual disabilities and autism House Democrats target 2020 GOP incumbents in new ad MORE (Pa.), John KatkoJohn Michael KatkoRepublicans should get behind the 28th Amendment Student loan borrowers are defaulting yearly — how can we fix it? Overnight Defense: Woman accusing general of sexual assault willing to testify | Joint Chiefs pick warns against early Afghan withdrawal | Tensions rise after Iran tries to block British tanker MORE (N.Y.) and Tom ReedThomas (Tom) W. ReedRepublicans' rendezvous with reality — their plan is to cut Social Security The Democratic plan for smaller paychecks House passes bill to update tax code to help same-sex married couples MORE (N.Y.) joined with 232 Democrats to support the measure, part of Democrats' strategy of keeping the focus on the health care law heading into 2020. The final vote tally was 235 to 192.

While the House voted on Friday to formally intervene in the lawsuit as part of a larger rules package, Democrats teed up Wednesday's resolution as a standalone measure designed to put Republicans on record with their opposition to the 2010 law.

Why it matters: Democrats filed a motion with the court to intervene Friday. But members wanted another chance to hit Republicans on the issue they think won them back the House. Democrats are trying to balance the need for substantial action on health care with political messaging.

What's next: Democrats have said they will introduce bills stabilizing ObamaCare and will hold hearings prying into the Trump administration's decision not to defend the law in court.

The Energy & Commerce Committee will also hold a hearing later this month on the impacts of the case.

More on today's vote here.


House Dems look to start with smaller wins on drug prices

Drug pricing is one of House Democrats' top priorities, but they're looking to start with some smaller, bipartisan moves before moving on to the sweeping, controversial items, Democratic sources say.

Early priorities:

  • The Creates Act, which cracks down on drug companies gaming the system to delay the introduction of cheaper generic competition. It's supported by many Republicans, including Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who will chair the Senate Finance Committee.
  • A bill to crack down on "pay for delay" deals in which drug companies pay generic competitors not to bring their drugs to market, putting off competition.

Down the road is the big one: Allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices, a policy Democrats have long called for but which most Republicans oppose. (More on this below...)

The politics: Both President TrumpDonald John Trump Former US ambassador: 'Denmark is not a big fan of Donald Trump and his politics' Senate Democrats push for arms control language in defense policy bill Detroit county sheriff endorses Booker for president MORE and House Democrats say they want to lower drug prices, making it a possible rare area of bipartisan agreement. But both sides could be wary of giving the other wins ahead of the 2020 election.

Progressives will also be pushing Democratic leaders to go bigger soon.

Read more here.


Grassley already put his foot down on Medicare Part D price negotiation

"I don't want to mess with the government negotiating prices with the private sector," Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the new chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, told reporters Wednesday.

He told a Democratic colleague on the committee it's "one place where we're going to completely disagree."

But he supports drug importation: Grassley and Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharSenate Democrats push for arms control language in defense policy bill The Hill's Morning Report - Trump hews to NRA on guns and eyes lower taxes Harris to appear in CNN climate town hall after backlash MORE (D-Minn.) reintroduced bipartisan legislation Wednesday that would allow the importation of prescription drugs from Canada, a proposal that has some support among Republicans and Democrats but has been opposed by the pharmaceutical lobby.

More on that here.


Speaking of drug prices... something to watch on Thursday

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSenate Democrats push for arms control language in defense policy bill Top adviser on Sanders: 'He's always been underestimated' 'The Simpsons' pokes fun at Trump's feud with 'the squad' MORE (I-Vt.), along with Reps. Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsHouse committee heads demand Coast Guard Academy explain handling of harassment allegations Can the Democrats unseat Trump? Democrats slam alleged politicization of Trump State Department after IG report MORE (D-Md.), Peter WelchPeter Francis WelchOvernight Health Care: Oversight chair plans to call drug executives to testify on costs | Biden airs anti-'Medicare for All' video | House panel claims Juul deliberately targeted kids Mueller agrees investigation did not 'fail to turn up evidence of conspiracy' Live coverage: Mueller testifies before Congress MORE (D-Vt.) and others, all fierce opponents of the pharmaceutical industry, will unveil a bill on Thursday, which is sure to be far-reaching.

Late last year, Sanders and Rep. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaKing incites furor with abortion, rape and incest remarks San Jose mayor proposes mandatory liability insurance for gun owners Democrats give cold shoulder to Warren wealth tax MORE (D-Calif.) introduced a drug pricing bill that would have ended a drugmaker's patent protections if the price for a medication were higher than in other developed countries. Generic competitors would then be able to enter the market to sell alternative versions of the drug at a lower price.


GOP seeks health care reboot after 2018 losses

Republicans lost big in the House last year largely on the issue of health care. And ObamaCare repeal is now off the table with a Democratic House. So where do they go now?

Whit Ayres, GOP pollster: "Health care is such a significant part of our economy and the challenges are growing so great with the retirement of the baby boomers and the disruption brought about by ObamaCare that you can't just cede a critically important issue to the other side."

Jim McLaughlin, another GOP pollster: "We should be the guys and gals that are putting up things that make health care more affordable and more accessible."

Watch Sen. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderThe Hill's Morning Report - How will Trump be received in Dayton and El Paso? McConnell faces pressure to bring Senate back for gun legislation Criminal justice reform should extend to student financial aid MORE (R-Tenn.): "I'll be meeting with senators on reducing health care costs," Alexander told The Hill in a recent interview. "At a time when one-half of our health care spending is unnecessary, according to the experts, we ought to be able to agree in a bipartisan way to reduce that."

Read more here.


Some good news: CDC says romaine lettuce is safe

An outbreak of e-coli linked to romaine lettuce "appears to be over," federal health officials declared Wednesday.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there have been 62 cases across 16 states and the District of Columbia since the disease was first reported in October.

There were no deaths, but 25 people were hospitalized, including two people who developed a type of kidney failure.

"Contaminated lettuce that made people sick in this outbreak should no longer be available," the CDC said in a statement.

More on the end of the outbreak here.


More food safety news: Because of the shutdown, FDA has halted most of its food inspections

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says it has suspended all routine domestic food facility inspections amid the partial government shutdown.

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb told The Washington Post that he is putting together a plan to resume inspections of facilities that are deemed "high-risk."

The agency, which oversees the majority of the country's food supply, typically conducts roughly 160 routine inspections per week, the Post reported.

While food inspections of most of these facilities have halted due to the funding shortfall caused by the shutdown, Gottlieb says he is seeking to bring back enough workers to investigate high-risk facilities, which deal with sensitive foods such as seafood and cheese.

Read more here.


House Dems call on leadership to prioritize opioid epidemic

More than 60 House Democrats are urging leadership to make the opioid crisis a top priority in the new Congress.

The Democrats said Congress should dedicate more funding and staff to addressing the crisis, which killed 47,600 people in 2017.


"At a time when our state and local partners are begging for federal assistance to combat the opioid crisis in their communities, Congress must answer the call through increased resources, creative solutions, and with more legislative staff," the Democrats wrote in a letter to Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiGOP group calls on Republican senators to stand up to McConnell on election security in new ads The Hill's Morning Report - Trump hews to NRA on guns and eyes lower taxes Hobbled NRA shows strength with Trump MORE (Calif.) and Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerOmar says US should reconsider aid to Israel Liberal Democrat eyes aid cuts to Israel after Omar, Tlaib denied entry Lawmakers blast Trump as Israel bars door to Tlaib and Omar MORE (Md.). "Dedicated staff across House committees capable of analyzing both the larger federal need and specifics from states and districts is necessary at this point."

More on their letter here.


What we're reading

Bill de Blasio's plan to guarantee health care for every New Yorker, explained (Vox.com)

New Ebola-like virus is discovered in China (Stat News)

Science hinted that cancer patients could take less of a $148,000-a-year drug. Its maker tripled the price of a pill. (Washington Post)


State by state

New Wisconsin governor to change state's position on Obamacare lawsuit (Wisconsin Public Radio)

Democrats urge Florida governor DeSantis to expand Medicaid (Tampa Bay Times)

Different Medicaid expansion plans offered at Montana Legislature (KPAX)


From The Hill's op-ed page

The flu is a far greater threat than anything carried by people crossing the southern border