115th Congress and Global Health: Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions gets three new members

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The 115th Congress began on January 3rd, 2017, bringing new members to House and Senate committees addressing global health policies and funding. Science Speaks introduces you to those members in this series.

The HELP Committee oversees most of the agencies, institutes, and programs of the Department of Health and Human Services, including the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, the Administration on Aging, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) – Science Speaks posted this profile of Sen. Kaine after he was elected to the 113th Congress and joined the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and this profile when he became the ranking member of the Foreign Relation Committee’s Subcommittee on State Department and USAID Management, International Operations, and Bilateral International Development, noting his support for partnerships to develop laboratory capacities in resource-constrained countries, and his expression of concern about discriminatory laws and policies affecting sexual minorities in countries receiving support from the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. During the 114th Congress he introduced legislation to make naloxone, the drug to prevent deaths from opioid overdose, more widely available in federal health settings, and routinely prescribed when opioid drugs are prescribed. In 2014 he criticized policy makers he said exploited fear of Ebola and spoke supportively of humanitarian responses to the West Africa outbreak saying most of the military personnel sent to help control the epidemic were from Virginia. In April, he signed a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran calling for immediate passage of President Obama’s emergency supplemental funding request of $1.9 billion for prevention and treatment of Zika and its impacts. While his website calls his support for Planned Parenthood funding strong, as candidate for Vice President during the 2016 campaign, he differed from running mate Sec. Hillary Clinton on the Hyde Amendment, saying he supports the provision that limits federal funding for abortions.

Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) – An attorney, Sen. Hassan was elected to the Senate in 2016 after serving as Governor of New Hampshire, her public service career prompted by advocacy for rights and services for disabled children, including her son. As Governor she announced “monitoring protocols” requiring a 21-day home quarantine for New Hampshire residents returning from Guinea, Liberia, or Sierre Leone who had had contact with infected individuals that raised concerns from the American Civil Liberties Union saying restrictions “should be based on medical necessity, not fear or politics.” Her Senate campaign web site promises her commitment to “support an increase in critical funding to support prevention, treatment and research in order to combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic,” and highlights her support for the rights of sexual minorities,

Sen. Todd Young – Science Speaks posted this profile of Sen. Young, on his appointment to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Also of relevance to his membership on the HELP Committee is an amendment that the Senator added during the last session as a House Representative, with Rep. Andy Harris, to add a research prize program to the 21st Century Cures Act “to encourage scientists and entrepreneurs—especially those that don’t often benefit from current NIH grants—to develop cures for some of the most debilitating and costly diseases,” an idea that Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Computer Science, and Biostatistics at Johns Hopkins University Steven Salzburg calls “colossally bad” in this Forbes opinion piece.

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