116th Congress: Senate HELP gets new Democrat, two new Republicans

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The 116th Congress began on January 3rd, 2019, bringing new members to House and Senate committees addressing global health policies and funding. Science Speaks introduces you to those new members in this series.

With jurisdiction over 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 and the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions — HELP — is pivotal in crafting policies guiding medical research, preventive health advances, and drug approval. Two new Republicans and one new Democrat join the committee in the 116th Congress.

Sen. Jacky Rosen (R-NV)

Sen. Jacky Rosen (D – NV) — A one-term House member, Sen. Rosen defeated Republican Sen. Dean Heller in 2018 and replaces Sen. Michael Bennett (D-CO) on the HELP committee. Her Senate campaign website noted that she was recognized for reaching across the aisle and was a member of the House Problem Solvers Caucus. She comes to the Senate with high ratings from the Human Rights Campaign for support for LGBTQ equality measures, and for her sponsorship of legislation to strengthen protection of LGBTQ rights at home and abroad.

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT)

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) – Over the years since, as Massachusetts Governor, this new HELP committee member signed health care reform legislation widely seen as having set a path for the Affordable Care Act, the former businessman has earned a reputation for flexibility in his positions on pivotal issues. As a candidate for the 2008 Republican nomination for president, then-Governor Romney said:  “As devastating as HIV/AIDS has been around the world, we must not forget that over a million Americans are living with the disease here at home. We should do all we can to ensure that America continues to lead the world in cutting-edge research and development into new medicines. I believe in supporting policies that foster innovation and get every American access to affordable, quality health insurance. I also believe that government should work in partnership with our nation’s pharmaceutical researchers and manufacturers to advance the HIV/AIDS research agenda and move us toward a cure.” More recently, campaigning for his current seat, the Senate candidate said: “I support requiring pharmaceutical companies to spread the cost of drug development with other countries, reducing the huge price inequity Americans experience.” His campaign website also asserted: “I am pro-life and pro-family. I will defend religious liberty and will only vote to confirm judicial nominees who will fully honor the First Amendment guarantee of the same.”

Sen. Mike Braun

Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN) – A reputation as both a “mainstream Republican” and for staunch loyalty to President Trump helped this former businessman win his Senate seat, according to this Indianapolis Star analysis. Within two weeks of taking office the new Senator, with fellow Indiana Senator Todd Young, introduced a bill to establish a permanent, government-wide prohibition of taxpayer funding for abortion (with a 2019 version of a bill introduced in the last Congress) including through the Affordable Care Act (which now provides for the use of federal funds to pay for abortion only in cases of rape or incest, or to save the life of the mother). As a state legislator, he voted for Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, legislation allowing businesses to deny services to LGBTQ individuals on religious grounds.

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