Committee on Energy and Commerce

Fred Upton

Bipartisan Committee Leaders Seek Government Watchdog Review of NHTSA

2014/10/29

WASHINGTON, DC – Bipartisan leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee today wrote to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) requesting a review of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The request follows the committee’s extensive investigation into the General Motors ignition switch recall.

In the request to GAO, the committee leaders wrote:

In early 2014, General Motors recalled more than 2 million vehicles due to faulty ignition switches that could shut off power to the front airbags. According to GM, these defects resulted in at least 31 crashes and 13 deaths before the recall was initiated. As demonstrated by investigations conducted in the wake of this recall, GM’s flawed approach to safety contributed to the tragic failure to identify this defect in a timely fashion. 

In light of this and other recent recalls affecting millions of vehicles, however, our committee, safety experts, and other industry officials have questioned why NHTSA did not act more quickly to mandate recalls before the auto companies voluntarily did so. An investigation of the GM recalls by the committee revealed NHTSA lacked a comprehensive understanding of vehicle systems the agency is responsible for regulating, contributing to the inaction on this defect. As vehicle functions and safety systems become more complex, these findings raise concerns about NHTSA’s process for obtaining data and investigating vehicle defects and the agency’s broader framework and readiness for adapting to technological advances in the industries it oversees.

Because of these issues, we are requesting that GAO conduct a review of NHTSA, including the agency’s information sharing and information gathering capabilities and readiness to adapt to technological change.

The committee’s request comes as the agency and vehicle manufacturers are back in the spotlight regarding recalls for vehicles equipped with faulty and potentially hazardous Takata air bags.

The committee is asking GAO to specifically answer the following questions:

1.     To what extent have NHTSA or other organizations evaluated NHTSA’s ability to adapt its regulatory structure to new developments in automotive technology?  To what extent has NHTSA successfully adapted to new developments in automotive technology? 

2.     How does NHTSA facilitate information sharing across its directorates about new developments in automotive technology and safety?

3.     What challenges, if any, does NHTSA face in its oversight of new automotive technologies? 

The letter to GAO was signed by full committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), Ranking Member Henry A. Waxman (D-CA), Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Tim Murphy (R-PA), Ranking Member Diana DeGette (D-CO), Commerce Manufacturing and Trade Subcommittee Chairman Lee Terry (R-NE), and Ranking Member Jan Schakowsky (D-IL).

To view of full copy of the request to GAO, click HERE.

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U.S. LNG Exports Can Supply “Independence”

2014/10/29

Lithuania achieved an important milestone this week in its pursuit of energy security with the arrival of a liquefied natural gas (LNG) import terminal aptly named “Independence.” The opening of this terminal gives new freedom to the Eastern European country that has long depended on Russia to meet its energy needs. Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite celebrated this historic achievement, calling it a "strategic geopolitical project that may decide the future of the whole region.”

Now that Lithuania has the infrastructure to accept LNG, the country is looking toward new energy suppliers, including the United States. Zygimantas Pavilionis, Lithuanian Ambassador to the United States and Mexico, participated last year in the committee’s international LNG exports forum and described the United States’ opportunity to help liberate Lithuania and other European countries from Russian gas. He explained, “An ability to import natural gas from the U.S., even if very small amounts by U.S. standards, would make a huge impact on the Lithuanian gas market and allow the nation to develop a reliable alternative to Russian gas.”

The shale revolution has provided the U.S. with more than enough natural gas to supply our domestic needs and the export market. Lithuania and other U.S. allies are now ready and eager for our natural gas supplies, but red tape continues to stand in the way. That’s why the House approved H.R. 6, the Domestic and Prosperity and Global Freedom Act, to help eliminate the regulatory bottleneck. This bipartisan legislation, authored by Rep. Corry Gardner (R-CO), will expedite the approval of U.S. LNG exports, helping to provide our allies with an alternative source of safe and secure energy, reduce Russia’s influence, and create jobs here at home. To learn more about LNG exports and H.R. 6, visit: http://energycommerce.house.gov/LNGExports.

October 27, 2014

Lithuania Cheers 'Independence'

With the arrival Monday of the liquefied natural gas terminal Independence to the Lithuanian port of Klaipeda, the tiny Baltic countries have thrown up a gleaming steel gibbet to dissuade Russia from using energy to hold the region hostage.

The floating, nearly 1,000-foot-long LNG terminal will for the first time allow Lithuania and its neighbors to import liquefied natural gas for domestic consumption, rather than relying on Russia's Gazprom for every ounce of gas. The ship has the capacity to take in and regasify 4 billion cubic meters of gas annually, surpassing Lithuania's own demand, and could supply, in theory, more than 75 percent of all the natural gas needed by the three Baltic states. Full commercial operations are expected to begin later this year; the Independence already has a five-year deal with Norway's Statoil for limited shipments of LNG.

Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaite hailed the $500 million vessel's arrival as a "strategic geopolitical project that may decide the future of the whole region." U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in a letter to Lithuanian leaders that the Independence represents a "historic milestone" for Baltic energy security.

Though Lithuania contracted the vessel more than two years ago, its arrival comes at a propitious time. Russia and Ukraine are still at loggerheads over natural gas exports, and Europe lives in fear of a prolonged disruption in Russian natural gas supplies, as has happened several times in winters past.

Russia, Ukraine, and the European Union are expected to meet again Wednesday to try to finalize a deal that would see Russia resume gas exports to Ukraine -- thus lessening the risk of a Europe-wide supply disruption -- if Ukraine can scrape up the billions of dollars that it owes Gazprom for previous gas shipments.

The new Lithuanian gas project will be a linchpin of the region's ability to withstand any Russian supply cuts.

The new Lithuanian gas project will be a linchpin of the region's ability to withstand any Russian supply cuts. "Once the Klaipeda LNG terminal enters into operation ... the supply for the protected customers would be ensured in the three Baltic States in all [disruption] scenarios," the EU's executive branch found in a recent "stress test" of the continent's ability to weather a cutoff in crucial energy supplies.

Longer term, turning to LNG, rather than trying to build huge pipelines to bring gas from friendlier countries, could well be the alternative to reliance on Russia, says the Oxford Institute of Energy Studies in a new paper. "The main additional source of non-Russian gas for Europe up to 2030 will be LNG," the paper concludes.

The new Lithuanian terminal isn't a silver bullet for the region's energy woes just yet. The Baltics are an energy island with little physical connection to other European countries, which limits the new project's immediate impact on blunting Russia's stranglehold, said Andreas Goldthau, an energy analyst at Harvard University's Belfer Center.

But countries there are scrambling to lay the groundwork. Poland will have an LNG import terminal ready next year, while Estonia, Latvia, and Finland are also mulling constructing their own LNG import facilities. If they finish building regional gas pipelines, that would give the Baltic region the ability to turn into an energy supply hub for some of the countries most dependent on Moscow's gas, Oxford Energy noted. The combination of new LNG terminals and regional pipelines, for example, would enable Poland to replace most of the gas it currently imports from Russia.

The rub, of course, is that LNG is generally more expensive than gas shipped through fixed pipelines on long-term contracts. That's the main reason that Europe as a whole uses less than one-quarter of the LNG import capacity it currently has: Russian gas is simply cheaper than buying the stuff off of tankers.

But for Lithuania, LNG isn't necessarily a high-priced alternative -- for now. It already pays about the highest price in Europe for piped Russian gas, despite snaring a recent discount. Lithuanian officials said Monday that the first volumes of LNG will be competitively priced.

That may well change during the winter, since initial supplies from Norway are linked to British spot gas prices. As temperatures plummet, those gas bills will rise. And Europe's heating season starts this weekend.

"The Lithuanian consumer will be paying a premium for energy security exactly during the time of the year when it really matters," Goldthau said.

If LNG is ultimately to ease Eastern Europe's energy dependence, the big question mark going forward is what happens to the rapidly growing LNG market. Massive amounts of new gas-export capacity are coming online in the next few years in a bid to meet expected growth in demand for the fuel in Asia. But whether liquefied gas will be a pricey or a dirt-cheap commodity depends on the extent to which Asian demand for more gas materializes, and just how many gas suppliers rush in to meet it -- including the United States.

Now that the United States is awash in natural gas, thanks to the boom in hydraulic fracturing, many lawmakers are clamoring to send exports of gas to beleaguered allied countries. Several lawmakers have introduced bills that would fast-track gas exports to NATO allies and Japan. The arrival of the first LNG terminal in the Baltics gives U.S. gas-export champions another reason to cheer. …

Read the article online HERE.

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#Path2Cures: “Something we should all celebrate”

2014/10/29

New Tools Approved by FDA Provide More Hope for Patients with Rare Diseases

WASHINGTON, D.C. – One of the initial stated goals of the bipartisan 21st Century Cures initiative was to “close the gaps between advances in scientific knowledge about cures and the regulatory policies created to save more lives.” This includes embracing new technologies that can be used to both improve and accelerate the discovery, development, and delivery cycle of new cures and treatments.

Dr. Janet Woodcock, Director of the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Drug and Evaluation Research, recently wrote about new tools approved by FDA that “researchers are using to study rare diseases. It’s a new database with information about the diseases’ ‘natural history.’” Woodcock notes, “This online tool was developed with direct input from patients, as well as patient organizations, researchers, FDA, and other international drug regulatory agencies.” This is an important step in the right direction. 21st Century Cures shares in the hope that with tools like this, “we can then take steps toward developing and approving new therapies for persons with rare diseases.”

Nevertheless, much work remains. California Healthcare Institute President and CEO Todd Gillenwater writes in The Hill, A strong, well-functioning FDA isn’t the only component necessary for continued medical technology investment and innovation, but it is a critical one. The evidence to date illustrates what can be accomplished when Congress, the FDA and industry work together… Recent initiatives, such as the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s 21st Century Cures initiative being led by Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) and joined by leadership at the FDA, show a commitment to this continued work.”

Learn more about the 21st Century Cures initiative here. Follow along on Facebook and Twitter using #Path2Cures.

October 23, 2014

The More We Know About Rare Diseases, the More Likely We Are to Find Safe and Effective Treatments

By Janet Woodcock, M.D.

You may be inclined to think that rare diseases affect only a tiny fraction of the more than 320 million people in our country. That’s true about a single rare disease. But there are about 7,000 rare diseases. If you add them all together, there are about 30 million – or almost one in ten — people in the U.S. with some form of rare disease. Sadly, although great progress has been made in some areas, many of these people have no FDA approved drug to cure their condition, help them feel better, or even slow the disease’s progress.

That’s why I am pleased about FDA’s support for an exciting new tool researchers are using to study rare diseases. It’s a new database with information about the diseases’ “natural history.”

“Natural history” is the scientific term to describe how a disease would progress with no treatment. Since a disease can affect different people differently, scientists must study many cases of a disease to acquire a thorough understanding of its natural history. …

Read the full column online here.

October 28, 2014

How is the FDA doing on medical device review times?

By CHI-California Healthcare Institute President and CEO Todd Gillenwater

In 2012, following years of concern over U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) medical device review processes that were viewed as increasingly unpredictable and inefficient, plaguing investment, innovation and U.S. competitiveness, stakeholders including Congress, the Agency and the medical device industry worked to identify potential solutions. The shared goal: to improve product review times while also maintaining rigorous scientific and patient safety standards. …

Have things gotten better? Has the medical device review process improved? Not surprisingly, the answer is not a simple yes or no. In many ways, it is still too early to tell. However, one dynamic is certain: leaders at the agency and, in particular, it’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH) have worked to get processes, internally and with industry, back on track. …

A strong, well-functioning FDA isn’t the only component necessary for continued medical technology investment and innovation, but it is a critical one. The evidence to date illustrates what can be accomplished when Congress, the FDA and industry work together, but now is no time to pat ourselves on the back and move on.

Change can be hard and it can take time, especially when talking about an agency as large as the FDA. Success needs to be acknowledged and rewarded. Constructive attention, support and pressure applied to areas where improvements might not be coming along as quickly as expected. Additional new ideas discussed and deliberated.

Recent initiatives, such as the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s 21st Century Cures Initiative being led by Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) and joined by leadership at the FDA, show a commitment to this continued work.

We’re optimistic that when we publish updated data next year and beyond, it will show further and improved progress. And given what this is really all about – getting safe, new medical technologies to patients in need as quickly as possible – that is something we should all celebrate. 

Read the full column online here.  

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Bipartisan #Path2Cures in the Lone Star State

2014/10/29

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Energy and Commerce Committee’s bipartisan 21st Century Cures initiative has travelled across the country for the past several months as members seek more ideas from medical innovators, patients, families, and health leaders from their states and districts in the effort to accelerate the pace of cures and save more lives.

This Thursday, October 30, 2014, committee members Rep. Pete Olson (R-TX) and Rep. Gene Green (D-TX), will host a roundtable at 2 p.m. CST in Houston, Texas. Olson and Green, along with Rep. Michael C. Burgess, M.D. (R-TX), will discuss the cures initiative with top health professionals, innovators, and researchers at the Texas Medical Center.

"Health care innovation is growing at a breakneck speed and if our laws stand in the way of getting these innovations to the people who need them, everyone loses,” Olson said. “America has long been a leader in medical breakthroughs and we want to keep it that way. That's why our committee leadership asked us to go directly to the experts, the people in the labs, on the hospital floor, in the patient room and figure out where the gaps are so that government and our laws can help speed up cures rather than hinder them. I look forward to hearing from the folks doing the great work at the Texas Medical Center and bringing your talent and expertise to Washington."

“Houston is home to cutting-edge research, innovation, and models of care,” Green added. “As the bipartisan 21st Century Cures initiative moves forward, it is critical that Houston’s health care leaders be part of the conversation. I am so pleased to have such experienced and dedicated scientists and health professionals participate in our roundtable, and I look forward to continuing this collaborative effort to bring our health care system in to the 21st century.”

Learn more about the Texas roundtable here.  

Learn more about the 21st Century Cures initiative here and join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter using #Path2Cures.

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Committee Works to Support Nation of Builders

2014/10/28

President Obama on Monday announced new executive actions to help spur advanced manufacturing. Improving American manufacturing is a goal shared by both the executive and legislative branches and by Republicans and Democrats alike, and members of the Energy and Commerce Committee have been on the frontlines of this effort. This Congress, the Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade launched a Nation of Builders initiative aimed at supporting American manufacturers and making American manufacturing more competitive in the global marketplace.

Throughout the 113th Congress, the subcommittee held hearings focused on the opportunities and challenges facing American manufacturing today. The panel heard directly from manufacturers hailing from across the country and spanning a range of industries, including representatives from the steel, home builders, energy development, and auto manufacturing sectors. While each set of manufacturers faces its own unique challenges, manufacturers from every sector agreed on the need to cut unnecessary red tape and improve workforce training and education.

In addition to its hearing series, the subcommittee advanced critical legislation to improve America’s manufacturing competitiveness and increase foreign direct investment in the United States. The House overwhelmingly approved the Global Investment in American Jobs Act, authored by subcommittee Chairman Lee Terry (R-NE) and Ranking Member Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), but the bipartisan bill still awaits consideration in the Senate. This bill is just one of several committee bills stuck in the Senate that aim to support and grow our nation of builders, including bills to make energy more affordable and accessible and legislation to remove burdensome regulations holding back factory expansions and job creation. 

In response to the president’s manufacturing announcement, Chairman Terry commented, “I’m pleased to see that the president has recognized the need for a more skilled workforce in the manufacturing industry. Throughout this session of Congress, my subcommittee has held a series of hearings focused on manufacturing. We’ve learned there are good paying jobs that can’t be filled because of a skills gap across the country including in my congressional district where manufacturers can’t find welders to hire starting at $17-20 per hour.

“While I’m pleased to see the president’s commitment to invest in STEM-related education and research, it should be noted that executive orders are not a way to grow our economy. We need policies in place that allow our nation of builders to be more competitive. These policies would include tax reform that brings certainty and fairness to job creators; an energy policy that uses our reliable and affordable supply of American energy to power our factories; and, eliminating Obamacare’s 30-hour work week that keeps workers out of factories and ultimately makes our manufacturers less productive.”

To learn more about the committee’s bipartisan #RecordOfSuccess, click HERE.

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Following Committee Investigation, Auto Safety Regulator to Review Culture

2014/10/27

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is reportedly gearing up for an internal review of its culture as the agency struggles to manage new safety recalls. The agency is now under fire for its clumsy response to the Takata air bag recalls just weeks after a committee report revealed NHTSA failed to identify the deadly General Motors ignition switch defect despite access to years of information that could have led to its discovery. According to a recent Bloomberg article published in Automotive News, “A growing number of airbag recalls is raising doubts about whether the agency learned lessons on handling defect investigations after the bungling of the General Motors Co. ignition switch recalls. NHTSA is now playing catch-up again as it tries to identify airbags that may inflate with so much force metal pieces can be flung at passengers.” The committee’s report into NHTSA’s role in the ignition switch defect identified a series of failures by the agency, including a failure to keep pace with advancements in technology and a culture that minimizes accountability.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) said, “It is well past time for some agency introspection, and I am pleased to hear NHTSA is finally taking steps to review its culture and practices. Mistakes have been made by both companies and regulators, and as the agency holds automakers accountable, it needs to hold itself to the same – if not a higher – standard as those it regulates. NHTSA must be willing to learn from the failures of the past so we can improve safety. This can begin with the naming of a new NHTSA chief – a critically important safety post that remains vacant to this day.”

The committee is continuing its oversight of the nation’s auto safety regulator amid increasing safety concerns. Bipartisan committee staff received an initial briefing from NHTSA today on the agency’s investigation into Takata and the status of the air bag recalls. The committee will continue its conversations with the agency and will also meet with auto manufacturers on the issue.

 

October 24, 2014

NHTSA in line for cultural overhaul after airbag meltdown

WASHINGTON (Bloomberg) -- The agency that botched a campaign to publicize a potentially lethal airbag defect affecting 7.8 million U.S. cars is reviewing its safety culture, according to a senior Obama administration official.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will also review whether the threshold for action set in the past is still appropriate, the official said today at a briefing with reporters in Washington.

The agency, which has been without a chief since January, may have one nominated within two weeks, the official said.

Congress is getting involved too. A growing number of airbag recalls is raising doubts about whether the agency learned lessons on handling defect investigations after the bungling of the General Motors Co. ignition switch recalls. NHTSA is now playing catch-up again as it tries to identify airbags that may inflate with so much force metal pieces can be flung at passengers.

Drivers are being told they need to fix their cars immediately, yet they are directed to a website that isn’t working properly and are being told by dealers that they don’t have working parts,” House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton of Michigan said in a statement. “Drivers are rightly confused and panicked.”

Upton’s committee said today it plans a private meeting next week with NHTSA officials about the airbag recalls.

NHTSA has been without an administrator since David Strickland stepped down in January. Throughout the year, which included managing the GM ignition-switch recall now tied to 29 deaths, NHTSA has been run by its deputy administrator, David Friedman.

NHTSA can’t rely of the lack of leadership as an excuse, the official said. The agency has a responsibility to perform, and the Transportation Department is doing a thorough review of its mistakes this week. Those included factual errors in an initial consumer advisory and a website that remained crashed for most of the week, he said.

Read the article online here

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Terry and Welch Urge Protection of Data Flows in Trade Negotiations

2014/10/24

WASHINGTON, DC – Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade Subcommittee Chairman Lee Terry (R-NE) and Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) today called for the protection of cross-border data flows in trade agreements to ensure the continued growth of e-commerce. Terry’s subcommittee recently held a hearing highlighting the importance of cross-border data flows to the global economy and the harmful impacts of restrictive and protectionist data policies. Terry and Welch wrote to Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker and U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman urging negotiators of ongoing trade agreements to steadfastly support the free flow of data across international borders.

The members wrote, “In particular, with TPP chief negotiators set to meet in Australia this weekend and with meetings for the other trade agreements ongoing, this is a critical time for the U.S. to stand firm. Trade agreements must acknowledge and support the growth of international trade through e-commerce, and cross-border data flows are the backbone of this growth. We urge you to secure enforceable commitments to free and open cross-border data flows around the world, for the sake of U.S. businesses and for a prosperous global economy.”

For a full copy of the letter, click HERE.

Terry and Welch also authored an op-ed published today on CNBC with the same message, asserting, “Every area of U.S. business is impacted and, in today’s global economy, restrictions anywhere in the world can cost jobs in Omaha, Burlington, or any other community. The approaching negotiations present an opportunity for our nation to defend e-commerce as we know it and ensure continued economic growth fueled by the free flow of commercial data around the world.”

October 24, 2014  

US needs to defend e-commerce as we know it

By Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE) and Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) 

We live in an age where a savvy entrepreneur in Burlington or Omaha can create good jobs at a good profit by marketing a new idea or product through the Internet to a worldwide audience. Through an uninhibited flow of data, the Internet has truly empowered small and large businesses alike to fully participate in the global economy.

But what if this worldwide exchange of data was disrupted due to protectionist trade policies of foreign governments? What would happen to those small businesses in Vermont and Nebraska that created a profitable business and good jobs by marketing and selling through the Internet? Unfortunately, these are not academic questions.

Several countries, including Brazil, China, Mexico, Russia, South Korea, Switzerland, Turkey, and Vietnam, have already enacted or are considering policies that would limit the flow of Internet traffic in and out of their borders. Some of these efforts are regulatory and require a company to jump through onerous hoops before sending data overseas. Other policies are more protectionist and would require companies to build facilities within a country's borders, changing the basic flow of the Internet.

Proponents believe such a requirement would create jobs in that country but this logic is faulty in more ways than one. The Internet is a two-way network and raising costs harms all parties by severely restricting its efficiencies and reach. A recent International Trade Commission report estimated that our GDP could increase from $16.7 billion to $41.4 billion if barriers to digital trade were removed. This is the type of job-creating economic growth we cannot afford to ignore.

The implications for American businesses, big and small, are enormous.

Data over the Internet fuels basic business functions such as tracking goods through the supply chain, internal company emails, and international personnel management. Businesses are able to harness economies of scale and consumers benefit from the efficiencies created by cross-border data flows. And these advantages are particularly beneficial to small businesses, reducing costs and granting access to larger markets. Forced localization and other data flow restrictions impose a real cost that would be passed on to the consumer.

Each year, over $8 trillion in international commerce is conducted over the Internet. Companies of all sizes, not just the Googles and PayPals of the marketplace, spend $2 trillion annually on information technologies. One report estimates that 75 percent of e-commerce benefits traditional industries.

We should be clear that we are focused only on removing barriers to the commercial use of data. Very legitimate concerns have been raised about privacy and the protection of personal data, including when governments can access that data. Those are legitimate issues that must be promptly addressed.

But in the context of trade agreements, commercial data cannot stop at borders without seriously stunting the potential of the Internet to create jobs and grow our economy.

This weekend in Sydney, at a meeting of negotiators on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, there will be an opportunity for the United States government to take a strong stand in support of the free flow of data across borders. Other upcoming forums to plant this flag include negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, Trade in Services Agreement, and United States-European Union Safe Harbor.

In all these meetings, American trade representatives must be full-throated in their support of the commercial benefits of cross-border data flows.

We are calling on them to be firm in requiring commitments to cross-border data flows and ensuring strong enforcement mechanisms. Every area of U.S. business is impacted and, in today's global economy, restrictions anywhere in the world can cost jobs in Omaha, Burlington, or any other community. The approaching negotiations present an opportunity for our nation to defend e-commerce as we know it and ensure continued economic growth fueled by the free flow of commercial data around the world.

Commentary by Reps. Lee Terry and Peter Welch. Terry represents Nebraska's 2nd District and is chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade. Follow him on Twitter @LeeTerryNE. Welch represents Vermont's at-large Congressional District and sits on the Energy and Commerce and the Oversight and Government Reform committees. Follow him on Twitter @PeterWelch.

Read the article online HERE.

 

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Upton Responds to Latest Confirmed Ebola Case in the United States

2014/10/24

WASHINGTON, DC – House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) issued the following statement regarding the latest confirmed case of Ebola in the United States, a doctor in New York who recently returned from Guinea where he had treated patients for Doctors Without Borders. A group of Republican committee members yesterday sent a letter to President Obama, Ebola Response Coordinator Ron Klain, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell, and Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson seeking a detailed plan to address the ongoing Ebola crisis, prevent further spread of the virus, and ensure the United States public health system is capable of identifying and treating patients.

“As long as Ebola continues to ravage West Africa, the threat remains that it could spread to the United States and other countries around the world. This is precisely why so many members of Congress are pressing the administration for a clear strategy as well as any and all appropriate travel restrictions to address this crisis and protect the public health,” said Upton. “With a disease as deadly as Ebola, we cannot afford to be reactive, developing plans ‘on the fly.’ As we have said, there is no room for error with this virus and we stand ready to work with the administration to finally get ahead of this situation. No one wants an ‘I told you so moment.’ This latest case underscores the sacrifices made by many health care workers on the front lines – valiantly trying to stop its spread in Africa as well as those caring for patients on our shores.” 

Energy and Commerce Committee leaders first sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell seeking details on the administration’s preparedness and response efforts on September 12, 2014. The Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee held a hearing last week in which they pressed for information and called for a clear and effective strategy.

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Energy and Commerce Committee Members Press President Obama for Answers on Ebola Response Efforts

2014/10/23

WASHINGTON, DC – Twenty-eight Republican members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee today sent a letter to President Obama, Ebola Response Coordinator Ron Klain, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell, and Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson seeking further answers on the administration’s response and preparedness efforts to treat those with Ebola, prevent any further spread in the United States, and stop the spread of the virus at its source in West Africa. The members write, “with a series of questions and recommendations to ensure that the U.S. response to the risks posed by the Ebola outbreak in West Africa is as effective as possible in protecting the public health and safety of the American people. Congress stands ready to serve as a strong and solid partner in solving this crisis.”

Committee members requested more information about the administration’s plan to prevent the spread of Ebola in the United States, rationale behind its opposition to travel restrictions, efforts to improve the development of diagnostic testing and screening, and the capacity of the U.S. public health system to identify and treat patients with Ebola. Read the complete letter online here.

“Energy and Commerce Committee members have serious concerns about insufficient planning and preparedness from the administration in response to the ongoing Ebola threat. In an effort to provide some peace of mind to the American people, we continue to ask the administration to outline a clear strategy and work with us to ensure that every step necessary is being taken to protect the public health. With a disease as deadly as Ebola, there is no margin for error,” commented full committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI). 

Energy and Commerce Committee leaders first sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell seeking details on the administration’s preparedness and response efforts on September 12, 2014. The Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee held a hearing last week, which left members with additional questions about the status of a clear and effective strategy to address the threat of Ebola in both the United States and Africa.

The letter was signed by:

Full Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI)

Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Tim Murphy (R-PA)

Full Committee Chairman Emeritus Joe Barton (R-TX)

Health Subcommittee Chairman Joe Pitts (R-PA)

Full Committee Vice Chairman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN)

Vice Chairman of the Health and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittees Michael C. Burgess, M.D. (R-TX)

Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY)

Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL)

Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR)

Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE)

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI)

Rep. Phil Gingrey, M.D. (R-GA)

Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA)

Rep. Bob Latta (R-OH)

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA)

Rep. Gregg Harper (R-MS)

Rep. Leonard Lance (R-NJ)

Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-LA)

Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-KY)

Rep. Pete Olson (R-TX)

Rep. David McKinley (R-WV)

Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO)

Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS)

Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA)

Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL)

Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH)

Rep. Billy Long (R-MO)

Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC)

Read the complete letter online here.

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Virginians Weigh In On #Path2Cures

2014/10/23

Griffith: Cures is an effort “where we can agree we can make the system better.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The 21st Century Cures initiative continued yesterday in Blacksburg, Virginia, as committee member Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA), along with Rep. Phil Roe, M.D. (R-TN), held a roundtable discussion to gather input from health care experts in Southwest Virginia.

“Two members of Congress brainstormed Wednesday with a dozen medical minds on finding cures — both for sick patients and the sometimes broken health care system that treats them,” the Roanoke Times reports. Griffith explained to the paper that the bipartisan 21st Century Cures initiative represents an area “where we can agree we can make the system better.”

A local NBC affiliate, WSLS News, reports, “There are a lot of topics where members of Congress cannot agree, but one is bringing both Democrats and Republicans together. Congressman Morgan Griffith is leading a group of medical experts from across the commonwealth in a discussion to find cures quicker…making lives better is where Congress can agree.”

Members continue to bring the effort across the country. Today, Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA) is hosting a roundtable in Mt. Lebanon, Pennsylvania, to focus on the perspectives of patient advocates and families.

Learn more about the 21st Century Cures initiative here and follow along on Facebook and Twitter using #Path2Cures.

 

Click here to watch the video.

October 22, 2014

Rep. Griffith hosts Blacksburg forum to improve health care

BLACKSBURG — Two members of Congress brainstormed Wednesday with a dozen medical minds on finding cures — both for sick patients and the sometimes broken health care system that treats them.

The roundtable discussion was hosted by U.S. Rep. Morgan Griffith, who as a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee is involved in the 21st Century Cures, an initiative that seeks to prevent medical breakthroughs from being slowed down by the regulatory process. …

The goal is to hear from doctors, health care administrators, researchers, biomedical experts and other specialists and then take their ideas back to Washington to craft new laws.

While health care debates in Washington are often driven by a political divide over the Affordable Care Act, the bipartisan 21st Century Cures represents an area “where we can agree we can make the system better,” Griffith said.

The two-hour discussion between the two Congressmen and 12 panelists went beyond the FDA approval process to cover a variety of topics: the need for health care providers to better share information about their patients; concerns about gaps in Medicare funding for telemedicine; problems with the patent process; and how to best balance the latest innovations with the more low-tech practice of encouraging patients to eat well, stop smoking and exercise more. …

Read the full article online here

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Contact Information

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Phone 202-225-2927
Fax 202-225-1919
energycommerce.house.gov


Membership

Joe Barton

TEXAS' 6th DISTRICT

Gus Bilirakis

FLORIDA's 12th DISTRICT

Marsha Blackburn

TENNESSEE's 7th DISTRICT

Michael Burgess

TEXAS' 26th DISTRICT

Bill Cassidy

LOUISIANA's 6th DISTRICT

Renee Ellmers

NORTH CAROLINA's 2nd DISTRICT

Cory Gardner

COLORADO's 4th DISTRICT

Phil Gingrey

GEORGIA's 11th DISTRICT

Morgan Griffith

VIRGINIA's 9th DISTRICT

Brett Guthrie

KENTUCKY's 2nd DISTRICT

Ralph Hall

TEXAS' 4th DISTRICT

Gregg Harper

MISSISSIPPI's 3rd DISTRICT

Bill Johnson

OHIO's 6th DISTRICT

Adam Kinzinger

ILLINOIS' 16th DISTRICT

Leonard Lance

NEW JERSEY's 7th DISTRICT

Bob Latta

OHIO's 5th DISTRICT

Billy Long

MISSOURI's 7th DISTRICT

David McKinley

WEST VIRGINIA's 1st DISTRICT

Cathy McMorris Rodgers

WASHINGTON's 5th DISTRICT

Tim Murphy

PENNSYLVANIA's 18th DISTRICT

Pete Olson

TEXAS' 22nd DISTRICT

Joe Pitts

PENNSYLVANIA's 16th DISTRICT

Mike Pompeo

KANSAS' 4th DISTRICT

Mike Rogers

MICHIGAN's 8th DISTRICT

Steve Scalise

LOUISIANA's 1st DISTRICT

John Shimkus

ILLINOIS' 15th DISTRICT

Lee Terry

NEBRASKA's 2nd DISTRICT

Fred Upton

MICHIGAN's 6th DISTRICT

Greg Walden

OREGON's 2nd DISTRICT

Ed Whitfield

KENTUCKY's 1st DISTRICT