Cures Stories and Support from Across the States
The 21st Century Cures Act has grabbed attention across the nation, and rightfully so. No community is untouched by disease. Throughout the process, many patients, advocates, researchers, and health care organizations have continued to show support for the landmark legislation.
Check out the Cures chatter from all across the country:
Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) today issued the following statement in response to a Politico report entitled “Wired to Fail” on the Rural Utility Service’s $3 billion taxpayer funded broadband stimulus:
“This report underscores exactly why good process and protecting taxpayers should be a North star guiding all federal policymakers and employees. When the broadband stimulus was pushed through, our efforts to safeguard precious taxpayer dollars were rebuffed. Unfortunately, as this report makes clear, money was pushed out the door without proper oversight.
“We have worked on the Energy and Commerce Committee and will continue seeking ways to incentivize the deployment of fixed and mobile broadband access for all Americans, regardless of where they live and work. If the broadband stimulus had any positive impact, it was to provide a clear roadmap of how wrong things can go when our government takes short cuts around good process.”
July 28, 2015
Wired to Fail
How a little known agency mishandled several billion dollars of stimulus money trying to expand broadband coverage to rural communities.
By Tony Romm
In September 2011, as the U.S. economy continued to sputter in the shadow of the Great Recession, Jonathan Adelstein offered a bold promise on behalf of a tiny federal agency that had long strived to improve the lives of rural Americans.
The administrator of the little-known Rural Utilities Service had just finished announcing $3.5 billion in aid to expand high-speed Internet access to the hardest-to-reach areas of the country. The awards, part of the federal stimulus passed by Congress two years earlier, had been crucial to President Barack Obama’s blueprint for a recovery that would ensure farmers and remote businesses could compete in an increasingly global economy.
“These investments in broadband will connect nearly 7 million rural Americans,” Adelstein pledged in a report to Congress, “along with more than 360,000 businesses and more than 30,000 critical community institutions like schools, health care facilities and public safety agencies, to new or improved service.”
Judged against the agency’s 80-year track record, those numbers didn’t seem unrealistically ambitious. During the Great Depression, after all, RUS had loaned out millions of dollars to string electric lines to distant farms and small towns in parts of the country that private companies refused to serve — a bold and calculated risk that had transformed America in a single generation.
But more recently, RUS has strayed from its rural mission. Even the agency’s staunchest defenders in Congress have learned: When it came to funding broadband projects, RUS never found its footing in the digital age.
Sometimes, RUS funded high-speed Internet in well-wired population centers. Sometimes, it chose not to make any loans at all. Sometimes, RUS broadband projects stumbled, or failed for want of proper management; loans went delinquent and some borrowers defaulted. Yet despite years of costly missteps that left millions of Americans stranded on the wrong side of the digital divide, a stable of friendly lawmakers swallowed their doubts about RUS and made sure the politically protected agency wasn’t cut out of the historic stimulus effort.
It should come as little surprise, then, that four years and four directors later, RUS has failed to deliver on Adelstein’s promise.
A POLITICO investigation has found that roughly half of the nearly 300 projects RUS approved as part of the 2009 Recovery Act have not yet drawn down the full amounts they were awarded. All RUS-funded infrastructure projects were supposed to have completed construction by the end of June, but the agency has declined to say whether these rural networks have been completed. More than 40 of the projects RUS initially approved never got started at all, raising questions about how RUS screened its applicants and made its decisions in the first place.
But a bigger, more critical deadline looms for those broadband projects still underway: If these networks do not draw all their cash by the end of September, they will have to forfeit what remains. In other words, they may altogether squander as much as $277 million in still-untapped federal funds, which can’t be spent elsewhere in other neglected rural communities.
And either way, scores of rural residents who should have benefited from better Internet access — a utility that many consider as essential as electricity — might continue to lack access to the sort of reliable, high-speed service that is common in America’s cities. Even RUS admits it’s not going to provide better service to the 7 million residents it once touted; instead, the number is in the hundreds of thousands.
The checkered performance of RUS offers an all-too-familiar story of an obscure federal agency that has grown despite documented failures, thanks in large part to its political patrons in Congress. The massive infusion of stimulus money, which required RUS to disperse record sums faster than it ever had before, further exposed its weaknesses — troubles that in many ways remain unaddressed, despite repeated warnings — even as RUS continues lending. …
Read the article online HERE.
WASHINGTON, DC – House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-KY), and Energy and Power Subcommittee Vice Chairman Pete Olson (R-TX) today sent a letter to White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough outlining various concerns with the EPA’s proposed revisions to the ozone standard that was established in 2008.
EPA has proposed revising the current National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ground-level ozone from 75 parts per billion (ppb) to a level between 65-70 ppb. Communities across the country are just now beginning to implement the current standard and yesterday panelists discussed how the proposed rule could put jobs at risk in the manufacturing industry and other key areas of the economy.
In the letter the members write, “EPA’s pending rule threatens serious economic harm and is being proposed as the nation continues to face major fiscal and employment challenges, including stagnant wages and a low labor participation rates.”
Accompanying the letter to Mr. McDonough is a list of nearly 700 national, state, and local organizations, and stakeholders in support of retaining the current standard. The members continued, “This list highlights the scope of the potential adverse effects of this rule… Given the significant costs of the proposed rule, the uncertainty of the benefits, and the expected ozone reductions under the existing standard, we do not believe that revisions are required at this time.”
The committee letter comes a day after committee member Rep. Bob Latta (R-OH) spearheaded a bipartisan letter signed by over 130 members of Congress to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy asking her to reconsider the proposed revisions.
To view the letter sent to Denis McDonough, click here.
To view a list of the nearly 700 entities in favor of retaining the current standard, click here.
WASHINGTON, DC – Bipartisan leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee today sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell as the committee continues its oversight of the U.S. public health response to the seasonal influenza. The leaders are seeking documents regarding the administration’s lessons learned from the previous flu season as well as documents detailing preparedness efforts for the upcoming season.
The letter reads, “The mismatched seasonal influenza vaccine and the high death rate among the elderly and other high-risk populations in the U.S. during the 2014-2015 influenza season highlight the need for an improved response, including making seasonal influenza vaccines more effective and promptly available. We believe understanding the lessons from the 2014-2015 influenza season could improve the U.S. public health response in the future and possibly save thousands of lives. We write to seek further information on HHS’s current preparedness efforts for the 2015-2016 influenza season, and to work with you to improve the nation’s response to seasonal influenza.”
The letter was signed by Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Tim Murphy (R-PA), and Subcommittee Ranking Member Diana DeGette (D-CO).
In February, in the midst of a particularly bad flu season, the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee held a hearing to discuss the federal response efforts.
Read the complete letter online HERE. The leaders are also attaching responses the committee has received from HHS and other agencies to earlier committee letters on this issue. Read those online HERE.
WASHINGTON, DC – The House Energy and Commerce Committee today bolstered its bipartisan #RecordOfSuccess by advancing six bills to strengthen public health, children’s health, and promote American jobs and manufacturing. Today’s vote marked the eighth full committee mark up this Congress.
“The Energy and Commerce Committee has built a proud record of bipartisan success, and we look to continue our momentum as we advance six bills to protect kids, improve the public health, and boost jobs and manufacturing. These commonsense solutions will have a positive impact in Michigan and across the country,” said Chairman Fred Upton.
The bills advanced today by the committee include:
All six bills were approved by voice vote. Additional information about today’s markup is available here.
WASHINGTON, DC – The Energy and Power Subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY), today held a roundtable entitled, “EPA’s Proposed Ozone Rule: Potential Impacts on Manufacturing and Jobs.” The roundtable discussion builds off the committee’s ongoing work to highlight the potentially devastating effects on jobs and economic growth in many areas of the country from EPA’s proposed revisions to the current National Ambient Air Quality Standards for ground level ozone – what some suggest could be the EPA’s most expensive regulation ever. Communities across the country have only just begun to implement measures to comply with the current standard. EPA, however, is proposing to change that standard despite the fact that EPA’s own data indicate that ozone levels have decreased by over 30 percent since 1980, and will continue to decline under the current standard.
Various panelists from across the country discussed how the EPA’s proposed ozone rule could impact their cities and counties and could put jobs at risk in the manufacturing industry and other key sectors of the economy.
Panelists from left to right: Mayor Jerry Mouton of Deer Park, Texas, Mayor Larry Waters of Sevier Country, Tennessee, Chris Norch, President of Denison Industries, George Williams, CEO of PMI Energy Solutions, Gregory Johnson, Director of Legislative Affairs at the Sherwin-Williams Company, and Joseph Stanko of Hunton & Williams LLP
Chairman Whitfield leading the discussion at today’s roundtable
Chairman Ed Whitfield concluded, “Today’s roundtable discussion reinforced what we have been hearing all along regarding the potential impacts of the EPA’s proposed regulation. As our economy continues to recover, we should allow states and localities time to achieve the current standard before increasing regulatory burdens. Our panelists provided valuable insight into how EPA’s proposal could harm consumers, manufacturers, small businesses and jobs all across the country. It’s clear that EPA should reconsider its proposal and allow states the time necessary to fully comply with the existing standard.”
For information on how this proposed regulation could affect you and your state, click here.
WASHINGTON, DC – Due to expected House votes, the opening statements for the full committee markup scheduled to begin this afternoon have been postponed. The full committee will meet tomorrow, July 29, at 10 AM in 2123 Rayburn House Office Building for opening statements and consideration of the following six bills:
A background memo and electronic copies copy of the legislation can be found on the Energy and Commerce Committee’s website here. Amendments, and votes will be available at the same link as they are posted.
WASHINGTON, DC - The Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, chaired by Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA), today held a hearing continuing its review of the Federal Select Agent Program (FSAP). The hearing comes on the heels of recent reports regarding the shipments of live anthrax from a Department of Defense (DOD) laboratory.
“As Yogi Berra said, it’s like déjà vu all over again. … These dangerous safety lapses at our high-containment labs are threatening our nation’s security and public health,” Murphy said. “This subcommittee will not relent in its oversight of federal laboratories’ compliance with select agent regulations, and will further explore the possibility of an independent agency to oversee these labs.”
Full Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) added, “These blunders need to stop now. We need to learn from the mistakes of the past and stop repeating them once and for all. Otherwise I am afraid we’ll be right back here next summer discussing the latest security lapse.”
Dr. Marcia Crosse, Health Care Director at the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office, explained the findings from the watchdog’s recent report. “The safety lapses of 2014 and 2015 continue to raise questions about the adequacy of (1) federal biosafety and biosecurity policies and procedures and (2) department and agency monitoring and evaluation activities, including appropriate levels of senior management involvement.”
Subcommittee Chairman Murphy pointed out that the DOD process for inactivating anthrax was insufficient, operating outside of the scientifically validated “kill curves” that are typically used to determine whether all the anthrax spores have been inactivated:
Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) questioned the panel on where responsibility lies to address these concerns:
Witnesses from the DOD, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General (HHS OIG) described past processes and future plans to address these safety lapses.
Gregory Demske from HHS OIG added, “On the basis of our enforcement work, OIG has identified opportunities to strengthen FSAP that CDC should consider as it reviews how FSAP can be improved. In addition, OIG will continue to provide oversight through audits and evaluations of FSAP and use our CMP authority to take enforcement actions.”
Dr. D. Christian Hassell from DOD said, “The Department is committed to putting in place the systems so that ensure that this does not occur again, and will implement the recommendations of the Report and the further directives outlined by Deputy Secretary Work on July 23. Our top priority is the safety of all involved, and we remain fully committed to complete transparency of information.”
Read full witness testimony and watch the hearing online HERE.
The Raleigh News & Observer Editorial Board - “…21st Century Cures Act will likely save lives. It’s as simple and profound as that.”
July 27, 2015
EDITORIAL: NIH research funding boost is a vital investment
The U.S. House of Representatives doesn’t do many bipartisan things these days, but in boosting funding for medical research through the National Institutes of Health, common ground has been found. Solid ground.
Putting an extra $1.5 billion a year into the NIH through the 21st Century Cures Act will likely save lives. It’s as simple and profound as that.
The NIH, a federal agency that funds medical research in the U.S. and around the world, has seen its ability to approve grants diminished in the last 10 years, and this legislation is an attempt to catch the agency up to pre-recession levels. In addition, the measure pushed the Food and Drug Administration to seek faster ways of getting drugs approved. That’s cause for concern in some corners of the scientific community, but Steven Patierno, deputy director of the Duke Cancer Institute, is not among the skeptics.
“The amount of effort, time, money and otherwise, that institutions have to put into regulatory compliance is staggering,” Patierno said, and he sees the changes as slicing some red tape. As one on the front lines, his views are reassuring.
The money, should it go through both houses of Congress, is likely to make a big difference to area universities and companies in the Research Triangle Park area, a center of ground-breaking medical research.
The money goes mostly to universities, but it also is made available to start-up research companies, many of which have begun in the RTP area. The most important aspect of the change is, of course, the medical advancements that will result from additional funding. But it also will boost jobs in the scientific sector.
Patierno notes that, “We’ve lost probably two generations of cancer researchers who have left a career in science because of concerns that there was very little future other than an intensively competitive one.” This change, with more money for more scientists, may change that.
Residents of this area have seen, time and again, wondrous work done in institutions close by and close to one another. Those institutions now work more closely together, which is important if research is to be advanced more quickly.
Every year, it seems, news of another breakthrough comes, and Duke and UNC-Chapel Hill have long been on the forefront of cancer research, to use two examples. And both are now participating in national studies on illnesses of all kinds. The additional money from the NIH will only boost these institutions in their pursuit of better health, and better treatment outcomes, for all of humankind.
Read the editorial online HERE.
Reps. Allen, Meehan, and a Mom in Georgia Advocate for 21st Century Cures
H.R. 6, the 21st Century Cures Act, has stirred up plenty of interest and excitement across the country as the legislation makes its way to the Senate. This nonpartisan effort will help patients, families, and loved ones in every community by accelerating the pace of cures and treatments for those who need them most. The Augusta Chronicle profiles Melissa Solares and her severely autistic son Arturo. Rep. Rick Allen (R-GA) told the Solares’ story on the House floor ahead of the overwhelming vote in support of H.R. 6. Rep. Pat Meehan (R-PA) also took to the pages of Pennsylvania’s Delaware County Daily Times urging the U.S. Senate to swiftly follow the House’s lead and pass Cures.
Evans Mother Hopes Congress Passes Medical Research Bill
Melissa Solares will do whatever it takes to find affordable, safe and effective treatment for her severely autistic child, Arturo. …
Citing Solares’ story, Allen said on the House floor before the Cures Act was passed that the legislation will improve access to treatments that help patients such as Arturo. …
“The 21st Century Cures Act will help the medical community in their efforts not only to develop but deliver lifesaving treatments,” Allen said in a statement. “By cutting red tape and modernizing health care, this legislation can help improve the lives of individuals and families while supporting jobs in the 12th District and nationwide.’…
The bill has yet to make it to the Senate, but Solares is hopeful it will speed up health care development in a safe and effective way, as her son still struggles with sleep-onset insomnia 3½ years after he was diagnosed as severely autistic on his fourth birthday. …
Solares said she found the legislation sensible.
“Why wouldn’t we want to make our health care industry as effective as possible?” she asked.
Read the full story online HERE.
Senate Should Pass 21st Century Cures Bill
By Rep. Pat Meehan
… The overwhelming support for 21st Century Cures proves an important point: Even today, in the midst of bitter partisanship and Washington dysfunction, Republicans and Democrats can still come together to find solutions to address the great challenges we face as a nation.
America has what it takes to tackle diseases like cancer. We’ve made great progress already. But we can no longer afford to let an outdated Washington bureaucracy slow down the effort. The 21st Century Cures legislation passed by the House sends an unmistakable message that curing these conditions is a nonpartisan, national priority for all of us. I urge the Senate to act quickly on its passage and the president to sign it into law.
Read the full column online HERE.
Learn more about the 21st Century Cures Act HERE.
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