This Week in Washington: Robert Califf Confirmed as FDA Commissioner


The House is in a district work period this week.
The Senate is in a state work period this week.


Short-Term Continuing Resolution Passes Senate and is Signed by the President

On Feb. 18, President Biden signed a short-term continuing resolution (CR), averting a government shutdown and funding the government through March 11. The House had passed the measure several weeks ago, but it had been held up in the Senate. While the House and Senate are in recess this week, talks on an omnibus funding bill will continue, with all appropriation leaders saying they do not want to do another CR and instead hope to find an agreement that would fund the government through the rest of the fiscal year.

Sens. Casey and Young Introduce the BENES 2.0 Act

On Feb. 18, Sens. Bob Casey (D-PA) and Todd Young (R-IN) introduced the Beneficiary Enrollment Notification and Eligibility Simplification (BENES) 2.0 Act. The bill aims to simplify Medicare enrollment for seniors and people with disabilities by providing advance notice to people approaching Medicare eligibility. The BENES 2.0 Act is a follow-up to the 2020 BENES Act, which updated Medicare enrollment rules.

The bill text can be found here.

Sen. Kaine Leads Letter Calling for Development of Next-Generation COVID-19 Vaccines

On Feb. 17, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) led a group of six senators in a letter to the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response at the Department for Health and Human Services (HHS) Dawn O’Connell. In the letter, the senators encourage Assistant Secretary O’Connell to outline the department’s plan to develop next-generation COVID-19 vaccines. The letter was also signed by Sens. Roger Marshall (R-KS), Bob Casey (D-PA), Mitt Romney (R-UT), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Tina Smith (D-MN).

The full letter can be found here.

Sen. Hassan Calls for Enforcement of ACA Birth Control Coverage Requirement

On Feb. 16, Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) led a group of 33 senators in a letter to the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Xavier Becerra, Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh and Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen requesting that the federal law guaranteeing complete coverage of birth control for women insured under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) be better enforced. The letter states that certain insurers have not complied with the ACA’s requirement and have denied coverage for birth control. In the letter, the senators called on the Departments of Labor, HHS and Labor to issue specific updated guidance and to take enforcement measures to improve compliance.

The letter can be found here.

Senate Confirms Robert Califf as FDA Commissioner

On Feb. 15, the Senate voted to confirm Robert Califf as Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) by a narrow vote of 50-46. Califf served as FDA Commissioner from 2016-2017 during the Obama administration. He was sworn in on Feb. 17. Janet Woodcock, who has been serving as Acting FDA Commissioner, will stay on in the role of Principal Deputy Commissioner.

Sens. Baldwin, Murphy and Shaheen Request Limits for Short-Term Insurance Plans

On Feb. 14, Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) led a group of 37 senators in a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra requesting that HHS limit the sale and availability of short-term limited-duration insurance (STLDI) plans. In the letter, the senators state that STLDI plans fail to provide adequate health insurance coverage. The senators expressed concern that STLDI plans are not required to follow certain standards such as annual out-of-pocket maximums and prohibiting discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions.

The letter can be found here.

Read more on healthcare policy in McGuireWoods Consulting’s Washington Healthcare Update.