In The News
Attributing recent reductions in certain U.S. prescription drug prices to intense congressional scrutiny rather than a biopharma industry commitment to affordability, Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.) said Congress must put more guardrails in place and restructure how the industry does business. “I don’t trust the industry to do the right thing when we’re not looking at you with these Klieg lights,” he told executives from Amgen Inc., Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals and Novartis AG Oct. 1 during the second day of a House Oversight Committee hearing on drug prices. Whether a promise or a threat, Sarbanes comments align with analysts’ thoughts on what may lay ahead for drug prices after the November election. For instance, RBC Capital Markets LLC analyst Randall Stanicky said he expects more aggressive drug price reform, as well as corporate tax reform that would have broader market implications, if former Vice President Joe Biden is elected president and Democrats gain a strong majority in both the House and Senate.
Johns Hopkins University is getting a $1.44 million federal grant to study potential COVID-19 testing gaps and disparities for transgender persons. The grant is from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The COVID, transgender research funding was announced by U.S. Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen and U.S. Reps. Dutch Ruppersberger, John Sarbanes and Kweisi Mfume. They are all Maryland Democrats. “The COVID-19 pandemic has shined a light on the severe inequalities that exists in our society,” the Democratic lawmakers said in a joint statement. “This new round of federal funding will help Johns Hopkins University lead a national effort to better serve transgender Americans during this public health emergency and help keep marginalized communities safe as we continue to battle the virus. Working together as a federal delegation, we will always fight to protect and support the LGBTQ community and will continue working to deliver additional COVID-19 relief to Maryland.”
A bill that would will help deliver primary care, dental screenings and mental health services to students in low-income and underserved communities passed by voice vote in the U.S. House of Representatives late Tuesday. The School-Based Health Centers Reauthorization Act, sponsored by Rep. John P. Sarbanes (D-Md.), would continue federal support for school-based health centers through 2025. The statutory authorization had expired in 2014. These centers offer a range of affordable health services to at-risk children, from primary medical care and vision care to substance abuse counseling and case management, and over a third of them are located in rural areas. “Teams of professionals, I think, is how you describe these School-Based Health Centers across the country,” Sarbanes said on the House floor Tuesday. “And they really marshal response to the needs of young people in schools in a way that you really can’t replicate anywhere else in the community – that’s why they’re so vital. They offer comprehensive health care to youth, delivering it in a setting where they already spend obviously much of their time – in a sense, a captive audience.” There are 80 school-based health centers in Maryland and over 2,500 across the country. Usually schools and community health organizations partner to create a location that is safe and convenient for students to access health care. Areas with school-based health centers have higher graduation rates and lower cases of asthma and hospital admissions, Sarbanes said. Students are 10 times more likely to seek mental health counseling when these centers are accessible, according to School-Based Health Alliance. “And now, of course, the services that School-Based Health Centers provide are needed more than ever, given the coronavirus pandemic. Young people are grappling with uncertainty and changes to their lives and being able to receive care in a familiar and supportive setting is critically important,” Sarbanes said.
From the time Oversight Committee Chairman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) gaveled Wednesday’s hearing to order, Democrats seemed intent on making it an extended pitch for their signature drug pricing bill, known as H.R. 3, which would allow Medicare to negotiate over drug prices, akin to the way that many European governments negotiate for drugs and other health care services.... Teva’s Schultz was the clear loser of Wednesday’s hearing. He declined to answer nearly all of the questions posed to him about Teva’s behavior because, he claimed, they dealt with decisions which happened before he took over as CEO in 2017. By the second hour, lawmakers were so frustrated with his answers that began openly insulting Schultz. “I just want to congratulate you on being able to answer, from my estimate, about 50 percent of these questions by saying you weren’t there,” said Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.) “It would have been nice to come, maybe, equipped a little bit better.” “You might as well get off the screen,” Gomez added, referring to Schultz’s appearance via video conference.
Several Democratic representatives blasted pharmaceutical executives over the prices of their companies’ drugs during a Wednesday House Oversight Committee hearing that caught the chief of Bristol Myers Squibb subsidiary Celgene and Teva flat-footed.... Teva’s CEO Kåre Schultz failed so badly to win over lawmakers that one told him he “might as well get off the screen” of the virtual hearing. Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD) told Schultz, “It would have been nice to come, maybe, equipped a little bit better.”
Maryland lawmakers announced $5.6 million in federal funding to upgrade MARC Commuter trains and improve the overall railroad infrastructure across the state. The congressional delegation includes – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen and Congressmen Steny H. Hoyer, Dutch Ruppersberger, John Sarbanes, Kweisi Mfume, Andy Harris, M.D., Anthony G. Brown, Jamie Raskin and David Trone (all Md.) “This new federal investment will help modernize Maryland’s freight and passenger rail networks – a critical element of our state’s economy,” the lawmakers said. “Team Maryland will continue to secure federal resources to improve our state’s transportation infrastructure and help keep Maryland commuters safe.” The Maryland Transit Administration was awarded $3.1 million for the Martin’s Yard Northeast Corridor Switch Modernization Project, which will install power-operated turnouts where MARC Commuter trains enter and exit the Martin Yard station in Middle River. The turnouts will replace the original hand-thrown turnouts which will “increase capacity at the Baltimore Penn Station for Amtrak passenger trains.” The Department of Transportation was awarded $2.5 million to rehabilitate nearly 2,000 feet of track and install new crossties, ballast and rail. A new turnout on track will also be installed. It will be operated by the Class III Maryland and Delaware Railroad Company.
U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, along with Congressman John Sarbanes (all D-Md.), announced $242,858 in federal funding on Wednesday for the Chesapeake Bay Trust to expand environmental education programs. The funding, from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Chesapeake Bay Watershed Education and Training grant program, will help local school districts and educators create and maintain environmental education programs for students throughout the area. “To protect the health of the Chesapeake Bay in the years ahead, we must inspire Maryland’s next generation of environmental stewards,” the lawmakers said. “This new federal investment will help the Chesapeake Bay Trust continue to provide hands-on environmental learning experiences, connect Maryland students with the natural world, and enrich the classroom curriculum.” The funding is a part of a $2.2 million award for 18 environmental education projects throughout the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.
In June 2017, a group of 400 conservative donors was wrapping up a conference organized by the Koch Brothers at the five-star Broadmoor resort in Colorado Springs…. The donors were upset with Republicans in Congress. The GOP controlled the House, the Senate and the Oval Office. Yet they hadn’t overturned Obamacare or cut taxes, as Republicans had promised on the campaign trail the previous year…. What unfolded in subsequent months offers an instructive example of how the wealthy and well-connected drive policy in the Trump administration…. “My donors are basically saying: ‘Get it done or don’t ever call me again,’” Rep. Chris Collins, R-New York, said as Congress was debating the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which slashed the corporate tax rate and gave hundreds of millions of dollars to the wealthy. (Collins was convicted this year of insider trading and sentenced to more than two years in prison.) Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said GOP donors would quit giving if Congress didn’t pass the bill. Critics of big money in politics pounced. “There was very much an atmosphere of payment on delivery, like, ‘You will get paid when you deliver this particular piece of legislation,’” Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Md., said in an interview with Public Integrity. Sarbanes and advocates for campaign- finance reform call this kind of politics “pay-to-play.” They don’t think it’s fair to Americans who lack the money to get the kind of access Deason and other wealthy donors have. Public Integrity’s investigation found that Deason reopened his Dallas Piggy Bank after the tax-cuts bill looked like it was going to pass. Dozens of other rich Republican donors opened their wallets, too. “The tax bill and how that came to be, I think really is Exhibit A of how the influence of money can distort and warp public policy in a way that cuts against the broad interest of the public,” Sarbanes said.
U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, along with Congressmen Dutch Ruppersberger and John Sarbanes (all D-Md.) announced an award of $884,646 in federal funds Tipton Airport Authority. The funding is awarded through the Department of Transportation (DOT) Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and authorized under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. These funds will go toward the maintenance and rehabilitation of 70,000 square feet of existing hangars used for aircraft storage.