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October 25, 2014

Posts in "Congressional Affairs"

September 17, 2014

Auditor Critiques Security Efforts

The federal health insurance exchange website,, begins a new open enrollment period on Nov. 15. However, the turmoil over failures in the initial launch of the website last year continues with ongoing concerns about the website’s security features. The Government Accountability Office on Tuesday reported that the initial website design included incomplete security controls, which have not been fully corrected and the site is still vulnerable to attacks. Federal auditors commented on the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services decisions on the website’s security features:

While CMS has taken steps to protect the security and privacy of data processed and maintained by the complex set of systems and interconnections that support, weaknesses remain in both the processes used for managing security and privacy as well as the technical implementation of IT security controls. CMS took steps to protect security and privacy, including developing required security program policies and procedures, establishing interconnection security agreements with its federal and commercial partners, and instituting required privacy protections. However, CMS has not fully addressed security and privacy management weaknesses, including having incomplete security plans and privacy documentation, conducting incomplete security tests, and not establishing an alternate processing site to avoid major service disruptions.

The report was released ahead of previously scheduled House committee meeting today and a vote to subpoena testimony from the former U.S. Chief Technology Officer, Todd Park, who was privy to initial website security decisions.



September 16, 2014

CRS Explains Options on Delayed Federal Rules

On Monday, Healthopolis noted a federal auditor’s report critiquing the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for never finalizing regulations on rural health clinic location rules. The issue of delayed, ignored (or forgotten) rule making is also the central point of a House lawsuit against the Obama administration, challenging the delay of the health care overhaul’s employer insurance coverage mandate.

Federal rule making is technically governed by the Administrative Procedures Act, which dictates how agencies should promulgate regulations based upon instructions passed by Congress. The Congressional Research Service this month offers a helpful – though likely confusing – guide to the various options available to Congress and individual citizens when rule making or rule enforcement is delayed. CRS notes that courts can intervene on delayed rules but there is some leeway for agencies to defer enforcement of rules.


September 11, 2014

New Hampshire Vote Brings Back Health Law Memories of January 2010

The results of the New Hampshire Republican primary this week offers a reminder about how the 2010 health care overhaul became law. Republicans in the New Hampshire on Tuesday selected former Sen. Scott P. Brown to challenge incumbent Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen.

In January 2010, Brown won a surprising victory in a special election in Massachusetts to fill the Senate seat vacated by the late Sen. Edward Kennedy. The election victory immediately stalled congressional action on the health care overhaul, which had just passed the Senate a few weeks earlier but was awaiting a vote in the House.  Any House changes to the bill would require further Senate action and Brown’s opposition to the health law assured that Republicans, who assumed an extra Senate vote, could halt action on a revised measure. Regular Senate bills require 60-votes to proceed toward a vote and due to Browns’ victory, Democrats no longer held a 60-votes in support of the health law. Eventually, Democratic leaders coalesced on a strategy utilizing a cumbersome procedural process used for budgetary matters – bypassing the 60-vote requirement – and the health care overhaul passed in March 2010.

The budgetary reconciliation procedures used to adjust federal spending programs, which was enlisted to pass the health law, could return as a factor in Senate deliberations next year if Republicans retain control of the House and garner a majority of seats in the Senate. Part of the equation for Republican Senate control rests on the results of the Senate race in New Hampshire.


July 25, 2014

House Plans Vote on Suing Obama Over Health Care Law

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Obama, speaking at Los Angeles Trade-Technical College on Wednesday. (Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images)

Republicans are preparing to vote on a resolution that would pave the way for the House to sue President Barack Obama over his executive actions to delay parts of the Affordable Care Act.

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Bipartisan Health Bills: Medical Leave, Congressional Plans and Chronic Care Coverage

Despite bitter congressional wrangling over the health care overhaul law and health spending priorities, several bills introduced this week suggest there is some bipartisan consensus on health care issues.

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July 23, 2014

Labor-HHS-Education Appropriator Loses Senate Bid

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Kingston, center, at the 53rd Congressional Baseball Game in Nationals Park, on June 25. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The chairman of the House Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee, Jack Kingston, R-Ga., was defeated in a bid to seek a Senate seat. Roll Call’s Kyle Trygstad has much more  on the results of Georgia primary runoff election, which has jolted the future plans of the House appropriations “cardinal.”

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July 22, 2014

White House Responds to Court Decision on 2010 Overhaul (Video)

The White House press spokesman Josh Earnest today responded to federal appeals court panel ruling that health care overhaul law subsidies only apply to insurance exchanges formally established by the states.  The White House insists its legal case will prevail and anticipates the Department of Justice will ask the full court to review the decision.

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Today’s Spotlight: VA Secretary Confirmation Hearing

451972878 445x347 Today’s Spotlight: VA Secretary Confirmation Hearing

McDonald speaks with Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, on July 10 on Capitol Hill. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

The Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee this afternoon holds a confirmation hearing on the nomination of Robert A. McDonald to be secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs. It is likely that many questions for McDonald will focus on the VA’s health care organizational culture and management.

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July 15, 2014

Pathologists Find Sympathetic Lawmakers on Electronic Records Plan

Most people think of Congress when they think of lobbyists, but there are many lobbyists that focus on federal agencies, seeking to adjust regulatory matters. Congress itself gets into the act, sending agencies a stream of letters, making tweaks via legislative activity and even filing lawsuits. The nation’s pathologists received that kind of help recently.

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IRS’s Role in Health Care Law Is Targeted in House Spending Bill

The House today continues amendment votes on the fiscal 2015 Financial Services spending bill. Health care proposals in the legislation focus on the more than 40 provisions in the 2010 health care law that task the IRS with verifying consumer health insurance exchange subsidies, administering premium tax credits and enforcing the individual and employer health coverage mandates.

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New Rules, Busy Times for Congressional Research Service

The Congressional Research Service is charged with keeping lawmakers apprised of the details of legislative matters and procedures. One of its biggest jobs right now, without a doubt, is tracking the implementation of the 2010 health care law.

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July 14, 2014

Amid Spending Bill Deadlock, House Appropriator Seeks Senate Seat

kingston 11 051311 445x295 Amid Spending Bill Deadlock, House Appropriator Seeks Senate Seat

Kingston. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Congressional appropriators are struggling with the fiscal 2015 spending bills, and both the House and Senate versions of the Labor-HHS-Education bill have not yet to emerged from the committee level. The House subcommittee for the bill is led by Georgia Republican Jack Kingston, who is also vying for his party’s nomination in a July 22 primary runoff election for a Senate seat.

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Assuaging GOP Anger With a Lawsuit

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(Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

House Speaker John A. Bohener is always delicately balancing the demands of conservative Republicans, and for them, blocking President Barack Obama’s health care initiatives by any means necessary is usually high on the list. Impeaching the president has become a more popular option than ever for some of those lawmakers, who say Obama abused the use of executive orders and illegally adjusted implementation deadlines and requirements for the 2010 health care law.

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July 9, 2014

Congressional Aides Mull Insurance Exchange Plan Options

Congressional staff account for more than a quarter of all people enrolled in the District of Columbia’s health insurance exchange plans, so when they make decisions, the effects can ripple.

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