As expected, U.S. Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) on Tuesday was formally named the highest-ranking Republican member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) committee, the Senate committee with jurisdiction over the 340B program.
“As Ranking Member of the HELP Committee, I intend to conduct vigorous and appropriate oversight of the federal government and relevant agencies, many of which need significant reforms to better meet their public health mission,” Burr said in a statement. “I intend to ask tough questions and to get real answers. I look forward to working with my colleagues—on both sides of the aisle—as we tackle the most pressing issues confronting our nation.”
Also on Tuesday, U.S. Sen Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) was formally announced as the highest-ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over Medicare and Medicaid.
In a news release, Crapo said his priorities for health care include ensuring access, making care more affordable, ensuring a variety of coverage options, and strengthening the safety net. He also listed the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuring Medicare’s long-term solvency.
Neither the HELP nor the Finance Committee has scheduled hearings yet on President Biden’s nomination of California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to be U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS). The Los Angeles Times reported yesterday that “the GOP is fixated on rejecting” Becerra due to “perceived political and policy sins.”
“GOP operatives are portraying Becerra at once as a leftist radical who will impose socialized medicine and a healthcare dilettante who will be manipulated by big insurance companies,” the newspaper said.
“My main beef is this needs to be someone with deep experience willing to take on the healthcare industry,” U.S. Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) was quoted as saying.
“There really is a consensus that Becerra is the worst of the nominees,” a GOP official close to U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), who is leading the nominee vetting process, told the newspaper. “Our most moderate members and our most conservative members feel it will be hard to stop any of these nominees, but if there is one, Becerra ought to be the one who goes down.”