A Republican amendment offered, then tabled, in the U.S. Senate Feb. 4-5 to a budget bill linked to Democrats’ forthcoming COVID-19 relief package could have led to Senate action related to “improving transparency” in the 340B program “through data reporting.”
Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) offered the amendment to the federal budget reconciliation bill the Senate passed at 5:00 a.m. this morning on 51-50 party line vote, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote. The amendment came as a surprise to many 340B stakeholders. 340B-specific amendments to budget bills are rare.
Congressional Democrats and the Biden administration plan to fold their COVID-19 relief bill, which they are still writing, into the budget bill. Assuming no defections, Democrats could pass the pandemic relief/budget measure by a simple majority in the Senate, rather than by a filibuster-proof 60-vote supermajority. Congressional Democrats used a similar strategy in 2010 to ultimately pass the Affordable Care Act without need for a fillibuster-proof Senate vote.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi said today that the House plans to approve the budget plan today with the goal of enacting COVID-19 relief by the end of February. The House passed a similar budget reconciliation bill, with no amendments, on Feb. 3. The Senate approved a handful of amendments to its version.
Braun’s amendment was one of nearly 900 offered to the budget bill. Most were offered by Republicans on controversial issues, knowing they would fail, serving as message bills for constituent, campaign, and fundraising communications.
“The amendment was purely political” and “echoed manufacturer’s rhetoric of their unfounded claims that the 340B program is devoid of transparency,” said Peggy Tighe, legislative counsel to Ryan White Clinics for 340B Access (RWC-340B). Tabled “for good reason,” she said, the failed amendment “was really about using the budget process to enable manufacturers to further undermine the 340B program.”
Braun, who represents the state where Eli Lilly and Co. is headquartered, has been active on 340B matters. He serves on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, which has direct jurisdiction over the 340B program. We have reached out to Braun’s office for its take on the 340B-related amendment, one of 13 he offered to the budget bill.
Late during the last session of Congress, Braun introduced a wide-ranging health care bill, S. 4796, that included language to require 340B disproportionate share (DSH), children’s, and free-standing cancer hospitals to report data from their main and child sites on patient insurance status, charity care costs, and aggregate acquisition costs and reimbursements for 340B drugs. So far, he has not reintroduced it in the new session of Congress.
Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.) during the last session introduced the same bill (H.R. 852) in the House. He, too, has not reintroduced it, so far.