Overnight Health Care: Dems hit GOP with ObamaCare lawsuit vote | GOP seeks health care reboot after 2018 losses | House Dems aim for early victories on drug pricing | CDC declares lettuce e-coli outbreak over

Overnight Health Care: Dems hit GOP with ObamaCare lawsuit vote | GOP seeks health care reboot after 2018 losses | House Dems aim for early victories on drug pricing | CDC declares lettuce e-coli outbreak over
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Welcome to Wednesday's Overnight Health Care.

The government shutdown is well into its third week and shows no sign of ending.

While the Department of Health and Human Services is funded, the Food and Drug Administration is not, and the shutdown is starting to impact food safety.

On Capitol Hill, Democrats are again highlighting the ObamaCare lawsuit, and incoming Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyDem calls for Cohen to testify before Senate panel over explosive report Senate Republicans eye rules change to speed Trump nominees IRS shutdown plan fails to quell worries MORE (R-Iowa) outlined his priorities on drug pricing.

We'll start with ObamaCare:  


Democrats force Republicans to vote (again) on ObamaCare lawsuit

The House on Wednesday passed a resolution backing the chamber's recent move to defend ObamaCare against a lawsuit filed by GOP states, giving Democrats another opportunity to hit Republicans on health care.


GOP Reps. Brian FitzpatrickBrian K. FitzpatrickLatest funding bill to reopen the government fails in House GOP maps out early 2020 strategy to retake House A rare display of real political courage MORE (Pa.), John KatkoJohn Michael KatkoOn The Money: Shutdown Day 25 | Dems reject White House invite for talks | Leaders nix recess with no deal | McConnell blocks second House Dem funding bill | IRS workers called back for tax-filing season | Senate bucks Trump on Russia sanctions Latest funding bill to reopen the government fails in House Democrats turn down White House invitation for shutdown talks MORE (N.Y.) and Tom ReedThomas (Tom) W. ReedA rare display of real political courage Overnight Health Care: Dems hit GOP with ObamaCare lawsuit vote | GOP seeks health care reboot after 2018 losses | House Dems aim for early victories on drug pricing | CDC declares lettuce e-coli outbreak over Dems hit GOP on health care with additional ObamaCare lawsuit vote MORE (N.Y.) joined with 232 Democrats to support the measure, part of Democrats' strategy of keeping the focus on the health care law heading into 2020. The final vote tally was 235 to 192.

While the House voted on Friday to formally intervene in the lawsuit as part of a larger rules package, Democrats teed up Wednesday's resolution as a standalone measure designed to put Republicans on record with their opposition to the 2010 law.

Why it matters: Democrats filed a motion with the court to intervene Friday. But members wanted another chance to hit Republicans on the issue they think won them back the House. Democrats are trying to balance the need for substantial action on health care with political messaging.

What's next: Democrats have said they will introduce bills stabilizing ObamaCare and will hold hearings prying into the Trump administration's decision not to defend the law in court.

The Energy & Commerce Committee will also hold a hearing later this month on the impacts of the case.

More on today's vote here.


House Dems look to start with smaller wins on drug prices

Drug pricing is one of House Democrats' top priorities, but they're looking to start with some smaller, bipartisan moves before moving on to the sweeping, controversial items, Democratic sources say.

Early priorities:

  • The Creates Act, which cracks down on drug companies gaming the system to delay the introduction of cheaper generic competition. It's supported by many Republicans, including Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who will chair the Senate Finance Committee.
  • A bill to crack down on "pay for delay" deals in which drug companies pay generic competitors not to bring their drugs to market, putting off competition.

Down the road is the big one: Allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices, a policy Democrats have long called for but which most Republicans oppose. (More on this below...)

The politics: Both President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump knocks BuzzFeed over Cohen report, points to Russia dossier DNC says it was targeted by Russian hackers after fall midterms BuzzFeed stands by Cohen report: Mueller should 'make clear what he's disputing' MORE and House Democrats say they want to lower drug prices, making it a possible rare area of bipartisan agreement. But both sides could be wary of giving the other wins ahead of the 2020 election.

Progressives will also be pushing Democratic leaders to go bigger soon.

Read more here.


Grassley already put his foot down on Medicare Part D price negotiation

"I don't want to mess with the government negotiating prices with the private sector," Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the new chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, told reporters Wednesday.

He told a Democratic colleague on the committee it's "one place where we're going to completely disagree."

But he supports drug importation: Grassley and Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharCNN analyst Phil Mudd: Barr will ‘crush’ Trump administration 5 takeaways from Barr’s testimony Klobuchar dismisses mock campaign logo as something from 'very enthusiastic supporter' MORE (D-Minn.) reintroduced bipartisan legislation Wednesday that would allow the importation of prescription drugs from Canada, a proposal that has some support among Republicans and Democrats but has been opposed by the pharmaceutical lobby.

More on that here.


Speaking of drug prices... something to watch on Thursday

Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersKamala Harris picks Baltimore as headquarters for potential 2020 campaign: report Sen. Casey says he won't run for president in 2020 Women's March plans 'Medicare for All' day of lobbying in DC MORE (I-Vt.), along with Reps. Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsOvernight Health Care: Dem chair plans hearing on Medicare for all | Senate GOP talks drug prices with Trump health chief | PhRMA CEO hopeful Trump reverses course on controversial pricing proposal Key House Dem: I don't want to 'punish' drug companies House Dems fire first salvo in drug pricing fight MORE (D-Md.), Peter WelchPeter Francis WelchKey House Dem: I don't want to 'punish' drug companies Overnight Health Care: Dems hit GOP with ObamaCare lawsuit vote | GOP seeks health care reboot after 2018 losses | House Dems aim for early victories on drug pricing | CDC declares lettuce e-coli outbreak over DeGette dropped from chief deputy whip spot MORE (D-Vt.) and others, all fierce opponents of the pharmaceutical industry, will unveil a bill on Thursday, which is sure to be far-reaching.

Late last year, Sanders and Rep. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaDem rep proposes Trump, Congress hire mediators to resolve shutdown Blue states buck Trump to expand health coverage Ocasio-Cortez sparks debate with talk of 70 percent marginal rate MORE (D-Calif.) introduced a drug pricing bill that would have ended a drugmaker's patent protections if the price for a medication were higher than in other developed countries. Generic competitors would then be able to enter the market to sell alternative versions of the drug at a lower price.


GOP seeks health care reboot after 2018 losses

Republicans lost big in the House last year largely on the issue of health care. And ObamaCare repeal is now off the table with a Democratic House. So where do they go now?

Whit Ayres, GOP pollster: "Health care is such a significant part of our economy and the challenges are growing so great with the retirement of the baby boomers and the disruption brought about by ObamaCare that you can't just cede a critically important issue to the other side."

Jim McLaughlin, another GOP pollster: "We should be the guys and gals that are putting up things that make health care more affordable and more accessible."

Watch Sen. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderMcConnell blocks House bill to reopen government for second time Senators restart shutdown talks — and quickly hit roadblocks GOP senators propose bill to pay 'excepted' workers during shutdown MORE (R-Tenn.): "I'll be meeting with senators on reducing health care costs," Alexander told The Hill in a recent interview. "At a time when one-half of our health care spending is unnecessary, according to the experts, we ought to be able to agree in a bipartisan way to reduce that."

Read more here.


Some good news: CDC says romaine lettuce is safe

An outbreak of e-coli linked to romaine lettuce "appears to be over," federal health officials declared Wednesday.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there have been 62 cases across 16 states and the District of Columbia since the disease was first reported in October.

There were no deaths, but 25 people were hospitalized, including two people who developed a type of kidney failure.

"Contaminated lettuce that made people sick in this outbreak should no longer be available," the CDC said in a statement.

More on the end of the outbreak here.


More food safety news: Because of the shutdown, FDA has halted most of its food inspections

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says it has suspended all routine domestic food facility inspections amid the partial government shutdown.

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb told The Washington Post that he is putting together a plan to resume inspections of facilities that are deemed "high-risk."

The agency, which oversees the majority of the country's food supply, typically conducts roughly 160 routine inspections per week, the Post reported.

While food inspections of most of these facilities have halted due to the funding shortfall caused by the shutdown, Gottlieb says he is seeking to bring back enough workers to investigate high-risk facilities, which deal with sensitive foods such as seafood and cheese.

Read more here.


House Dems call on leadership to prioritize opioid epidemic

More than 60 House Democrats are urging leadership to make the opioid crisis a top priority in the new Congress.

The Democrats said Congress should dedicate more funding and staff to addressing the crisis, which killed 47,600 people in 2017.


"At a time when our state and local partners are begging for federal assistance to combat the opioid crisis in their communities, Congress must answer the call through increased resources, creative solutions, and with more legislative staff," the Democrats wrote in a letter to Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiOn The Money: Trump teases 'major announcement' Saturday on shutdown | Fight with Dems intensifies | Pelosi accuses Trump of leaking trip to Afghanistan | Mnuchin refuses to testify on shutdown impacts Ellen DeGeneres buys cheesecakes from furloughed federal workers who were baking to make ends meet Trump teases 'major announcement' about shutdown on Saturday MORE (Calif.) and Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerDems revive impeachment talk after latest Cohen bombshell Laura Ingraham: Dems 'are all going to have to kiss Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's ring' Trump's battle with Pelosi intensifies MORE (Md.). "Dedicated staff across House committees capable of analyzing both the larger federal need and specifics from states and districts is necessary at this point."

More on their letter here.


What we're reading

Bill de Blasio's plan to guarantee health care for every New Yorker, explained (Vox.com)

New Ebola-like virus is discovered in China (Stat News)

Science hinted that cancer patients could take less of a $148,000-a-year drug. Its maker tripled the price of a pill. (Washington Post)


State by state

New Wisconsin governor to change state's position on Obamacare lawsuit (Wisconsin Public Radio)

Democrats urge Florida governor DeSantis to expand Medicaid (Tampa Bay Times)

Different Medicaid expansion plans offered at Montana Legislature (KPAX)


From The Hill's op-ed page

The flu is a far greater threat than anything carried by people crossing the southern border