Sandhya Raman

LGBTQ Equality Act passes House, pushing back on Trump’s religious freedom policies
Democrats and advocacy groups are attempting to counteract these policies through the courts and legislation

Growing tensions over the Trump administration’s policies that aim to strengthen religious freedom protections for health care workers have led to a partisan tug-of-war playing out in the House.

The Trump administration has tried to strengthen religious liberty protections through numerous policies over the past several months. Those include providing federal funds to religiously affiliated foster agencies who don’t allow LGBT people to adopt children and broadening religious and moral exemptions for employers who do not want to cover birth control.

Abortion politics: Will Doug Jones’ opposition to Alabama ban hurt him?
Jones is a top GOP target, but state ban with no rape exception could also fire up Democrats

Abortion politics could put pressure on endangered Alabama Democratic Sen. Doug Jones as his state pushes the strictest limits in the country, while presidential contenders seek to use new state abortion bans to rally core supporters.

Conservative state legislatures around the country have pushed curbs on abortion this year in an effort to turn back the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision guaranteeing a national right to abortion.

Legal battle heats up as more states test strict abortion bans
Other states are already pursuing and defending laws to ban abortion after six weeks of pregnancy

Advocates are preparing for a legal battle after Alabama passed the strictest abortion bill in the country late Tuesday, part of a growing national push by abortion opponents to test whether the courts will curb constitutional protections for the procedure.

Alabama’s move, which would essentially ban abortion in most cases, could open the door to restrictions in other states — even though they will all likely be challenged in court. Other states are already pursuing and defending laws to ban abortion after six weeks of pregnancy.

Trump aide sees room for talks on Democrats’ opioid bill
Trump’s top drug control official left the door open to a bipartisan deal on a bill authorizing billions to address opioid crisis

Democrats got a surprising compliment from the Trump administration’s top drug control official at a Thursday hearing as they discussed boosting opioid addiction treatment funding, while Republicans promoted efforts to stem illegal drugs through securing the southern border.

House Oversight and Reform Government Operations Subcommittee Chairman Gerald E. Connolly, D-Va., who presided at the full committee hearing, touted a draft bill that Chairman Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland released with Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren on Wednesday that would authorize $100 billion over 10 years to address the crisis. The bill, which is supported by all of the committee’s Democrats, faces a tough path to becoming law without Republican support.

Lawmakers aim to double down with more opioids legislation
New efforts would double down on existing policies to curb illegal fentanyl use and authorize more funding

Lawmakers are showing renewed interest in continuing bipartisan work to combat the opioid epidemic, less than a year after the president signed a legislative package into law.

While the law focuses on various aspects of the crisis such as curbing prescription drug abuse, new efforts would double down on policies to curb illegal fentanyl use and authorize additional funding.

Elizabeth Warren releases opioid plan ahead of Appalachian campaign stops
Legislation would authorize $100 billion over 10 years to tackle multiple aspects of the epidemic

Sen. Elizabeth Warren rolled out Wednesday a revised version of her bill to aggressively ramp up funding to combat the opioid crisis in anticipation of a series of town halls the Democratic presidential contender plans to hold starting this week.

Life expectancy for Americans has dropped for three consecutive years, and drug overdoses are one of the top factors. Warren has been active on the addiction issue — especially speaking out against opioid manufacturers over their role in the crisis and pursuing funding increases to combat the health epidemic.

Trump administration swayed by conservative think tank on abortion, LGBT decisions, group says
Ties between administration and The Heritage Foundation correlate with several health policy decisions, liberal watchdog group says

Close ties between the administration and a prominent conservative think tank correlate with several Trump administration health policy decisions, according to new information from a liberal government watchdog group shared exclusively with CQ Roll Call.

The 35-page Equity Forward report says that The Heritage Foundation’s influence plays a large role in decisions related to abortion, fetal tissue research, contraception and protections for same-sex couples.

Trump civil rights official wants to defend abortion opponents and religious freedom
OCR is now reporting a rise in civil rights complaints related to a person’s moral beliefs

A Trump administration official charged with protecting civil rights has major plans for defending abortion opponents and promoting religious freedom, he said in a rare and wide-ranging interview.

Roger Severino, the director for the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Civil Rights, highlighted his goals to investigate states that require insurance to cover abortion, protect individuals who reject certain vaccinations on religious grounds, and defend students training to be medical providers if they object to participating in abortions.

More Chinese fentanyl may stay out of the US under a new bipartisan bill
Another bipartisan proposal would help physicians learn more about a patient’s substance abuse history.

Calls to address the opioid crisis resumed Thursday as lawmakers released a bill that aims to curb the flow of illegal opioids into the United States and another to help physicians learn more about a patient’s substance abuse history.

The separate actions by a bipartisan group of senators and another of House members are drawing fresh attention to the overdose crisis, which is a concern for both parties even though Congress cleared an opioids law just last year. One of the bills, a Senate measure, stands a good chance of becoming law, said co-sponsor Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer.

Legal challenges are threatening Trump administration changes to the ACA
HHS is facing an increasing number of challenges to its changes to the 2010 health care law

The Trump administration, which has already been defeated in a number of high-profile legal cases, is facing an increasing number of challenges to its changes to the 2010 health care law and women’s health issues.

Just last week, the Justice Department filed a brief arguing that the entire health care law should fall, a position that even some conservative legal scholars call risky. Two days later, on Wednesday, a federal judge struck down the administration’s rules requiring Medicaid recipients to report their work hours to keep their coverage. On Thursday, another judge blocked the administration’s expansion of association health plans, which let small businesses band together to buy insurance and do not have to meet all of the 2010 law’s requirements.

Senate vote on abortion legislation fails to advance measure
Bill stalls despite lobbying efforts and Trump support

UPDATED 6:20 pm | The Senate voted Monday evening on a bill that Republicans say would guarantee additional protections to an infant who survives an abortion or attempted abortion.

The bill fell short on a procedural vote, 53-44, despite lobbying efforts by anti-abortion groups and support from President Donald Trump. Sixty votes were required to proceed on the measure.

FDA commissioner outlines new opioid enforcement action
The agency used, for the first time, a new type of enforcement designed to control the illegal flow of opioids

The Food and Drug Administration released a warning letter to a top drug distributor on Tuesday, using for the first time a new type of enforcement authority that the agency’s head called an important step in controlling the illegal flow of opioids.

FDA's letter alleged that distributor McKesson Corp. sent drugs that were supposed to be opioids — but were missing pills or were not even opioids — to multiple pharmacy locations, raising questions about whether potent opioid painkillers were missing and where they may have gone.

March for Life activists get anti-abortion boost from Trump
President: ‘I will veto any legislation that weakens pro-life federal polices’

Lawmakers and anti-abortion advocates who gathered Friday for the nation’s largest annual anti-abortion rally say they are pivoting to a defensive strategy in Congress, with a focus on confirming conservative judges as legislation stalls.

Thousands of advocates gathered to protest the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court case that guaranteed a woman’s right to an abortion. The event featured a surprise appearance by Vice President Mike Pence with second lady Karen Pence, and a video message from President Donald Trump.

Marching abortion opponents have message for Trump administration: Do more
Advocates push fetal tissue, family planning changes

Thousands of abortion opponents will take to the streets of Washington on Friday for the nation’s largest annual anti-abortion rally, coinciding with a flood of anti-abortion action from government officials that underscore the movement’s priorities for 2019.

The March for Life is held every January to protest the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court case that guaranteed a woman’s right to an abortion nationwide.

Senators clash over abortion fee rule
Proposal would change how individuals are billed for abortion coverage

Senate Democrats and Republicans at odds over a proposed rule that would change how individuals are billed for abortion coverage sent two competing letters to Health and Human Services this week.

The public comment period for the rule closed Tuesday, amassing over 74,000 comments.

Supreme Court Will Not Hear Planned Parenthood Defunding Appeal
Two conservative justices — Roberts and Kavanaugh — side with liberal colleagues

The Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear an appeal by two states that want to cut Medicaid funds from providers like Planned Parenthood, keeping in place lower court opinions that anti-abortion advocates oppose.

The states, Kansas and Louisiana, argued that Medicaid does not allow individual patients to sue if state officials refuse to cover a provider’s non-abortion services because the provider sometimes separately performs abortions.

Pro-Choice Caucus Preps for Democratic Majority
Members hope to push back on abortion

An influential House caucus hopes to use the Democrats’ majority next year to counteract Republican efforts to restrict abortion and family planning, although the group still faces an uphill battle against a Republican Senate and administration with strong ties to the anti-abortion lobby.

The Pro-Choice Caucus has been recently overshadowed by its conservative rival, the Bipartisan Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, which counts Republican leadership and lawmakers from the influential Freedom Caucus among its members.

Poll: Health Care a Top Issue For Midterm Voters
Both nationally and in Florida and Nevada, voters focused on health care

A majority of individuals rank health care as a “very important” issue in determining who they plan to vote for, according to a new poll that looks at prospective voters nationally as well as in two key battleground states.

Thirty percent of those polled nationally selected health care as the “most important” issue, outranking the economy, immigration, and gun policy, according to data from the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation.

Three States Get Ready to Vote on Abortion
Oregon, Alabama and West Virginia have measures on the ballot

Oregon, Alabama and West Virginia voters will face separate ballot initiatives next month aimed at restricting abortion access in those states.

These initiatives fit into a larger fight over abortion that continues to heat up. Anti-abortion advocates hope that changes at the state level can be used as test cases and later implemented more broadly, while abortion rights advocates hope to defeat them. A particularly contentious ballot initiative can be used as a messaging move to drive voters to the polls in tight elections such as this fall’s West Virginia Senate race.

Bipartisan Opioids Bill Explained
Podcast, Episode 123

CQ Health reporter Sandhya Raman explains what's in the sweeping opioids bill that Congress cleared on Oct. 3 – just in time for lawmakers to campaign on the issue before the November midterm elections.