Welcome to Thursday’s Overnight Health Care. Six Republican senators broke with their colleagues on an ObamaCare vote, the CEO of Pfizer doesn’t like how the coronavirus vaccine was discussed in this week’s debate and President Trump’s Supreme Court pick signed a “right to life” statement more than a decade ago.
We’ll start with the vote…
Six Republicans break with party on ObamaCare vote
Six GOP senators who had previously voted to repeal ObamaCare voted with Democrats Thursday on a motion to proceed to debate on a bill that would block the Department of Justice from arguing against the law in court.
The bill was never expected to pass, and was purely a political move on the part of Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who wanted to put Republicans in a tough spot just over a month before the election.
Republican Sens. Cory Gardner (Colo.), Joni Ernst (Iowa), Martha McSally (Ariz.) and Dan Sullivan (Alaska), who are all in tough reelection races that could determine who controls the Senate next year, voted with Democrats, illustrating the the party’s growing struggles with opposing the popular Affordable Care Act (ACA) and its protections for people with preexisting conditions.
“They can’t hide from all their votes to repeal the ACA and this new vote only shows their hypocrisy a few weeks before the election,” Schumer told reporters after the vote.
GOP Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), who is also facing a tough reelection bid, and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), also voted with Democrats, but both had previously stated their opposition to the lawsuit. Both also voted against the 2017 ACA repeal bill.
Other Republican incumbents running competitive races voted no, including Sens. Steve Daines (Mont.), Thom Tillis (N.C.) and Kelly Loeffler (Ga.). Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) did not vote.
Why it matters: The Trump-backed ObamaCare lawsuit and protections for people with preexisting conditions have once again become a major election issue, with oral arguments at the Supreme Court just weeks away. Republicans are also poised to approve Trump’s third Supreme Court nominee, which would tip the balance of the court to conservatives.
Pfizer CEO ‘disappointed’ vaccine discussed ‘in political terms’ during presidential debate
Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla was watching Tuesday’s debate along with lots of the rest of us. And he didn’t like what he saw on the coronavirus vaccine.
“Tuesday night I joined the millions of Americans who tuned in to the Presidential debate,” CEO Albert Bourla wrote in a memo to employees. “Once more, I was disappointed that the prevention for a deadly disease was discussed in political terms rather than scientific facts.”
Fears of political pressure: The memo comes amid widespread fears among public health experts that President Trump, seeking a boost ahead of the election, will put political pressure on the Food and Drug Administration to approve a vaccine before one is ready.
Bourla has said that his company could be ready to apply for authorization as soon as October, a faster timeline than others and one that has raised further concerns about a pre-election approval.
He wrote in the memo Thursday that he would let science determine the timeline and neither speed up nor slow down because of politics.
“In this hyper-partisan year, there are some who would like us to move more quickly and others who argue for delay,” he wrote. “Neither of those options are acceptable to me.”
Read more here.
Amy Coney Barrett signed onto 2006 ‘right to life’ statement in newspaper
President Trump‘s Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett added her name to a list supporting a statement in a 2006 newspaper insert opposing “abortion on demand” and supporting the “right to life,” according to multiple reports.
The statement, which appeared in the South Bend Tribune, was sponsored by a group called the Saint Joseph County Right to Life. It reads, “We the following citizens of Michiana oppose abortion on demand and support the right to life from fertilization to a natural death.”
The organization also placed an ad on the opposite page from the insert that called for putting “an end to the barbaric legacy of Roe v. Wade and restore laws that protect the lives of unborn children,” CNN reported.
Signatories were only asked to approve the statement, according to the National Review.
Why it matters: President Trump, who has pledged to nominate anti-abortion rights judges, said earlier this week that it’s “possible” Barrett could tip the court against the Roe v. Wade decision. There are several cases concerning abortion moving through the courts now, and any of them could be heard by the Supreme Court in the next few years.
Read more here.
In the continuing struggles to get a coronavirus relief deal….GOP cool to White House’s $1.6T coronavirus price tag
The latest White House coronavirus relief bill offer, with a $1.6 trillion price tag, received a cool reception Thursday from congressional Republicans.
The new offer from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, which exceeds the original $1.1 trillion Senate GOP package and the $1.5 trillion the White House signaled it could support last month, was made as part of renewed talks this week with Democratic leaders.
But Republicans, including influential chairmen and members of leadership, are warning they can’t support it, creating another potential obstacle for negotiators trying to strike a deal on emergency COVID-19 aid after nearly two months of stalemate.
Asked about the prospect of supporting a $1.6 trillion measure, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) was direct: “No.”
“I think we’ve made it very clear that there’s so much money … that isn’t even out of Washington yet,” Grassley said. “We’re more in the neighborhood of something below $1 trillion.”
Read more here.
American Medical Association asks Supreme Court to strike Trump abortion rule
The American Medical Association (AMA), the nation’s largest doctors’ group, filed a petition to the Supreme Court Thursday asking it to strike down a rule from the Trump administration barring clinics funded by taxpayers from referring women for abortions.
The petition, which was also filed in conjunction with the American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood and the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association, comes after two seemingly contradictory rulings from two federal appeals courts on the administration’s restriction.
The petition also tees up an abortion battle that could be heard by the Supreme Court, which is expected to have a more conservative 6-3 majority if the Senate, as expected, confirms Amy Coney Barrett to be a justice. President Trump nominated Barrett to replace liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died in September.
The AMA in a statement called Title X, as the federal family planning program is commonly referred to, “a vital public health program.”
“The AMA strongly believes that our nation’s highest court must step in to remove government overreach and interference in the patient-physician relationship,” said AMA President Susan Bailey.
Read more here.
What we’re reading
Coronavirus vaccine trial participants report day-long exhaustion, fever and headaches – but say it’s worth it (CNBC)
How Trump voters view his position on pre-existing conditions (The New York Times)
The mask hypocrisy: How COVID memos contradict the White House’s public face (Kaiser Health News)
State by state
Connecticut doctors are rapidly changing tactics in their battle against COVID-19. But are they saving more lives? (Hartford Courant)
State health officials warn of ‘extreme risk’ of COVID-19 activity increasing in Washington (The Spokesman-Review)
UCSF testing promising new treatment that could lessen COVID-19 symptoms (San Francisco Chronicle)