HEALTH CARE BRIEFING: Republicans Tread Warily on Roe v. Wade

Republicans are on the cusp of fulfilling a decades-long campaign to install a Supreme Court majority that might overturn abortion rights. But their battle cry has been muted as the GOP moves to confirm President Donald Trump’s high court nominee with the election already underway.

Republicans view the quick confirmation of Judge Amy Coney Barrett as an energizer for their party’s base heading into the election on Nov. 3. But it also risks motivating the wide swath of voters who back abortion rights against Republicans in a year where the party is struggling to keep its Senate majority.

Barrett enters Monday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearings with the clearest anti-abortion record of any nominee in decades. She signed a 2006 advertisement opposing abortion and wrote in 1998 that the procedure is “always immoral.” In a handful of opportunities while on the federal appeals court bench, Barrett consistently landed on the side of restricting abortion rights.

Yet poll after poll shows a solid majority of the public opposes overturning the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion rights nationwide. That includes voters in staunchly Republican states such as Georgia and South Carolina, where Republican senators are running neck and neck with Democratic challengers. At least a half dozen other incumbent Republican senators also are in peril of losing on Election Day, with Barrett’s confirmation suddenly thrust into the campaign.

It may be with that in mind that Trump and the GOP have had a light touch on the issue that animates the anti-abortion movement, a stalwart constituency of the GOP. Read more from Steven T. Dennis and Greg Stohr.

Trump Calls Treatment ‘Cure’; Wants Drug Free

President Donald Trump said contracting the coronavirus was “a blessing in disguise” because it allowed him to experience firsthand the benefits of Regeneron Pharmaceutical’s experimental monoclonal antibody treatment, and announced his intention to authorize emergency use of the therapeutic.

“I want everybody to be given the same treatment as your president, because I feel great,” Trump said in a video posted on Twitter Wednesday evening. He added that he wanted the treatment to be free. “To me it wasn’t therapeutic, it just made me better, O.K.?” he said. “I call that a cure.”

Trump also mentioned a competing antibody treatment by Eli Lilly.

Trump said he believed the Regeneron monoclonal antibodies were the “key” to his recovery and that he began feeling better immediately. In the video shot on the South Lawn of the White House, Trump said that he did not believe he needed to be hospitalized over the weekend at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, but that doctors insisted because of his office. Read more from Justin Sink.

Related:

Trump Returns to Oval Office: Trump returned to the Oval Office yesterday for briefings, despite remaining under treatment for Covid-19 and potentially being contagious. Trump’s doctor said earlier that he hadn’t experienced any symptoms of the disease in 24 hours. He was discharged from the hospital on Monday after three days of treatment. The CDC recommends Covid patients isolate themselves for at least 10 days after their symptoms first appear. But Trump has been agitating since yesterday to return to the Oval Office, over the objections of some of his staffers. Read more from Sophia Cai and Justin Sink.

Related

The Coronavirus Pandemic

Radiation Oncology Groups Turn to Congress to Delay Payment Cuts: Concerns about steep payment cuts, a lack of preparation, and Covid-19 have prompted 10 medical groups to seek a one-year delay on a new Medicare method for paying cancer doctors for radiation therapy, set to begin on New Year’s Day. The groups, which represent the radiology and oncology community, are also asking Congress to help out. Read more from Tony Pugh.

Schumer Calls for Testing in Senate: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Senate Rules Committee ranking member Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) unveiled a resolution they say will improve the health and safety of employees in Senate buildings. The members call for requiring masks, contact tracing, robust testing, and a 14-day quarantine for anyone exposed to the coronavirus. “We need to take immediate action,” Schumer said yesterday, Maria Monteros reports.

White House Cases Coincide With D.C. Spike: The nation’s capital saw a brief surge in Covid-19 cases this week that coincided with Trump’s illness. So far, it’s not clear if the ever-expanding White House cluster is affecting the broader D.C. community, which had been in a stretch of relatively low infections. Daily cases hit 105 on Monday, the most since June 2, dropping back to 45 yesterday, local government data and the Covid Tracking Project say. Jonathan Levin has more.

  • Related: One Week at the White House Was America’s Pandemic in Microcosm
  • D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) is seeking “immediate and substantive dialog” with the White House to discuss how to trace and halt the spread. The work the nation’s capital has done to curtail the spread of the coronavirus among its over 700,000 residents “is put at jeopardy if we do not work together at this critical juncture,” she said in a letter to Trump’s Chief of Staff Mark Meadows made public yesterday, Ari Natter reports.

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What Else to Know

GOP Presses HHS Chief on Contracting Agency: An agency housed within the Department of Health and Human Services that provides administrative support across the federal government is getting renewed attention from Republicans in the House after it canceled contracts with the Department of Defense and other agencies in 2019. The Program Support Center suspended multiple officials and abruptly canceled acquisition services for other agencies outside HHS as part of an ongoing review in 2019. Read more from Shira Stein.

Biden Health Agenda Could Cost $2 Trillion:Joe Biden’s health care agenda may cost up to $2 trillion over 10 years, while the incumbent president’s plan would save as much as $1 trillion over that time period, according to a new report by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. Much of the savings from Trump’s health plan is based on his “vision for health reform,” which lacks detailed provisions and assumes savings of $850 billion by cutting spending on Medicaid and insurance subsidies through the Affordable Care Act, according to the analysis. Costs tied to Biden’s plans come largely from his goal of expanding the ACA through a public option. Read the analysis here.

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With assistance from Alex Ruoff

To contact the reporter on this story: Brandon Lee in Washington at blee@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Zachary Sherwood at zsherwood@bgov.com; Giuseppe Macri at gmacri@bgov.com; Michaela Ross at mross@bgov.com

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