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Pharma Execs Face Senate Questions

Congress to square off against pharmaceutical CEOs in showdown over drug prices. USA Today: “Expect sparks to fly Tuesday as senators get a rare chance to grill the heads of seven major pharmaceutical companies under oath about the budget-busting prices of prescription drugs. The Senate Finance Committee will host executives from Pfizer, Merck, AbbVie and other drugmakers. Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Repubilcan, said he hopes the hearing will pull back the curtain on how drugmakers set prices – and how they justify the culture of secrecy surrounding those decisions. Expect to hear more on the subject from the committee in the coming months, including inquiries to pharmacy benefit managers, as lawmakers seek legislation to ease health care costs. Most lawmakers have taken money from drugmakers – including the senators on this committee. Skeptics are quick to note that the pharmaceutical industry is among Congress’ most generous benefactors. Campaign finance analysts caution against equating money given with votes bought. But large contributions can draw a politician’s attention and open doors when a company’s lobbyists come calling.”

Congress Votes To Override National Emergency

Border rebuke looms for Trump. The Hill: “Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) isn’t going to use political capital to fight a Democratic-sponsored resolution disapproving of President Trump’s emergency declaration for the U.S.-Mexico border. Instead, the GOP leader will bide his time and pick his battles carefully, avoiding a confrontation with fellow Republican senators who think Trump’s use of the emergency declaration to build border barriers is a policy mistake that sets a bad precedent. At the same time, McConnell isn’t sitting on the sidelines for what’s shaping up as one of the biggest fights of the 116th Congress. He has briefed Trump on what to expect when the Senate takes up the disapproval resolution and has warned the president that he is likely to lose the simple-majority vote in the upper chamber, according to a source familiar with McConnell’s advice. This would lead to Trump’s first veto and would generate negative headlines for the White House. It could also hurt the administration’s case in the courts on lawsuits challenging the president’s emergency declaration. The House is scheduled to vote on the resolution of disapproval on Tuesday. The Senate then must take up the measure within 18 days after House action. The legislation cannot be filibustered.”

HHS Questioned Over Child Separations

Trump appointee under scrutiny for handling of child separations. Politico: “A Trump appointee accused of mishandling efforts to reunify migrant children who were separated at the border will testify before Congress on Tuesday after months of resistance, as newly empowered House Democrats push the administration to hold officials responsible for the policy. Scott Lloyd, who led the HHS refugee office last year as it took custody of thousands of migrant kids separated from their families, will face a grilling on Tuesday before the House Judiciary Committee — one of four panels escalating probes into family separations. The hearing with Lloyd, a top target of the House Democrats’ sprawling investigation, could foreshadow his possible departure from the Trump administration amid dwindling internal support. The hearing brings unprecedented heat on Lloyd, who until now has been shielded from public scrutiny by the health department and close allies in the White House, according to four administration officials who requested anonymity to discuss the sensitive personnel matter.”

NC Court Strikes Down Gerrymandered Laws

Court hands down a stunningly aggressive attack on illegal gerrymandering. ThinkProgress: “A perennial problem in gerrymandering cases is that, even when an illegal map is eventually struck down by the courts, the state will often administer one or more elections using the deficient map before the courts can intervene. That effectively means illegally elected lawmakers will make new laws — sometimes for years. It also means partisans have little incentive not to gerrymander, because their illegal maps are likely to be in effect for at least one election. On Friday, a North Carolina state court offered a radical and creative solution to this problem, invalidating two state constitutional amendments that were proposed by an illegally gerrymandered legislature after the state’s legislative maps were invalidated — but before a new election could remove lawmakers in gerrymandered seats from office. The case is North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP v. Moore. Under the North Carolina Constitution, the state legislature may propose constitutional amendments with a 3/5s supermajority vote in both chambers. Such proposed amendments must then be ratified by a majority of the voters. In June of 2018, about a year after the Supreme Court affirmed a lower court decision striking down many of North Carolina’s legislative districts as unconstitutional racial gerrymanders, state lawmakers proposed six amendments to the state’s constitution. Two of these amendments, a cap on income taxation and a voter ID requirement, were later ratified by voters. In his opinion striking down these amendments, Judge G. Bryan Collins reasons that an illegally gerrymandered legislature cannot propose an amendment — at least after the state’s legislative maps were declared invalid by the Supreme Court of the United States.”

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