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The Administration

  • Senate Panel Advances Trump Health Secretary Pick  Associated Press — A Senate committee has signed off on President Donald Trump's pick for health secretary, clearing the way for final confirmation of Alex Azar. The Finance Committee voted 15-12 on Wednesday to send Azar's nomination to the full Senate. Although the panel's vote was largely along party lines, Azar's confirmation hearings weren't nearly as contentious as the deliberations over his predecessor, Tom Price. One Democrat, Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware joined majority Republicans to advance Azar's nomination. Azar, 50, is an Ivy League lawyer and a former drug company and government executive. As the new secretary of Health and Human Services, Azar would head a $1 trillion department with 80,000 employees. He's promised to make the high cost of prescription drugs his top priority. No floor vote has been scheduled.

  • Trump Again Targets Drug Policy Office, Proposing 95 Percent Budget Cut Politico by Sarah Karlin-Smith and Brianna Ehley — President Donald Trump is planning to slash the budget of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, in what marks his administration's second attempt to gut the top office responsible for coordinating the federal response to the opioid crisis. The plan would shift the office's two main grant programs, the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas grant and the Drug Free Communities Act, to the Justice and Health and Human Services departments, respectively, multiple sources in the administration and others working with the government on the opioid crisis told POLITICO. The move would result in a reduction of about $340 million, or 95 percent of the ONDCP's budget. Trump administration officials say the office would still serve as the White House's drug policy shop, while the grants would be administered by larger agencies.

  • Conflict-of-Interest Concerns Keep CDC's Fitzgerald Away from Yet Another Meeting with Congress  Modern Healthcare by Steven Ross Johnson — A Senate health committee held the first of two hearings Wednesday over the current state of the nation's readiness to address public health emergencies, which led to calls to improve the reliability of data collected during and after disasters.  But before senators could tackle some of those pressing issues, they first had to contend with the fact that Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald again canceled an appearance before Congress. Fitzgerald cited ongoing potential conflicts of interests related to her personal financial investments as the reason for recusing herself.

  • The Religious Activists on the Rise Inside Trump's Health Department Politico by Dan Diamond — A small cadre of politically prominent evangelicals inside the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have spent months quietly planning how to weaken federal protections for abortion and transgender care — a strategy that's taking shape in a series of policy moves that took even their own staff by surprise. Those officials include Roger Severino, an anti-abortion lawyer who now runs the Office of Civil Rights and last week laid out new protections allowing health care workers with religious or moral objections to abortion and other procedures to opt out…'Inside HHS, staff say that those leaders are steering their offices to support evangelicals at the expense of other voices, such as a recent decision to selectively post public comments that were overwhelmingly anti-abortion.

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