Congressman Griffith's Weekly E-Newsletter 8.11.17
Energy and Commerce Update
As you know, I serve on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Many major domestic policy issues fall under its jurisdiction, from energy to telecommunications to manufacturing to healthcare and health insurance. This means that the committee always has a lot on its plate. I am pleased to report that it’s been hard at work addressing many of the big challenges facing families across the country and in Virginia’s Ninth Congressional District. Since January, we have held 50 hearings and twelve markups, and they have been fruitful: 31 E&C bills have been reported to the House.
Among E&C’s subcommittees, I serve as Vice Chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations and am also a member of the Health and Energy Subcommittees. These subcommittees have had a full schedule of hearings, bringing in witnesses to shed light on important issues, and have been diligent in marking up legislation for the consideration of the full committee and eventually the House.
The E&C Committee made news in March with its 27-and-a-half-hour continuous markup of legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare, but on the Health Subcommittee, we also have been looking for ways to improve healthcare beyond reforming health insurance. Legislation to reauthorize the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) user fee program, which helps provide new treatments and cures, passed the full committee in June, the House in July, and the Senate in August.
Our committee is focused on updating the Federal Government’s regulations for a 21st-century system of medical care. One bill I have sponsored was covered in a July Subcommittee on Health hearing on legislation to improve Medicare. H.R. 1148, the Furthering Access to Stroke Telemedicine Act, would make more available telemedicine services that can be crucial in treating strokes.
Another bill I have put forward, H.R. 1703, is the Medical Product Communications Act, which recently received a hearing in the Subcommittee on Health. It would expand ways for manufacturers of medical drugs and devices to share scientific information with doctors about their products’ “off-label” uses, meaning ways doctors can treat conditions with drugs and devices aside from their uses previously approved by the Food and Drug Administration. This means that doctors will have off-label information to use when nothing else seems to work for their patient. The FDA has already determined the drug is safe for human consumption and doctors often find this information useful. Testimony indicates doctors frequently look at off-label treatments for pediatric patients where specific trials are not always done and for rare disorders, particularly some of the rare cancers. I believe doctors and your healthcare team ought to be able to provide you with the best scientific information if you are facing a dilemma of no treatment working for you. I hope there will be further action on this bill in the near future.
On the Energy Subcommittee, we have been looking at how to modernize America’s energy infrastructure and ensure that the country can draw on its abundant sources of energy. In June, the House passed two E&C bills I sponsored extending deadlines for the commencement of construction of the Flannagan Dam in Dickenson County and the Gathright Dam in Alleghany County. These bills, along with other similar hydroelectric bills, exemplify the committee’s readiness to consider using all energy sources available to power the country, not just coal and other carbon fuels.
For the laws Congress passes to be effective, it is critical that we conduct routine oversight to make sure that the laws are being implemented as intended and to discover if there are problems. We also need to investigate problems to determine if congressional action might be warranted. The Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations does this for issues under E&C’s jurisdiction. It has held two hearings this year examining the opioid plague facing the country, looking at the threat of the synthetic opioid fentanyl and how states are responding to the crisis. Cybersecurity in healthcare and ways to reduce waste, fraud, and abuse in government programs have also been the subject of hearings.
We’ve covered a lot of ground at E&C this Congress, and we’ve been able to produce legislation that is good for the country as a result.
If you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to contact my office. You can call my Abingdon office at 276-525-1405 or my Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671. To reach my office via email, please visit my website at www.morgangriffith.house.gov. Also on my website is the latest material from my office, including information on votes recently taken on the floor of the House of Representatives.