Chairman Alexander: New Laws Approved by the HELP Committee Impact the Lives of Every American

Posted on December 21, 2019

“Significant progress was made this year to help millions of students qualify for federal student aid, and Congress took the first step to help lower the cost of health care.  There is still more to do, and I will continue to keep surprise medical bills at the top of the congressional priority list in 2020 until it’s done.”


WASHINGTON, December 21, 2019 — U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today said that “this year, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee has continued its record of getting results for the American people.”

  • 21 bills, including 5 new laws
  • 51 of President Trump’s nominees
  • 13 hearings on issues that affect the lives of every American

Chairman Alexander continued: “This year, the Committee worked on legislation that provides permanent funding – that is fully paid for – for HBCUs and other Minority Serving Institutions attended by more than 2 million minority students. Second, after five years of bipartisan effort, it simplifies the Free Application for Federal Student Aid – the FAFSA – which removes a huge roadblock for the 20 million families, including 8 million minority students, who fill it out every year to qualify for federal student aid. It’s hard to think of a new law that will have more of a lasting impact on minority students and their families than this bill.”


“Significant progress was made this year as Congress passed five provisions from the Lower Health Care Costs Act including: three provisions to lower the cost of prescription drugs by encouraging competition; raising the tobacco purchasing age to 21; and better protecting Americans from diseases transmitted by mosquitoes, ticks and fleas. Congress has failed to deal with surprise medical bills and to enact legislation that Senator Murray and I have introduced to fund the nation’s 1,400 community health centers for five years. I will continue to do everything I can to keep surprise medical bills at the top of the congressional priority list in 2020 until it’s done.”


“All in all, the Committee passed 21 bills, including new laws that will ensure we are better prepared for public health threats such as wildfires, hurricanes, or bioterror attacks, and to help us better understand diseases and disorders including autism. In addition, we approved 51 nominees, 40 whom have been confirmed by the full Senate. And we held 13 hearings on topics that impact the lives of every American, including e-cigarettes and vaping; the importance of vaccines; and updating the Higher Education Act to ensure students are earning degrees worth their time and money.”


Alexander concluded: “This is a very diverse committee that is known for reaching bipartisan agreement on issues that are consequential to the American people, and I am glad that we have continued that record this year.”


The HELP Committee approved 5 bills that have been signed

by President Trump into law:


1.       Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness and Advancing Innovation Act of 2019 – Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Bob Casey (D-Pa.): It is crucial we are prepared to face a range of public health threats – including outbreaks of infectious diseases like Ebola, Zika, or the flu; natural disasters, such as hurricanes and the wildfires that swept across East Tennessee in 2016; or deliberate attacks with dangerous agents, like anthrax or nuclear weapons. This law strengthens our preparedness and response capabilities so we can better protect Tennesseans and all Americans from 21st century threats.


2.       Autism CARES Act of 2019 – Sens. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.): This law reauthorizes research, training, and education programs to better understand autism spectrum disorder and its prevalence, and care for those who have autism spectrum disorder.


3.       Emergency Medical Services for Children Reauthorization Act of 2019 – Sens. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.): This law ensures that, from the ambulance to the emergency department, emergency health care providers are prepared to treat children, who typically require smaller equipment and different doses of medicine.


4.       Poison Center Network Enhancement Act of 2019 – Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.): This bill  strengthens the network of 55 poison control centers across the country, including by modernizing the centers’ communications capabilities so that they can more effectively help prevent and respond to toxic exposures and poisonings.


5.       Kay Hagan Tick Act – Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Angus King (I-Maine), and Tina Smith (D-Minn.): This bill  authorizes centers of excellence and grants to states to improve the prevention of and response to diseases transmitted by vectors like mosquitoes, ticks and fleas. The legislation  also requires a national strategy to ensure federal agencies coordinate to combat these diseases.


The Senate passed two additional bills that need to be considered by the House of Representatives before it can become law:


1.       Over-the-Counter Monograph Safety, Innovation, and Reform Act of 2019 — Sens. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) and Bob Casey (D-Pa.): This bill  modernizes the way over-the-counter medications are regulated and brought to market. The reforms aim to protect public health and encourage the development of new products to better meet the needs of patients.


2.       Promoting Physical Activity for Americans Act – Sens. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio): This bill  requires the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to routinely update its recommendations on exercise.



The Committee approved an additional 14 bills that are ready to be considered by the full Senate:


1.       The Lower Health Care Costs Act – Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.): a package of 54 proposals from 65 senators – 29 Republican and 36 Democrat, including nearly every member of the Committee – that reduces what Americans pay out of their own pockets for health care. 5 proposals in the Lower Health Care Costs Act became law as part of HR 1865.


2.       Title VIII Nursing Workforce Reauthorization Act – Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.): This bill  updates and reauthorizes programs that help ensure we have the trained nurses we need.


3.       Scarlett’s Sunshine on Sudden Unexpected Death Act – Sens. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.): This bill provides grants to help states better understand the causes of sudden unexpected infant and child deaths in order to identify ways to prevent them in the future.


4.       CAPTA Reauthorization Act of 2019 – Sens. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) and Doug Jones (D-Ala.): This bill reauthorizes the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act – The federal legislation that supports state programs and activities to prevent and respond to child abuse and protect the welfare of children.


5.       The Adoption Opportunities Reauthorization Act of 2019 – Sens. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) and Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.): This provision supports programs to facilitate adoptions for children who have a harder time being adopted.


6.       The Family Violence Prevention and Services Act Reauthorization, led by Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.), and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.): This provision reauthorizes programs to prevent and address family violence, including the domestic violence hotline, research and awareness campaigns about domestic violence, and prevention activities, as well as funding for shelter and supportive services for victims of family violence.

7.       Title VII Reauthorization – Sens. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) and Jack Reed (D-R.I.): This package of legislation reauthorizes and updates programs to help ensure we have the health care workforce we need.

8.       The Geriatrics Workforce Improvement Act – Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Bob Casey (D-Pa.): This provision ensures we have enough health care workers to treat our aging population.

9.       The Investment in Tomorrow’s Pediatric Health Care Workforce Act – Sens. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.): This provision incentivizes doctors to fill shortages in pediatric specialties, such as pediatric cardiologists or rheumatologists.

10.   Child Care Protection Improvement Act of 2019 – Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.): This bill establishes a task force to assist states in implementing requirements for child care staff.

11.   NIMHD Research Endowment Revitalization Act of 2019 – Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Doug Jones (D-Ala.): This bill  helps minority-serving academic institutions, such as Historically Black Colleges and Universities, foster research at their academic institutions by clarifying eligibility for the Research Endowment Program at the National Institutes of Health. 

12.   Lifespan Respite Care Reauthorization Act of 2019 – Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.): This bill continues support for state programs that give a break to the 45 million Americans who provide care for a family member with special needs.

13.   Healthy Start Reauthorization Act of 2019 – Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio): This bill  helps reduce infant mortality rates and improves access to care to give babies the best opportunity at living long, healthy lives.

14.   United States Public Health Service Modernization Act of 2019 – Sens. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) and Doug Jones (D-Ala.): This bill  allows the Secretary of Health and Human Services to create a ready reserve of public health professionals to ensure we are prepared to respond to a national or public health emergency.


The HELP Committee approved 51 of President Trump’s Nominees:


40 nominees were confirmed by the Senate:

Department of Education:

Robert L. King – Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education

Mark Schultz – Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration


Department of Labor:

Eugene Scalia – Secretary of Labor

Dr. William Beach – Commissioner of Labor Statistics

Cheryl Stanton – Administrator of the Wage and Hour Division

John P. Pallasch – Assistant Secretary for Employment and Training

John Lowry III – Assistant Secretary for Veterans’ Employment and Training


Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Janet Dhillon – Member

Charlotte Burrows - Member

Sharon Gustafson – General Counsel


Food and Drug Administration

Dr. Stephen Hahn – Commissioner of Food and Drugs


Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission

Marco M. Rajkovich, Jr. – Member

William I. Althen –Member

Arthur R. Traynor III – Member


Legal Services Corporation

Robert J. Grey, Jr – Member

John G. Malcolm – Member

Frank X. Neuner, Jr. – Member

John G. Levi – Member

Abigail L. Kuzma – Member

Gloria Valencia-Weber – Member

Julie Reiskin – Member

Matthew Keenan – Member


National Endowment for the Arts

Mary Anne Carter – Chairman


National Council on the Humanities

Kathe Hicks Albrecht – Member

Keegan F. Callanan – Member

David Armand DeKeyser – Member

Kim R. Holmes – Member

Phyllis Kaminsky – Member

Jean M. Yarbrough – Member

Noel Valis - Member

William Schneider, Jr. – Member

Matthew Rose – Member

Adair Margo – Member

Joyce Malcom – Member

Claire Griffin – Member

Marjorie Fisher Furman- Member

John Fonte – Member

William English – Member

Russell Berman – Member

Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation

Gordon Hartogensis – Director


The Committee approved 11 additional nominations:


Department of Labor:

Scott Mugno – Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health (withdrew in May 2019)

Corporation for National and Community Service

Victoria Ann Hughes – Member

Heather Reynolds – Member

Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service

Richard Giacolone – Director

Institute of Museum and Library Services

Crosby Kemper III – Director

National Council on the Arts

Charles Banta – Member

Michelle Itczak – Member

Barbara Coleen Long – Member

Carleton Varney – Member

Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission

Cynthia Attwood – Member

Amanda Wood Laihow - Member

The HELP Committee held 13 hearings to address issues that matter to American families 

Hearings to help Americans live healthier lives: 

Access to Care: Health Centers and Providers in Underserved Communities: Alexander chaired a hearing on the community health centers that 27 million Americans – including 400,000 Tennesseans – go to for a wide range of health care services, including preventive care, help managing chronic conditions like asthma or high blood pressure, vaccines, and prenatal care.

How Primary Care Affects Health Care Costs and Outcomes: Alexander chaired a hearing on how empowering primary care doctors can help reduce costs and improve outcomes by helping patients stay healthy and out of the emergency room.

Managing Pain During the Opioid Crisis: A 2018 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that about 50 million Americans have chronic pain, and nearly 20 million of those Americans have high-impact chronic pain. In the midst of combating the opioid crisis, – a battle against the most effective painkiller – Alexander chaired a hearing to ensure that the federal government continues to keep in mind those people who are in chronic pain.

Vaccines Save Lives: What is Driving Preventable Disease Outbreaks? In the midst of an outbreak of measles in communities with low vaccination rates, Alexander chaired a hearing on vaccines. He said, “The science is sound: Vaccines save lives – the lives of those who receive vaccines and the lives of those who are too young or vulnerable to be immunized…I want to stress the importance of vaccines.”

Implementing the 21st Century Cures Act: Making Electronic Health Information Available to Patients and Providers: Alexander chaired the first in a series of hearings on the implementation of the electronic health information provisions in the 21st Century Cures Act, which aimed to improve the exchange of electronic health information. At the first hearing, the Committee heard from doctors and other experts about if these draft rules would be helpful.

Implementing the 21st Century Cures Act: Making Electronic Health Information Available to Patients and Providers, Part II: At a second hearing on the implementation of the electronic health information provisions in the 21st Century Cures Act, Alexander cautioned the administration from moving too far, too fast on implementing these new rules. 

Lower Health Care Costs Act: Alexander chaired a hearing to hear feedback on the Lower Health Care Costs Act, bipartisan legislation from he and Ranking Member Murray, that will reduce what the American people pay out of their own pockets for health care by ending surprise billing, creating more transparency, and increasing competition to bring down drug costs.

Examining the Response to Lung Illnesses and Rising Youth Electronic Cigarette Use: Alexander chaired a hearing to hear from Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials on the investigation and public health response to the outbreak of lung injuries linked to the use of electronic cigarettes, vapor products, and other electronic nicotine delivery systems, and the response to the increase in youth use of these products.

Series of hearings on reauthorizing the Higher Education Act, including simplifying how students apply for financial aid and repay their loans and reducing the jungle of red tape that wastes time and money

Reauthorizing the Higher Education Act: Simplifying the FAFSA and Reducing the Burden of Verification: Alexander launched a series of hearings on reauthorizing the education act, starting with examining how to simplify applying for federal student aid and greatly reducing the burdensome verification process. The president of East Tennessee State University estimated that up to half of his students are selected for verification – which delays their Pell grants – each year.

Reauthorizing the Higher Education Act: Addressing Campus Sexual Assault and Ensuring Student Safety and Rights: Alexander chaired a hearing to examine the process for responding to sexual assault on college campuses.

Reauthorizing the Higher Education Act: Strengthening Accountability to Protect Students and Taxpayers: Alexander chaired the third hearing on reauthorizing the Higher Education Act, focused on exploring how to better hold colleges and universities accountable of ensuring their students are earning degrees worth their time and money. 

Confirmation hearings for President Trump’s nominees 

Eugene Scalia to serve as United States Secretary of Labor

Stephen M. Hahn, MD, to serve as Commissioner of Food and Drugs