Speeches & Floor Statements

S. 2076, S.3657, Traumatic Brain Injury Program Reauthorization Act of 2018, H.R.315, S.3482, S.3530, and Nominations

Posted on November 29, 2018

  • The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions will come to order.
  • Senator Murray will now have an opening statement, and if any of the sponsors of the bill would like to speak, I’m happy to stay after we vote.
  • We plan to vote on the five bills en bloc at 11 a.m., and then vote on the four nominees after.
  • Today, we are holding the Committee’s final markup of this Congress – years 2017 and 2018.
  • The work this Committee has done over the last two years will have an impact on the lives of virtually every American.
  • Most recently, in October, President Trump signed into law what Leader McConnell called “landmark” legislation to fight the opioid crisis.
  • That legislation included more than 40 proposals from this Committee, and contributions from 70 senators, many on this Committee.
  • Also in October, the president signed Senator Collins’ bill to ban the “gag” clauses that prevented a pharmacist from telling a patient their prescription would be cheaper if they paid with cash instead of using their insurance.
  • In July, President Trump signed the Perkins CTE Act, which Senators Enzi and Casey worked on and we passed through this Committee.
  • This legislation funds the career and technical education programs that train the skilled workers employers tell us they need.
  • And last August, the president signed into law the FDA user fee agreements that will help bring new drugs and devices to patients more quickly.
  • We have also passed bills such as the PREEMIE Act, to prevent preterm births and reduce infant deaths, and the Childhood Cancer STAR Act, to encourage pediatric cancer research.  
  • Those are just a few of the important pieces of legislation this Committee has worked on and passed.
  • All in all, this Congress, the Committee:
    • Has approved14 bills that have been signed into law.
    • Reported to the Senate floor 10 additional bills, six of which the full Senate has sent to the House;
    • has held 58 hearings; and
    • Approved 46 nominees.
  • Today we are going to vote on an additional five bills.
  • First, the BOLD Infrastructure for Alzheimer’s Act, offered by Senator Collins, along with Senators Kaine, Capito, and Cortez Masto.
  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are over 5 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease, and that number is projected to increase to almost 14 million in 2060.
  • Senator Collins’ legislation builds on work at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and will create centers of excellence to advance public health knowledge and ensure public health professionals, doctors and nurses, and patients and their families have the support and updated information on Alzheimer’s and related dementia diseases they need.   
  • The bill also establishes cooperative agreements to support state public health departments in taking what is learned from these centers of excellence and implementing that knowledge to help the individuals and families in their states.
  • I am hopeful that this legislation will make a meaningful difference in the lives of the millions of Americans who are affected by dementia.
  • Second, the Traumatic Brain Injury Reauthorization of 2018, offered by Senator Hatch and Senator Casey.  
  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 2.5 million Americans sustain a traumatic brain injury each year.
  • Along with reauthorizing state grants and programs related to surveillance, prevention, care, and research of traumatic brain injuries, this legislation encourages data collection and analysis so we can better understand trends and causes of concussions.
  • Third, Senator Baldwin and Senator Murkowski’s Improving Access to Maternity Care Act, which will help bring more doctors and nurses to rural and other areas where there is a shortage of these providers to provide care for pregnant women.
  • In Tennessee, 70 of our 95 counties have at least 50 percent of their residents living in rural areas – that is 1.5 million Tennesseans.
  • Women who do not have access prenatal care are three times more likely to have infants with a low birth weight, compared to mothers who received care, so I am glad to support this important legislation.
  • Fourth, Emergency Medical Services for Children Program Reauthorization Act of 2018, offered by Senators Hatch, Casey, and Schatz.
  • Approximately 25 percent of hospital emergency department visits are children in need of emergency medical services. The vast majority are seen in general hospital emergency departments, not children’s hospitals.
  • These important programs we are voting to reauthorize today ensure 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.
  • And fifth, the Museum and Library Services Act of 2018, offered by Senators Reed, Collins, Gillibrand, and Murkowski.
  • This year, there are over 300 libraries and museums in Tennessee alone that are supported by the programs included in this legislation, and this bill will reauthorize the only federal program exclusively for libraries, the Library Services and Technology Act.
  • Libraries and museums are the cultural center of many communities – providing Internet access, job training, and other programs.
  • I urge everyone to support these five bills.
  • We will also consider four additional nominees:
  • Erhard Chorle [Air-heart Shore-lay] to chair the Railroad Retirement Board, representing the public’s interest.
  • He has extensive legal and governmental experience, and has managed state pension plans in Illinois.
  • Gordon Hartogensis [Heart-oh-gensis], to serve as Director of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation.
  • The Finance Committee has already approved Mr. Hartogensis 25-2, including the support from Ranking Member Wyden. He has extensive experience in financial planning, and his successful entrepreneurial experiences have equipped him to lead PBGC well.
  • Robert King, to serve as Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education at the Department of Education.
  • Mr. King is prepared to serve students, having effectively served in leadership roles at institutions of higher education, and has overseen postsecondary programs at the state level in Kentucky. 
  • And John Pallasch [Pal-ash] to serve as Assistant Secretary for Employment and Training at the Department of Labor.
  • Mr. Pallasch will use his experience as the Executive Director of Kentucky’s Office of Employment and Training to ensure our country is workforce-ready. 
  • All of these nominees have undergone the vetting process and submitted completed paperwork to the Committee and I urge everyone to support their nominations.
  • After we approve these five bills today, this Committee will have reported 29 bills this Congress and approved 50 nominees.
  • I hope the full Senate will pass these bills and confirm these nominees before the end of the year as well.
  • While we have accomplished quite a bit working together this Congress, looking towards next year, there are some things I hope to work on.
  • This includes finding real ways to lower the cost of health care for Americans and reauthorizing the Higher Education Act to ensure it continues to be a good investment for students.
  • Before we start to vote, I want to recognize one of our colleagues – Senator Hatch.
  • Today is Senator Hatch’s last markup of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee.
  • While both leading this Committee as Chairman and serving as a member, Orrin has maintained his principled conservatism while working across the aisle to create dozens of laws in health care and education.
  • In fact, he has introduced more bills that have become law than any other living Senator.
  • He has kept it up until the end – Orrin has led two of the bills we are considering today.
  • I want to thank you for your lifelong commitment to make life better for tens of millions of Americans.

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