Political Diagnosis: Over-the-Counter Birth Control for 17-Year-Olds; Upcoming Vote on Sebelius for HHS; Budget Debate Picks Up Speed; Groups Call for Insurance Expansion ...

By Christine Cupaiuolo — April 24, 2009

Plan B OK’d for 17-Year-Olds: The FDA announced this week it will permit over-the-counter sales of the morning-after pill Plan B to women as young as 17. In a statement released on its website, the FDA said it would not appeal last month’s federal court ruling directing the government agency to permit the sale without a prescription. Read more at the Washington Post.

A New York Times editorial called the decision a “further break from the Bush administration’s ideologically driven policies on birth control.” While this is certainly good news, the FDA has not yet addressed the additional order that it consider removing any age restrictions.

Vote on HHS Nominee Sebelius Expected Early Next Week: The Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday voted 15-8 to approve Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius as HHS secretary. The vote was mostly along party lines, except for Sens. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), who joined Democrats voting in favor.

We thought we might see a full vote this week, but Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) delayed the vote, saying lawmakers need more time to consider the nomination (read: need more time to make abortion a wedge issue). Now it’s set for Tuesday, April 28, with debate starting at 10 a.m.

Plus: The American Prospect looks at how President Obama’s cabinet picks may affect politics and public policy in six states. From the introduction:

In his effort to choose politicians who have a history of working in concert with Republicans, many of his nominees are from conservative-leaning states where they played a large role in negotiating more progressive policies on everything from taxes to reproductive health to education. In their absence, not just more conservative politicians but more conservative legislation is likely to result. Here, we look at just a few of the states Obama’s Cabinet members have left behind — and consider just how complicated the fallout could be.

Budget Resolution Speeds Up: Can Congress pass President Obama’s fiscal year 2010 budget resolution by April 29 — Obama’s 100th day in office? Democrats are hoping so. A tentative deal apparently was reached today to use a fast-track budget process to advance health care reform.

“The first formal House-Senate negotiations aren’t expected until Monday,” reports Politico. “But the administration appears in love with the symbolism of completing action in the first 100 days and the hope is a package can be filed Monday, setting the stage for the House to vote Tuesday and the Senate on Wednesday.”

Calling the budget debate thus far “surprisingly lackluster,” the story notes that the budget resolution is basically just an internal congressional planning process that doesn’t even go to the president for his signature. But completing the action by Wednesday would “open the door to health care reform” and “it would be a symbolic victory the White House clearly covets.”

Reforming Healthcare Delivery: The Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday held a roundtable discussion on reforming America’s healthcare delivery system. All the witness statements are available on the committee’s website, including comments by Debra Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women & Families.

“Delivery system reform must put patients first,” said Ness. “Achieving a patient-centered delivery system will require significant change in what we provide and how we provide it. Toward that end, we must pursue two key strategies: a payment system that rewards and encourages better coordinated, integrated and accountable care, and a health care infrastructure that supports the delivery of this care.”

Note to Obama — We’re on It: Senate Finance Committee Chairman Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Chairman Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) sent a letter on Monday to President Obama, reiterating their commitment to moving health reform legislation in the Senate this year. They also laid out their schedule for committee action, noting that both committees will mark-up legislation in early June.

Groups Call for Insurance Expansion: The National Council of La Raza, the Asian American Justice Center, the National Association for the Advancement for Colored People, the National Congress of American Indians and the Children’s Defense Fund have formed a partnership to lobby for health insurance coverage of all children and pregnant women.

Take Action

Via National Women’s Law Center: The Paycheck Fairness Act, passed in the House and now pending in the Senate, aims to strengthen current laws against wage discrimination and require the federal government to be more proactive in preventing and battling wage discrimination. Among other things, the Paycheck Fairness Act would also close a significant loophole in the Equal Pay Act to allow for full compensation for sex-based wage discrimination. Are your senators on board? The NWLC is calling on all senators who have not yet signed on to co-sponsor the bill to do so by Equal Pay Day — April 28. Send a message to your senators.

And don’t forget to tell your senators to confirm Gov. Kathleen Sebelius for secretary of Health and Human Services.

Via True Majority: The chemical industry is angry at First Lady Michelle Obama for not spraying toxic chemicals on her family’s garden. CREDO has been working hard to show support for the First Lady and tell the chemical companies to back off.

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