Top-Ranking Senate Republicans Demand Answers on Royalty Payments to NIH Employees

Five Republican senators on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee are demanding answers from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) about royalty payments made by third parties to NIH employees.

In a letter Wednesday to NIH Director Lawrence Tabak, the senators noted that “the agency has taken no action to disclose such payments to the public at large.”

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Commentary: No, Senate Republicans, the FBI Does Not Deserve a Raise

The day before FBI Director Christopher Wray explained to a Senate appropriations subcommittee why his department deserves a $527.8 million raise in 2023, his agents were credited with foiling an ISIS-linked plot to assassinate George W. Bush. An Iraqi national was arrested on May 25 and charged with attempting to smuggle four other Iraqis into the United States then “murder” the former president in retaliation for the war in Iraq. (I will address the sketchiness of this story in a separate column.)

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Commentary: Defense Department Pulls a Bait and Switch on Vaccines

On August 24, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin issued a memo to senior Pentagon leadership announcing that he was implementing a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy for all military service members. The day before, the FDA had issued full authorization to Pfizer for their Comirnaty COVID-19 vaccine product (the nomenclature of which is meant to be a mashup of the words “COVID”, “mRNA”, and “community”) . At first glance it would seem that the mandatory vaccination policy, while scientifically unsound and strategically foolish, was at least a policy being implemented according to both the letter of the directive and in accordance with the law. But a further examination of the facts and the manner in which this order is being implemented makes clear that the military’s implementation of this order is illegal and highly unethical.

In the memo, Secretary Austin issued a directive and a promise, that “Mandatory vaccination against COVID-19 will only use COVID-19 vaccines that receive full licensure from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), in accordance with FDA-approved labeling and guidance.” The problem with this is that the Comirnaty vaccine product that was approved by the FDA is not available anywhere in the Military Health System. It is not even in production, according to the military’s TRICARE healthcare providers. If a soldier goes to a military hospital or a private provider to receive an approved Pfizer COVID vaccine, he will be administered the unapproved Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine which is a vaccine that is not approved but has been administered under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA). We are told that this is but a brand name difference, that the formulation is the same, and they can be used interchangeably. But as the FDA was approving the Comirnaty product, they were renewing the authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech product. If it’s just a matter of brand name, why issue an approval for one brand name and an EUA renewal for the other? This is because they are not actually the same. 

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Pennsylvania Governor Recalls Secretary Nomination Amid Legislative Election Probe

Gov. Tom Wolf recalled his nomination for acting Secretary of State Veronica Degraffenreid on Monday after alleging that Senate Republicans would not vet her fairly amid the chamber’s controversial election investigation.

“It is clear that instead of providing advice and consent on my nominee for Secretary of the Commonwealth, they instead plan on using her confirmation as an opportunity to descend further into conspiracy theories and work to please the former president [Donald Trump] by spreading lies about last year’s election, instead of working together to address real issues facing Pennsylvanians,” Wolf said in an emailed statement to reporters on Monday.

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Senate Republicans Propose Making Big Tech Pay for Internet Infrastructure

Big Tech Internet Infrastructure

Three Senate Republicans introduced a bill Wednesday requiring the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to consider collecting revenue from major tech companies to fund broadband internet.

The Funding Affordable Internet with Reliable Contributions Act, introduced by Sens. Roger Wicker, Todd Young, and Shelley Moore Capito, directs the FCC to consider collecting Universal Service Fund (USF) contributions from Big Tech companies “such as YouTube, Netflix, and Google,” the lawmakers announced in a statement Wednesday. USF is a subsidy fund of the FCC that dispenses around $10 billion a year for broadband internet infrastructure in rural areas, according to the FCC website.

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Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework Fails to Advance in the Senate

US Capitol Infrastructure

Senate Republicans rejected an effort Wednesday to begin debate on the bipartisan infrastructure deal endorsed by President Joe Biden, saying that the vote came too early and that the bill was not yet finalized.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer scheduled the procedural vote in an attempt to begin debate on the package, but after filing cloture on Monday Republicans came out against it on the grounds that the deal had yet to be put into text and that senators were still finalizing how the plan would be financed. The bill failed 49-51, with Schumer voting no so that he can bring it up again in the coming days.

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Democrats’ Sweeping Voting Bill Fails to Advance in the Senate

Senate Republicans stopped Democrats’ sweeping voting rights bill from advancing on the Senate floor Tuesday, unanimously voting against beginning its debate and therefore essentially killing it.

Though every Democrat voted to advance the bill, Republicans labeled it as nothing more than a power grab by the majority, with GOP leadership vowing to stop it. The bill, dubbed the “For the People Act,” received 50 votes in favor, but needed 60 to overcome a legislative filibuster.

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Senate Republicans Expand Investigation into ‘Woke Mission Creep’ of Federal Reserve

Federal Reserve

Senate Banking Committee Republicans have expanded an investigation into regional Federal Reserve banks over their alleged “woke mission creep.”

Republicans on the Senate Banking Committee sent letters to regional Federal Reserve banks in Minneapolis, Boston and Atlanta demanding a briefing with leaders and documents related to a recent “Racism and the Economy” initiative, GOP staffers said during a press briefing Monday morning. Engaging in political advocacy is out of the Fed’s purview, the letters said.

“Of course, racism is abhorrent and has no place in our society…. I recognize the interest in studying economic disparities along demographic lines, such as race and gender,” Banking Committee Ranking Member Pat Toomey wrote in the letters sent Sunday.

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Commentary: When Senate Tries Trump, Senate Republicans Are Also on Trial

When the Senate opens the second impeachment trial of President Donald J. Trump Tuesday there will be two defendants: Trump and the Senate Republicans.

Trump is charged with one count of inciting an insurrection against the United States, in connection with the Jan. 6 mob that surged the Capitol, while Congress was in a joint session to certify the results of the Electoral College: “Incited by President Trump, a mob unlawfully breached the Capitol, injured law enforcement personnel, menaced Members of Congress and the Vice President, interfered with the Joint Session’s solemn constitutional duty to certify the election results, and engaged in violent, deadly, destructive, and seditious acts.”

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