WASHINGTON (AP) — A year after a meningitis outbreak from contaminated pain injections killed at least 64 people and sickened hundreds, Congress is ready to increase federal oversight over compounding pharmacies that custom-mix medications.
Before the bill gets to President Barack Obama for his signature, it first has to clear a hurdle put in its path by Louisiana Sen. David Vitter in his ongoing campaign to discredit the president’s health care overhaul. A test vote is scheduled for Tuesday evening.
The legislation, passed by the House in September, also creates a national system for tracking prescription drugs from manufacturers to retail pharmacies, first through serial numbers on bottles and containers and later through electronic codes.
Although the bill enjoys nearly universal support in Congress, Vitter has objected to the Senate voting on it without first voting on his measure to make members of Congress disclose which of their aides are signing up for the health care law, and which are instead being allowed to remain in the Federal Employee Benefit Program.
Vitter objects to an Obama administration decision earlier this year allowing lawmakers to choose between the two programs for their aides, and directing the government to pick up three-fourths of the premium costs for members of Congress and their aides either way. Lawmakers themselves have to switch to coverage under the health care law. Vitter’s insistence on ending the employer match earlier this year prompted Senate Democrats to scuttle an energy bill. The issue arose again in last month’s showdown over the government shutdown.