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This Week in Health and Disability Politics: Pat Toomey, Betsy Devos, Tom Price and Gun Sales

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If you find keeping up with politics overwhelming, you are not alone. Changes in administration always come with new policies and appointments, and Donald Trump’s administration is no exception.

To help make the news a bit more digestible, we’re breaking down some of the top health and disability stories you may have missed this week.

Two Republican Senators Say They’ll Vote Against Betsy DeVos’ Nomination for Education Secretary 

Republican Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) announced they would not vote for Betsy DeVos, Trump’s pick to lead the Department of Education, signaling a tougher road to confirmation than originally anticipated.

To be confirmed, DeVos needs 51 Senators to vote in her favor. Current projections have the vote tied with 50 voting for and 50 against. If no other Senators change their vote, Vice President Mike Pence will be required to break the tie.

On Wednesday, Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the White House has “zero” concern and “100 percent confidence” DeVos will be confirmed. The final vote to confirm DeVos will continue after the requisite 30 hours of debate from Friday morning’s vote have passed, most likely Tuesday morning.

A Teacher Has Started a GoFundMe Campaign to Buy Sen. Pat Toomey’s (R-PA) Vote 

Katherine Fritz, a teacher from Pennsylvania, has started a GoFundMe campaign to buy her senator Sen. Pat Toomey’s vote, after The Huffington Post called him the “best option” for blocking DeVos’ confirmation. In her campaign, Fritz writes that DeVos has donated $55,800 to Toomey, and if DeVos can “buy” Toomey’s vote, the people “should be allowed to do the same.”

According to The Hill, on Thursday evening Toomey said he supports DeVos and will vote in her favor.

House Votes to Overturn a Regulation Prohibiting People With Mental Illness From Buying Guns

The House of Representatives has voted to overturn a regulation blocking people receiving disability benefits for mental illnesses from buying guns. The rule, passed during the Obama administration to be implemented in December, requires the Social Security Administration (SSA) to report those with severe mental disorders to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

The House’s vote does not mean the rule is overturned. Next, the regulation goes to the Senate and if it makes it out of the Senate, to the President for his signature.

Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), Trump’s Pick for Secretary of Health and Human Services, Passes Committee, Moves on to Senate Confirmation Vote 

Democratic Senators looked to delay the vote that would move Rep. Tom Price’s Health and Human Services Secretary nomination from committee to Senate, and failed, after Republican Senators changed committee rules.

In previous years, at least one senator from each party had to be present at the committee meeting to vote. To delay the vote, Democratic Senators avoided committee meetings for two days, until Republican Senators changed the rules and moved ahead without them.

Pressure to delay the vote comes after news that Price bought stock in a medical company and then authored a bill that would benefit that company.

Following Wednesday’s committee meeting, Price’s confirmation now moves to the Senate for a full vote.

Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders to Debate Health Care and the Affordable Care Act on CNN 

Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) will debate the future of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in a 90-minute town hall event on CNN, February 7, 9 p.m. EST. Republicans have made repealing the ACA, also known as Obamacare, a top priority, but a replacement plan has yet to be solidified. The Town Hall may help Americans understand the future of health care under the Trump administration, or it may just be Sanders and Cruz arguing for an hour and a half.

Originally published: February 3, 2017
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