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INCOMING SENATE APPROPRIATIONS/AGRICULTURE SUBCOMMITTEE CHAIRMAN BUMPERS

Executive Summary

INCOMING SENATE APPROPRIATIONS/AGRICULTURE SUBCOMMITTEE CHAIRMAN BUMPERS is well versed in the health care side of FDA's activities. Following the death on Sept. 8 of Subcommittee Chairman Burdick (D-N.D.), Bumpers accepted Appropriations Committee Chairman Byrd's (D-W.Va.) invitation to chair the subcommittee. Burdick, 84, was first elected to the Senate in 1960 and had served on the Appropriations/HHS Subcommittee and Aging Committee. Bumpers, a Democrat from Arkansas, was second in subcommittee seniority to Burdick and had taken on the chairmanship duties on an acting basis during Burdick's recent illnesses. FDA, with its hybrid responsibilities for foods, health care products and cosmetics, is placed within the purview of the Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development and Related Agencies of the Appropriations Committee. Many members join that subcommittee to represent farm-state constituent interests, and their concerns with FDA center mainly on its foods regulation. Bumpers, however, also has had more of a long-standing interest in health care policy. Bumpers has been most closely identified with promoting access to childhood vaccinations. That interest developed when he was governor of Arkansas in the early 1970s and his wife, Betty, spearheaded a vaccination drive that included using the state's National Guard to help coordinate the plan and transport children to vaccination centers. Most recently, Bumpers convened a hearing to review the ability of federal health programs to purchase vaccines and ways to ensure that eligible children are obtaining federally-reimbursed vaccinations ("The Pink Sheet" April 13, T&G- 3). A recurrent theme for Bumpers' Senate activities is concern for small business. In mid-1989, for example, he held a hearing on whether an FDA user fee program would pose a financial burden for small businesses. Bumpers continues to chair the Senate Small Business Committee. While expressing worry about FDA's funding needs, Bumpers, along with his Appropriations Committee colleagues, also has objected to the Reagan and Bush Administrations repeatedly including user fee revenues in their budget plans even though no authorizing legislation was enacted, or even proposed. Bumpers has not yet looked closely at user fee legislation being developed in the House Energy & Commerce/Health Subcommittee, staffers said. In the late 1980s, Bumpers pushed for legislation to direct that certain contact lenses be reclassified from Class III, requiring full premarket approval, to Class II, and to require FDA review of other "transitional" medical devices -- devices that were regulated as drugs prior to enactment of the 1976 device law and then all placed in Class III. That proposal grew out of an effort to advocate the interests of newer and smaller contact lens manufacturers. The bill provided some of the groundwork for the 1990 Safe Medical Devices Act, which includes a requirement that FDA review the classification of transitional medical devices. Bumpers also cosponsored Sen. Hatch's (R-Utah) FDA revitalization bill in the late 1980s. During the current congressional session, Bumpers was a primary Senate author of tax legislation championed by the biotechnology industry, the Enterprise Capital Formation Act. S 1932 would provide capital gains tax exemptions for long-term investment in start-up companies ("The Pink Sheet" Nov. 11, 1991, In Brief). Congress has taken no action on the bill although the "targeted" capital gains approach has been considered as part of various economic stimulus packages. Probably less cheering to small businesses and the medical industry generally, Bumpers was one of the six original cosponsors of fellow Arkansas Democratic Sen. Pryor's first Medicaid drug discount bill (S 2605 introduced in May 1990). Bumpers, age 67 and a 17-year Senate veteran, also chairs the Energy and Natural Resources/Public Lands Subcommittee and is a member of the Senate Children's and Rural Health Caucuses.
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