Eye on Washington

November 1, 2005

Congress ponders Medicare and Medicaid cuts, the push to ban "partial birth abortion" is back in the news, and the FDA offers warnings on two drugs taken by children.

The October 2005 installment of Updates opened with talk of grand federal plans to rebuild the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast and uncertainty surrounding the OTC status of emergency contraceptive Plan B (levonorgestrel). Fast-forward or, perhaps, slow-forward, to this month: The news is that those post-hurricane reconstruction plans have failed to materialize and Plan B's status remains in limbo in the aftermath of the abrupt resignation of Lester M. Crawford, DVM, as head of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

A new Chief Justice presides at the Supreme Court while President George W. Bush proposes a second nominee, Samuel A. Alito, Jr., to fill the vacancy left by retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, after the withdrawal of Harriet Miers. Republican leaders in Congress, pushed to find ways to finance a war and a hurricane relief program without abandoning their commitment to tax cuts, have decided that federal spending must be cut by $50 billion over the next five years. Favored targets for trimming? Medicare and Medicaid, it seems.