Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

The FEHBlog hopes that everyone is having an enjoyable, contemplative holiday.

Both Houses of Congress are back at legislative grindstone this week. Here is a link to the brief Committee schedule. CNN reports

The top two Senate leaders are nearing a power-sharing agreement to hash out how the evenly divided chamber will operate, with Democrats in charge of setting the schedule but both parties likely to hold an equal number of seats on Senate committees, according to sources familiar with the talks.

The negotiations between Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell have been built largely around how the Senate operated the last time the body was split 50-50: When George W. Bush initially became president in 2001. Final details are still being sorted out between the two leaders, sources said.

Similar to those rules, set in January 2001, Schumer and McConnell aides are discussing allowing bills and nominations to advance to the Senate floor even if they are tied during committee votes, something that could become common given that each party is expected to have the same number of seats on committees. Democrats will hold the chairmanships of the committees, giving them power to set the agenda, and Schumer will be granted the title of majority leader since Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will cast tiebreaking votes on the floor.

The Senate ultimately must approve these rules.

The FEHBlog noticed today that on January 13, 2021, the President signed into law the bill (H.R. 1418), now Pub. Law No. 116-327, that exposes health and dental insurers to federal antitrust liability.

On the COVID-19 front, NBC News discusses the new COVID-19 mutations that have cropped up in our country.

Dr. Dan Jones, vice chair of the division of molecular pathology at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, told NBC News that vaccination is key to both stop the spread of variants, as well as reduce the odds of new variants emerging.

“The larger your pool of [susceptible] patients, the more possibility for a mutation to survive and emerge,” he said. “It has to pass from person to person, so if you’re not getting a lot of infection in the population [because of vaccination], then even an important mutation may just peter out, because the person who was infected doesn’t transmit the virus to anyone else.”

Even “having an optimally fit, pathogenic change in the virus doesn’t do any good if it keeps meeting a wall of vaccinated people,” Jones added.

Well put, Dr. Jones.

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