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When Congress Couldn’t Take the Heat

Hot Topics | June 11th, 2021

When it comes to climate, Washington is no San Francisco and for decades our capital’s warm summers pushed Congress to wrap up their business in the spring. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, the best tools Congress had to beat the heat were light fabrics on furniture, rush matting, white suits and straw hats. All these efforts were woefully inadequate in the windowless House Chamber, and for this reason former Speaker of the House John Nance Garner (D-Texas) quipped, “No good legislation comes out of Washington after June.”

By 1928, Congress’ frustration with the mid-Atlantic summer had reached a boiling point and a study commissioned to review the Capitol’s ventilation system recommended the House chamber be air conditioned. A proposal went out, and the Carrier Corporation designed and installed a “manufactured weather” system in the House. Not content to be left in the heat, the Senate soon had a similar system installed in their Chamber. The Capitol air conditioning systems helped Congress extend their legislative session into the warmer months and manage the economic and foreign policy crises that would come to define the 1930’s.

We hope you enjoy reading this week’s headlines from the comfort of a climate controlled room:

An approval that will be remembered

  • In a highly controversial move, the FDA approved Aduhelm (aducanumab) to treat Alzheimer’s disease under the accelerated approval pathway. Though the move was praised by some patient advocacy groups, other patient groups and policy wonks largely panned the approval. The FDA’s decision went against the recommendation of a 2020 independent advisory committee, which overwhelmingly indicated that clinical trial results failed to show Aduhelm produced a clinical benefit in patients. Under the terms of the accelerated approval, Biogen and Eisai will have nine years to prove Aduhelm’s clinical benefit in a confirmatory trial. (The Hill, POLITICO, Axios, Endpoints News)
    • Read more: Veteran health and medicine reporter Matt Herper published his take on the approval in a column for STAT this week. (STAT)

From a sprint to a marathon

  • President Biden set a goal to have at least 70% of American adults start vaccination against COVID-19 by July 4th. As that self-imposed deadline draws closer, there are more signs that the Biden administration will face stiff headwinds reaching this goal. Vaccination rates continue decline as the public health effort enters a new phase of the vaccination campaign that is seeing officials at pains to reach Americans who are skeptical of vaccines or have trouble accessing vaccination sites. (The Hill, The Washington Post

US to donate shots

  • The United States will purchased 500 million doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine to be distributed in the second half of 2020 and the first half of 2021. The doses will be purchased at a “not-for-profit” price, and will be distributed through the Covax vaccine distribution initiative backed by the World Health Organization. (The Hill)

Pharma money in politics

  • STAT News published an interactive dashboard detailing which pharmaceutical companies contributed to Congressional campaigns in the 2020 election cycle. Overall, the industry donated $14 million to the campaigns of 72 senators and 302 members of the House. (STAT)

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