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Grassley at Hearing on President Trump’s Proposed 2021 Budget, Secretary Alex Azar Testimony

February 13,2020

Prepared Opening Statement
by U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa

Chairman, Senate Finance

Hearing on the
President’s Fiscal year 2021 Budget

Thursday, February 13,

want to welcome our witness, the Secretary of the Department of Health and
Human Services, the Honorable Alex Azar.

appreciate Secretary Azar appearing before the committee to discuss President
Trump’s budget for fiscal year 2021.

Azar oversees a sprawling department with programs that are crucial to the
health and well-being of many Americans. The budget represents the
Administration’s recommended funding for those programs, as well as its key
policy proposals.

Congress decides funding levels and program changes, we have a duty to review
the Administration’s budget proposal. Secretary Azar is here to help us in that

with any budget submission, I disagree with a number of proposals. But I do
want to speak to a few issues where it reflects my priorities.

Member Wyden and I have made lowering prescription drug prices a top priority.
President Trump’s focus on the issue has been a game-changer. Secretary Azar
has been the point person for the Administration’s efforts.

Secretary has also helped greatly with our legislative effort. He and his team
have provided guidance and technical assistance as we developed and refined the
bipartisan bill the Committee reported out in July of last year.

am pleased that the budget calls on Congress to quickly pass a bipartisan bill
and includes a prescription drug placeholder for $135 billion in reduced
taxpayer subsidies to drug companies. I will ask the Secretary expand on this
when we move to questions. For now, I will say that I look forward to
continuing to work with the Secretary, the Ranking Member, and other Senators
to provide relief to patients.

budget also contains a number of proposals to improve health care in rural
communities. Ensuring access to health care in Iowa and other rural areas has
long been a priority for me. Ranking Member Wyden and I continue to discuss how
to help rural and other underserved areas. The Administration’s budget further
bolsters our effort.

like to also take a moment to highlight an effort to help HHS be more effective
in executing its mission.

understand that the HHS Office of National Security (ONS) is forging new ground
with the Intelligence Community to leverage technology in innovative ways to
better streamline intelligence operating procedures and to mitigate
counterintelligence threats.

encourage the Intelligence Community to provide even broader access to ONS, as
it relates to its products and databases, to allow HHS to access vital
information that it needs to mitigate threats to the Department, its funded
partners, and its interagency colleagues. 

you are aware, via my oversight efforts, I’ve worked to make sure that ONS
receives access to certain Intelligence Community related material and that you
have gained access to some. 

more work needs to be done. Recently, I sent two classified letters to
Intelligence Community components to help bridge the gap between ONS and its IC

I’ve said before, the left hand and right hand must work together for the

will conclude by noting that HHS has many important challenges. Some are
long-standing, like the high cost of prescription drugs. Others appear with
little notice, such as the novel coronavirus. While there is sure to be
disagreement on many items in the budget. The issues I have highlighted are a
reminder that we can work together in a bipartisan way to get things done for
the American people. 

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