Congress has resumed fighting over HHS regulations that would overhaul the nation's system for allocating transplant organs after lawmakers had seemingly reached agreement with HHS Secretary Donna Shalala earlier this month.
The regulations would geographically broaden the sharing of organs and would favor sicker patients regardless of how long they had waited for an organ transplant (Nov. 15, p. 6).
Earlier this month, Shalala and congressional leaders reached an agreement to implement the regulations by early 2000 at the latest. The regulations were published in final form Oct. 20.
While lawmakers quickly tried to pass legislation before the Thanksgiving holiday, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) quietly changed a tax bill by inserting language that would further delay the implementation of the regulations.
In a Nov. 18 letter to Lott, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) asked him not to reopen the debate and to honor the 42-day delay on which Specter and Shalala had agreed. Lott wants at least a three-month delay.
Specter, chairman of the Senate subcommittee in charge of HHS' budget, said he doesn't want Lott to interfere with the consensus on a 42-day delay.