Washington, DC Update

Posted 13 August 2021

ASTMH continues to advocate before Congress and the Biden administration. Letters that ASTMH led or joined include:
  • A stakeholder letter led by the American Society for Microbiology and 30+ additional societies and organizations to House Appropriations Committee leaders cautioning against adopting policy changes absent scientific evidence and urging them to reject attempts to impose restrictions on federally funded research or the operations of federal science agencies based on premature conclusions about how the COVID-19 pandemic emerged.
  • A letter to HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra sent by ASTMH regarding the Society’s concerns related to access to optimal treatment for severe malaria for patients in the United States. ASTMH asked HHS to review the current circumstances surrounding intravenous antimalarial medication and engage with the Society on possible solutions.
Read more
House Passes Nine of 12 Fiscal Year 2022 Appropriations Bills, Yet Short-Term Continuing Resolution Likely  
Senator Tammy Baldwin Introduces the ‘Disease X Act’ 
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Advances International Pandemic Prevention and COVID-19 Response Act 
Reconciliation Bill Negotiations Slash Pandemic Preparedness Research Funds


House Passes Nine of 12 Fiscal Year 2022 Appropriations Bills, Yet Short-Term Continuing Resolution Likely 
On July 28, the House of Representatives passed the FY22 State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs funding bill (this funds the President’s Malaria Initiative and Neglected Tropical Diseases Program). The next day, the House completed the consideration of another seven funding bills including the FY22 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (LHHS) funding bill (this funds NIH and CDC). The House will wait on the remaining appropriations bills – Defense, Homeland Security, and Commerce and Justice – until after the August recess. Meanwhile, the Senate, working into the August recess in order to complete consideration of the bipartisan infrastructure package and multitrillion dollar budget reconciliation, has been much slower in their appropriations process. Given the short timeframe remaining before the September 30 fiscal year deadline for Congress to fully complete the appropriations process, it is very likely both chambers will have to come to an agreement on a short-term continuing resolution in order to avert a government shutdown.
 
The State and Foreign Operations appropriations bill passed in the House provides $62.24 billion in funding for FY22, which is $6.737 billion above FY21 enacted levels and an overall increase of 12.1 percent. The bill would increase funding for global health at the State Department and USAID by $1.445 billion, a 15.7 percent increase over the FY21 enacted amount and significantly higher than the administration’s budget request. The FY22 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies funding bill provides $253.8 billion in funding, a $55.2 billion or 28 percent increase above 2021. The bill increases funding for CDC by $2.7 billion, a more than 34 percent increase over FY21 enacted levels that includes a funding boost for the Center for Global Health and National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, both areas of high interest for ASTMH. The committee report on the LHHS appropriations bill included strong emphasis on global health research and development, urging CDC to “ensure that the importance of research and development to global health security is appropriately reflected in their international engagements.”   
 
Senator Tammy Baldwin Introduces the ‘Disease X Act’
On August 5, Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) introduced the Disease X Act. The legislation would provide $500 million per year for four years starting in Fiscal Year 2022 for the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) to establish a Disease X Medical Countermeasures Program. The program would be aimed at developing rapid responses to unknown and newly emerging viral threats. The act directs BARDA to coordinate and collaborate with relevant agencies across the Public Health Emergency Medical Countermeasures Enterprise (PHEMCE) to help establish the Disease X Program. Both HHS and DOD would be heavily engaged in the process with HHS leading on products needed to protect the diverse American public, including children and other at-risk populations, and DOD overseeing products targeted to protect military personnel. Senator Baldwin in her press release stated, “Infectious disease outbreaks now occur three times more often than they did 40 years ago. The next pandemic, driven by an unknown Disease X, will come. We should not be waiting for the next viral threat to emerge. We must invest in the development of novel antivirals, vaccines and diagnostics for unknown threats now so that we are better prepared to control the spread than we were at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
 
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Advances International Pandemic Prevention and COVID-19 Response Act
On July 30, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) marked up and reported out of committee the International Pandemic Prevention and COVID-19 Response Act of 2021 (S. 2297). The bill was placed on the Senate legislative calendar and now awaits consideration from the full chamber. The legislation includes authorization of U.S. participation in the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and reiterates congressional directive for USAID to allocate $300 million to CEPI from funding included in the American Rescue Plan Act passed earlier this year. The legislation also authorizes $5 billion in bilateral and multilateral health security funding over the next five years. Furthermore, it includes a directive that the White House develop a Global Health Security Strategy that supports innovation and partnerships with the private sector, health organizations, civil society, nongovernmental organizations, and health research and academic institutions to improve pandemic preparedness and response.
 
Reconciliation Bill Negotiations Slash Pandemic Preparedness Research Funds
As the Senate marches toward a two-track process to pass the bipartisan infrastructure legislation and budget reconciliation package, Democrat leadership has decided to significantly scale back a provision for pandemic preparedness research in the reconciliation bill. In order for the reconciliation package to move through the chamber successfully, all 50 Democrats in the Senate need to be on board, meaning any intraparty disagreements present a threat to passage. The three Democrat Senators who have voiced the most concerns over the price tag of the package include Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Jon Tester (D-MT). The $30 billion pandemic preparedness proposal would have included $14 billion for BARDA, $9 billion for the NIH, $6.5 billion for the CDC and $500 million for the FDA. The funds would have been targeted toward replenishing the strategic national stockpile and to spur research and development of prototype vaccines for virus families that scientists predict could pose the most significant future pandemic threats.