ASTMH continues to advocate before Congress and the Biden administration. Letters that ASTMH led or joined include:
- Letter urging House and Senate Appropriations leadership to secure the highest possible funding level for the CDC Advanced Molecular Detection (AMD) program in the final FY 2024 spending bill.
• New NIH Director Confirmed
• Another Key Global Health Nomination Sent to the Senate
• ASTMH and NTD Community Celebrate Public Health Milestones on Capitol Hill
• The House Elects a New Speaker as Government Shutdown Deadline Looms
• Appropriations Bills Continue Amid Budget Negotiations
• Office of Inspector General Releases Report on Pandemic Testing Shortcomings
• National Biodefense Science Board Meets November 30 (Registration Open, Virtual Meeting)
• Project NextGen Awards Over $500 Million
• ARPA-H Announces Award to Combat AMR
New NIH Director Confirmed
The Senate recently confirmed
Dr. Monica Bertagnolli as NIH Director in a 62-36 vote. In a key Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee vote last month
, Ranking Member Bill Cassidy (R-LA), along with four other Republican committee members, joined Democrats to advance Bertagnolli’s nomination to the full Senate. Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-VT) ultimately voted no on the nomination, citing longstanding concerns that Bertagnolli would not be able to satisfactorily address rising prescription drug costs. Sen. John Fetterman (D-PA) was the only other Democrat to vote against the nomination, concurring with Sen. Sanders’ concerns. Dr. Bertagnolli officially started as the 17th
Director of the NIH on Thursday, November 9. She is the first surgeon and the second woman to hold the position. Dr. Bertagnolli transitioned to the role from the National Cancer Institute, where she served as director since October 2022.
Another Key Global Health Nomination Sent to the Senate
Dr. John N. Nkengasong’s (ASTMH’s 2023 Annual Meeting keynote speaker last month) nomination to serve as Ambassador-At-Large for Global Health Security and Diplomacy has been sent
to the Senate. As of this writing, a hearing on Dr. Nkengasong’s nomination has not yet been scheduled in the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. If confirmed, Dr. Nkengasong would lead the Bureau of Global Health Security and Diplomacy at the State Department. Dr. Nkengasong currently serves as the Ambassador-At-Large and Coordinator of U.S Government Activities to Combat HIV/AIDS Globally and Special Representative for Global Health Diplomacy at the State Department.
ASTMH and NTD Community Celebrate Public Health Milestones on Capitol Hill
In October, members of the neglected tropical diseases (NTD) community and government stakeholders convened on Capitol Hill for a briefing
titled, The Power of Partnership: Celebrating Three Nations’ Successes in Ending Neglected Tropical Disease on Capitol Hill. ASTMH co-sponsored this briefing. The briefing celebrated the elimination of NTDs as a public health problem by Bangladesh, Benin and Mali. In May 2023, the WHO validated Bangladesh for eliminating lymphatic filariasis, and Benin and Mali for eliminating trachoma. Featured speakers included Dr. Atul Gawande, Assistant Administrator for Global Health, USAID. During the briefing, Dr. Gawande reflected on the tremendous progress of the USAID NTD Program and the catalytic investment of the U.S. government in the fight against NTDs.
The House Elects a New Speaker as Government Shutdown Deadline Looms
After 22 days of gridlock, the House finally elected a new Speaker of the House to replace former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who was ousted from his post in a historic vote last month. Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA) was handed the speaker’s gavel, ending weeks of stalemate and failed nominations in the chamber.
With the November 17 funding deadline fast approaching, and a dwindling number of legislative days left before the Thanksgiving recess, Congress will either need to reach a full-year spending agreement or pass another stopgap spending bill—known as a continuing resolution (CR)–to keep the federal government open. Given these time constraints, a CR is increasingly inevitable. Speaker Johnson has floated
various government funding strategies, including passing another CR lasting through January 15 or April 15 to passing a “laddered CR” that would extend different lengths of funding for each of the 12 individual appropriations bills. Generally, House Republicans seem to be favoring a CR ending on either January 15 or April 15. On the contrary, as of this writing, the Senate seems poised
to pass a CR that would extend funding until the week of December 11 in efforts to keep pressure on Congress to wrap up spending negotiations by year-end.
Appropriations Bills Continue Amid Budget Negotiations
As of this writing, the House has passed seven of 12 appropriations bills, including the State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs (SFOPs) bill
that funds key global health agencies and programs at the State Department and USAID. Unsurprisingly, the House SFOPS bill, which passed along party lines, included a $8.2 billion (14 percent) cut from FY23 enacted levels. The bill also prohibits funding the WHO and extends the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) funding for one year. The Senate passed
a “minibus” that included three of 12 fiscal bills (Military Construction-VA, Agriculture, and Transportation-HUD appropriations). Neither chamber has passed its Labor, Health and Human Services, Education bills, which fund key federal global health programs at the NIH and the CDC. It is important to remember that each chamber must deliver its respective appropriations bills to the Conference Committee for legislative differences to be sorted out before final passage. Given divided government and significant disagreements over spending priorities between parties, as well as significant inter-caucus differences, it remains unclear to unlikely that the House and Senate leaders can reach a fiscal resolution in time to stave off a government shutdown—and for how long.
Office of Inspector General Releases Report on Pandemic Testing Shortcomings
The HHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) recently
published the results of an audit investigating CDC’s process for developing COVID-19 testing kits at the start of the pandemic. The report found flaws in CDC’s test development process and recommended a series of internal measures to address issues of quality and oversight. These recommendations included implementing a CDC-wide laboratory document control system; ensuring that all infectious disease laboratories implement and periodically evaluate a laboratory quality management system; and creating policies and procedures for developing test kits, among other measures.
National Biodefense Science Board Meets November 30 (Registration Open, Virtual Meeting)
The Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response (ASPR) announced
that the National Biodefense Science Board will meet November 30 (register for the virtual public meeting here
) to vote on two sets of recommendations related to the COVID-19 pandemic: Considerations for federal research and development investment under Project NextGen and disaster preparedness for the health workforce. The Board also invites stakeholders to share ideas related to current and future chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear threats, and other disaster preparedness and response matters.
Project NextGen Awards Over $500 Million
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through ASPR, announced
that it will award more than $500 million to help develop next-generation COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics as part of Project NextGen. “The technologies that BARDA is investing in, from intranasal vaccines to self-amplifying mRNA, will bolster our protection against COVID-19 for years to come,” said Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Dawn O’Connell.
ARPA-H Announces Award to Combat AMR
The Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H) announced
a new project to address the growing threat of antimicrobial resistance (AMR). The Defeating Antibiotic Resistance through Transformative Solutions project focuses on developing a set of diagnostic and experimental platforms that that can reveal insights into how antibiotic resistance starts; searching for new antibiotics to combat AMR; and rapidly identifying the right antibiotic to prescribe for a particular infection in real time. “Antibiotic resistance is an urgent and growing threat, and we do not currently have the tools we need to combat it. We must combine better stewardship of antibiotics with novel technologies in order to save lives – exactly what this award will do,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra.