Washington, DC Update

Posted 15 October 2020

Over the past month, ASTMH has continued to make its priorities and concerns clear to Congress and the Administration. Letters that ASTMH led or joined include:
  • A press release in support of Sen. Patty Murray’s (D-WA) Public Health Infrastructure Saves Lives Act. The bill “would establish a new core public health infrastructure program with $4.5 billion in annual funding.”
  • Scientific input on a bipartisan bill from Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) that focuses on One Health strategies as a necessary tool to address emerging infectious diseases and future pandemics.
  • A letter with 50 other global health organizations to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees with an “urgent request for emergency supplemental funding to support U.S. bilateral and multilateral investments in the global response to COVID-19.”
  • A letter to the Office of Management and Budget in support of Diversity Training Programs.
  • A letter with fellow scientific societies in support of anti-racist education.
  • An open letter to federal health agency leaders urging them to focus on science over politics in combatting COVID-19.

Read More

Congress Fails to do its Job and instead Passes Continuing Resolution
Negotiations Sputter on a Coronavirus Relief Package
Senate HELP Committee COVID-19 Hearing: NIH, CDC, FDA, HHS 
Annual Global Health Security Agenda Report Released

Congress Fails to do its Job and instead Passes Continuing Resolution
In this election season, after failing to reach an agreement on 12 annual appropriations bills,  Congress passed a continuing resolution (CR) that extends Fiscal Year 2020 funding levels through December 11 – post-election day.  While some agencies received boosts in funding, and some programs received full-year reauthorizations, the CR did not provide extra funds for global health efforts. However, the CR allows NIH to extend some multiyear grants at no cost.

Negotiations Sputter on a Coronovirus Relief Package
Wile negotiations sputter, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin continue to hold talks while President Donald Trump has caused confusion by calling off talks only to restart them. House Democrats latest offer is a slimmed-down version of their Heroes Act, which the House originally passed in May. The new Heroes Act includes (but is not limited to):
  • CDC
    • $1 billion for global disease detection and emergency response
  • NIH
    • $4.7 billion to expand COVID-19-related research, of which (not exhaustive):
      • $500 million for NIAID
      • $4.021 billion for the NIH Office of Director, with authority to transfer to other NIH institutes and centers, of which
        • $3 billion for “offsetting the costs related to reductions in lab productivity”
        • $1.021 billion “to support additional scientific research”
  • ASPR and BARDA
    • $21.025 billion for the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR), including (not exhaustive):
      • $20 billion for BARDA for vaccines and therapeutics
      • $500 million for BARDA to support U.S.-based next generation manufacturing facilities
      • $500 million for BARDA to promote innovation in antibacterial research and development
    • $3.5 billion for Gavi for global vaccine production and distribution in lower income countries
    • $150 million for the USAID Emergency Reserve Fund
    • The remainder of the $3.691 billion for USAID Global Health Programs is roughly $41 million, and the section notes “funds appropriated by this paragraph in this title shall be made available for a contribution to a multilateral vaccine development partnership to support epidemic preparedness”
      • The Global Health Technologies Coalition (GHTC) interprets this language as referring to CEPI (Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Initiatives), but other groups think the language is vague in order to allow for a COVAX contribution. COVAX is an international, pooled vaccine procurement facility co-led by Gavi.
  • State Department
    • $3.5 billion for the Global Fund
    • $1 billion for PEPFAR

Senate HELP Committee COVID-19 Hearing: NIH, CDC, FDA, HHS
The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee held a September 23 hearing on COVID-19 with NIAID Director Anthony Fauci, CDC Director Robert Redfield, Assistant Secretary for Health ADM Brett Giroir, and FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn. All four witnesses emphasized the importance of masks and vouched for the integrity of Operation Warp Speed and the vaccine approval process. Director Redfield, when pressed, told the committee that the Department of Health and Human Services took $300 million from CDC to fund an as-yet unaired advertising campaign to “defeat despair” about the pandemic.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Oversight Subcommittee held a similar hearing on vaccine safety with academic experts on September 30.

Annual Global Health Security Agenda Report Released
The State Department and USAID released their annual GHSA report on September 29. The report largely focuses on efforts besides COVID-19, such as clinical research on Ebola and early disease detection in West African countries including Guinea and Sierra Leone.