Washington, DC Update

Posted 11 September 2020


Appropriations Deadline Approaching, Continuing Resolution Likely
Senate Republicans’ 'Skinny' COVID-19 Proposal Fails
Senate HELP Committee Holds COVID-19 Hearings
NIAID Established the Centers for Research in Emerging Infectious Diseases (CREID)
Germany and France Seek Stronger WHO


Over the past month, ASTMH has continued to make its priorities and concerns clear to lawmakers and the Administration. Letters that ASTMH led or joined include:
 
  • A letter to the White House Coronavirus Task Force urging them to reverse revisions to the CDC’s testing guidelines for asymptomatic individuals.
  • A letter to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees expressing appreciation for AMR investments in the Health and Human Services, Agriculture, and State and Foreign Operations appropriations bills.
  • A letter to House Science Committee Chair Eddie Bernice Johnson asking for a National Academies study on the influence of systemic racism in academia. 
  • A letter to the National Science Foundation urging continued support for research and a collaborative relationship between NSF and scientific societies in the face of COVID-19 disruptions.

Appropriations Deadline Approaching, Continuing Resolution Likely

Federal government funding expires on September 30, but the Senate has not acted on any appropriations bills. Instead, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) have reached a tentative agreement on passing a short-term continuing resolution (CR) that would extend funding at current levels. The agreement separates COVID-19 relief negotiations from government funding negotiations. With the election nearing, the CR could last until mid-December when Congress has a lame duck session, or January, when a new Congress and potentially a new President could reach a longer-term deal. More simply stated, Congress is avoiding potential controversy this close to the election.
 
No COVID-19 Relief Bill in sight with the election rapidly approaching, it is unlikely that a COVID-19 relief package will become law before November. No progress has been made on a compromise COVID-19 relief measure with the talks collapsing between Secretary Mnuchin, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, and Speaker Pelosi. Senate Republicans have changed course, setting aside their HEALS Act in an attempt to get a trimmed-down “skinny” package through the Senate. That effort failed on September 10. 

Senate Republicans’ 'Skinny' COVID-19 Proposal Fails
Senate Republicans were unable to secure the 60 votes needed to advance their “skinny” bill. The Delivering Immediate Relief to America’s Families, Schools and Small Businesses Act would have provided targeted relief to certain sectors and industries, in part by redirecting funds already made available for COVID-19 relief. Still, the bill may serve as a starting point in negotiations. 

Senate HELP Committee Holds COVID-19 Hearings
The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee held a hearing on COVID-19 vaccines with NIH Director Francis Collins and Surgeon General Jerome Adams on September 9. The committee will also hear from NIAID Director Anthony Fauci, CDC Director Robert Redfield, Assistant Secretary for Health ADM Brett Giroir, and FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn on September 23 for a general update on the COVID-19 response. 

NIAID Established the Centers for Research in Emerging Infectious Diseases (CREID)
NIAID has launched a global network of organizations to focus on emerging infectious diseases. NIAID awarded an initial $17 million in grants to 11 organizations, with a goal of awarding $82 million over five years. Each Center will have a regional focus, but research will extend across 29 countries.

Germany and France Seek Stronger WHO
Germany and France have reportedly proposed giving the World Health Organization additional legal powers, despite their own criticisms of the organization. The Franco-German proposal would also bolster the WHO’s financial resources and give it more independent authority to investigate outbreaks.