ASTMH continues to advocate before Congress and the Biden administration. Letters that ASTMH led or joined include:
- Letter to Senator Angus King (I-ME) expressing support for the Strengthening Mosquito Abatement for Safety and Health (SMASH) 2.0 Act and advocating for its inclusion in the Senate Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act (PAHPA) reauthorization bill.
- Letter to U.S Deputy Global Malaria Coordinator Rick Steketee congratulating him on his retirement from public service and expressing gratitude for his invaluable contributions to the fight against malaria.
- Letter to OMB Director Shalanda Young urging the agency to sustainably grow global health R&D investments at USAID, HHS, DoD, and the Department of State as it develops the FY25 budget.
- Letter to Kayla Laserson, new director of the CDC Global Health Center (GHC), welcoming her back to the agency and offering support as she begins her new role.
• Congress Races Against Clock as September 30 Fiscal Deadline Looms
• Hearing Announced for NIH Director Nominee
• House E&C Republicans Ask for Lawful Proof of NIAID Director
• New Leadership Changes at CDC NCIRD
• PAHPA Reauthorization Placed on Senate Legislative Calendar
• Freedom Caucus Makes Health Policy Demands Ahead of PAHPA Reauthorization
• Republican Study Committee Memo Shares Public Health Policy Priorities
• OSTP and OMB Share FY25 R&D Priorities
• OSTP Releases RFI on policy framework for DURC
Congress Races Against Clock as September 30 Fiscal Deadline Looms
Congress only has three weeks to reach an agreement to fund the government by September 30 to avert a shutdown. As it stands, the Senate Appropriations Committee advanced all 12 individual spending bills out of committee on a bipartisan basis and recently announced
that it will bring a group of three bills to the floor (commonly referred to as a “minibus”) for full consideration by the chamber. These bills include the Agriculture-FDA, Military Construction-VA and Transportation-HUD measures.
Meanwhile, prior to the August recess, the House Appropriations Committee only passed one of 12 spending bills out of committee by a razor-thin margin along party lines. The outstanding House spending bills include Labor-HHS-Education and State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs (SFOPS), which fund key global health programs across the federal government. The House Rules Committee recently posted
an amendment deadline for the SFOPS bill, which could signal momentum for bringing the bill to the floor. With the rapidly approaching fiscal deadline, Speaker McCarthy has been pushing the chamber to adopt a short-term or stopgap funding measure known as a continuing resolution (CR). However, the House Freedom Caucus has stated
that it will oppose any spending bill that does not address the border, the “weaponization of the Department of Justice and FBI, and ‘woke’ policies in the military.” These significant inter-conference spending disagreements, along with the need to reconcile the chamber’s funding bill with the Democratic-controlled Senate, continue to raise the odds of a shutdown come October.
Hearing Announced for NIH Director Nominee
Senate HELP Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-VT) said
he intends to hold a confirmation hearing in October for President Joe Biden’s pick for NIH director, Dr. Monica Bertagnolli. While President Biden announced Dr. Bertagnolli’s nomination more than three months ago, Senator Sanders had refused to bring Bertagnolli’s nomination to a vote due to significant disagreements with the White House over drug pricing. “In light of the recent actions taken by HHS and a commitment I received from the White House to keep working to lower the price of prescription drugs, the HELP Committee will be holding a hearing on the nomination of Dr. Monica Bertagnolli to be the Director of the National Institutes of Health in October,” Sanders said in a statement. Sanders specifically cited a new announcement
from HHS regarding an agreement with Regeneron to develop monoclonal antibodies to fight COVID-19.
House E&C Republicans Ask for Lawful Proof of NIAID Director
House Energy and Commerce (E&C) Republicans sent a letter
to HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra requesting proof that he lawfully appointed Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo to serve as director of NIAID. The inquiry follows House E&C Republicans’ investigation
that alleges that Secretary Becerra failed to properly reappoint 14 NIH officials in accordance with the Constitution and the 21st
Century Cures Act. Republicans have specifically expressed concern that these top-ranking NIH officials were unlawfully given authority over taxpayer-funded grants. “We write today because we are concerned that you may be continuing on an unconstitutional appointment process in an effort to avoid accountability for your previous failure to properly reappoint the 14 IC Directors in December 2021,” the letter reads. Mr. Becerra was given until August 23 to provide the requested documentation to the committee.
New Leadership Changes at CDC NCIRD
CDC Director Dr. Mandy Cohen announced several significant leadership changes at the CDC National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD), which oversaw the agency’s COVID-19 response. José Romero, who led NCIRD, left the CDC at the end of August. Demetre Daskalakis, who served as the deputy director of the White House's national mpox response team, will replace Romero on an acting basis. Daskalakis has spent a significant portion of his career working on HIV prevention and control and was director of the CDC’s Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention in the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention. He also led the CDC’s COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force. Additionally, two other high-ranking officials at NCIRD are being transitioned to different roles at the agency. Sam Posner, who served as acting director of the center during the second year of the pandemic, will become acting director of the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Kristin Pope, who serves as deputy director of NCIRD, will move to the new Center for Forecasting and Analytics.
PAHPA Reauthorization Placed on Senate Legislative Calendar
On September 6, the reauthorization of the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act (PAHPA), the nation’s must-pass emergency preparedness bill, was placed
on the Senate Legislative Calendar. It remains unclear when the bill will be brought to the floor for full consideration by the chamber.
Freedom Caucus Makes Health Policy Demands Ahead of PAHPA Reauthorization
Freedom Caucus members, led by Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX), sent a letter
to Speaker Kevin McCarthy threatening to withhold their support for the reauthorization PAHPA, which passed out of the House Energy and Commerce Committee prior to the August recess. Some of the caucus’s demands include 1) returning PAHPA-related funding to pre-COVID levels; 2) asserting American sovereignty over the WHO and other international treaties and bodies; 3) creating an independent Office of Inspector General for the NIH, CDC and FDA; 5) immediately requiring Senate confirmation of the CDC Director, including Dr. Mandy Cohen; 6) reforming congressional authority over public health emergency powers; and 7) banning taxpayer dollars from funding gain-of-function research, among other reforms. The letter and press statement
from Rep. Roy make clear that the group of far-right members will vote no on the bill unless their needs are met.
Republican Study Committee Memo Shares Public Health Policy Priorities
The Washington Examiner obtained
a memo from the Republican Study Committee (RSC) outlining several significant public health priorities, including PAHPA reauthorization and funding for HHS and the CDC. The memo echoes current GOP talking points about federal overreach during the COVID-19 pandemic and urges members to help rein in spending. The memo expresses a strong desire to decentralize the CDC and shift power to the states and local public health authorities. While PAHPA is not the primary target of the memo, the RSC states that the federal government should be less involved so that “private industry and good market principles can ensure that Americans have access to the medical countermeasures they need.” The RSC also urged its member to “cut slack” from the NIH and promote greater transparency in the grant award process.
OSTP and OMB Share FY25 R&D Priorities
The White House Office of Science and Technology (OSTP) and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) recently sent a memo
to the heads of executive branch agencies and departments on R&D priorities to help guide budget requests for FY 2025. The document mostly focuses on domestic health R&D priorities, such as the Cancer Moonshot initiative, but includes efforts that will have implications for global health, including advancing critical and emerging biotechnologies, addressing antimicrobial resistance (AMR), and identifying and eliminating infectious disease outbreaks before they become pandemics.
OSTP Releases RFI on policy framework for DURC
The Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) released
a request for information (RFI) for the Policies for Federal and Institutional Oversight of Life Sciences Dual Use Research of Concern (DURC) and Recommended Policy Guidance for Departmental Development of Review Mechanisms for Potential Pandemic Pathogen Care and Oversight (P3CO). According to the RFI, these policies “establish frameworks for review and oversight requirements for certain categories of life sciences research, namely research with certain pathogens and toxins, including at institutions that accept Federal funding for such research.” The deadline for feedback is October 16.