Here's the scoop on what's happening this week in Congress
NCSD Policy Staff
July 6, 2022
This Week in Congress
The House Appropriations committee began marking up the FY’23 funding bills on June 14. The Labor-Health and Human Services and Education subcommittee is scheduled to meet on June 23 with the full committee to follow on June 30. The funding levels for the STD programs will be available shortly after the subcommittee markup and the report language provisions will be available after the full committee markup. We will provide the funding and report language provisions as soon as they are available.
This week, a group of 20 senators – 10 Republicans and 10 Democrats – reached a deal on a “framework” for gun control legislation. Senate Majority Leader Schumer, Speaker Pelosi and President Biden are all in support of the deal. With at least 10 Senate Republicans in favor of the legislation, the bill will be able to overcome the 60-vote threshold in the Senate. The bipartisan group led by Senators Murphy and Cornyn are hoping to pass the legislation by the July 4threcess. Senate Minority Leader McConnell also said he’s inclined to support legislation. The framework, which is still being discussed, is expected to include federal monies to boost mental health and school safety; enhanced background checks for younger gun buyers; money to help states implement red flag laws (permits enforcement agencies and close family members to submit petitions to a court to temporarily remove guns from those considered a danger to themselves and others); and close the “boyfriend loophole” (domestic violence abusers and those with restraining orders) to be added to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
FDA User Fees
On June 14, the Senate HELP Committee advanced a proposal to reauthorize the industry user fees that help fund the FDA. The bipartisan legislation would revamp the agency’s accelerated approval pathway, boost oversight on lab-developed tests and improve infant formula oversight amid the nationwide shortage.
Security for the Supreme Court
On June 14, the House approved a bill to provide enhanced security to protect Supreme Court justices. The bill is on its way to the President for signature.
Other Legislation and Happenings Around the Nation
NCSD Letter to CDC Director Walensky: On June 13, David Harvey, on behalf of NCSD, wrote to CDC Director Walensky urging the CDC to request at least $30 million to strengthen Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) prevention programs at state and local health departments to address the current monkeypox outbreak. The letter also asks CDC to lift the 10 percent cap on clinical services and waive any CDC policies that limit the amount of money that can be spent on clinical services. The letter can be found here.
Statistics and Vaccines: To date, the US has 70 confirmed cases of monkeypox. Infectious disease experts and health systems across the country are ensuring facilities are well-equipped and prepared to deal with potential monkeypox cases and prevent further outbreaks. The U.S. government is waiting on the delivery of 300,000 doses of the monkeypox vaccine and has ordered another 500,000 doses to be delivered later this year.
CDC Guidelines: This week the CDC released new guidance about how to identify monkeypox. Some recent infections have presented differently than past cases in Africa, where monkeypox is endemic. In many recent U.S. cases, patients first experienced a rash in the mouth or around the genitals or anus. And instead of widespread rashes, some patients saw scattered or localized lesions in areas other than the face, hands, or feet. In some cases, flu-like symptoms developed after the rash, but other people didn’t have those symptoms at all. The CDC new guidelines can be found here.
WHO Actions: The WHO is convening its emergency committee next week to decide whether the monkeypox outbreak is a public health emergency of international concern — the world’s highest health alert. The meeting should help international coordination on the response now that monkeypox has spread to at least 39 countries, with more than 1,600 confirmed cases and an additional 1,500 suspected cases. The WHO also announced that it is creating a new vaccine-sharing mechanism to stop the outbreak of monkeypox in more than 30 countries beyond Africa. The move could result in the U.N. health agency distributing scarce vaccine doses to rich countries that can otherwise afford them.
340B Medicare Payments Dispute: This week the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously found that the Trump and Biden administrations acted unlawfully by reducing Medicare payments to hospitals participating in a discount drug program known as 340B. The case, brought by the American Hospital Association and other groups, questioned whether the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services could adjust Medicare reimbursement rates based on cost acquisition data without first surveying hospitals for the information. The AHA also challenged the agency’s ability to pay different types of facilities, like 340B facilities, at different rates. Justice Kavanaugh wrote the opinion overturning a U.S. Court of Appeals ruling for the administrations stating that: “It may be that the reimbursement payments were intended to offset the considerable costs of providing healthcare to the uninsured and underinsured in low-income and rural communities,” he wrote. “Regardless, this Court is not the forum to resolve that policy debate.”
Vaccines for Kids: On June 14, an FDA advisory panel voted unanimously to recommend the agency authorize the Moderna Covid vaccine for children ages 6 to 17. The vote echoes the current emergency use authorization of the Covid vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech for anyone age 6 and over. The vote was unanimous, but some experts raised concerns about how many doses kids would get, how that would be communicated, and about heart inflammation that can occur with both Covid vaccines. On June 15, a committee of advisers to the FDA voted unanimously to recommend that the agency authorize COVID-19 vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech for children as young as 6 months. The committee’s recommendations came in a pair of 21-0 votes. The CDC will meet on June 18 and 19 to make their recommendations for the vaccine approval.
Protecting Transgender Youth: On June 14, President Biden issued an executive order calling on the Department of Health and Human Services to clarify that federally funded programs cannot offer conversion therapy—a widely discredited practice that attempts to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity—and work on a public information campaign about the practice. Biden is also directing HHS to take “steps to address the barriers and exclusionary policies” to different types of health care and treatment. The President also signed an executive order to protect LGBTQ people from a cascade of legislation in conservative states that increasingly targets the rights of gays, lesbians, transgender youth and others. The order is designed to counter efforts by Republican politicians, including Florida Governor DeSantis, who has pushed through a so-called “Don’t Say Gay” legislation banning teachers from providing instruction regarding gender identity or sexual orientation.