Here's the scoop on what's happening this week in Congress
NCSD Policy Staff
March 11, 2022
This week the House and Senate passed the 2,741-page $1.5 trillion omnibus appropriations package. The bill now goes to the President for signature.
Aid to Ukraine
The omnibus package includes $13.6 billion in emergency aid to Ukraine. In the future, lawmakers in both parties expect more funding will be needed for humanitarian relief and military aid. How much will depend on how the war evolves, including the possibility of a major investment in rebuilding Ukraine.
The $15 billion COVID-19 funding was stripped from omnibus package after 70 democrats and Governors, from over 30 states, objected to the $7 billion cut in state and local funds, previously appropriated in other pandemic bills, was used to offset the new funding provisions. The House had planned to deal with a separate supplemental bill for COVID-19 this week, but House Democratic leaders pulled the bill from floor consideration, delaying that debate and vote until next week.
Sexually Transmitted Disease Funding
Under the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the omnibus appropriations bill includes $164,310,000, an increase of $2.5 million over the FY’21 funding level to combat the high incidence of STDs. The committee report recognizes that direct funding to State and local health departments is critical to address STIs and other infectious diseases; notes the concern over the massive interruptions in STI care and preventative services due to the pandemic; states that priority be given to congenital syphilis cases and multi-point testing of pregnant women in community organizations, and STD and drug addiction clinics; and urges the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to collaborate with the CDC’s Division of STD Prevention to develop a screening, treatment, and education initiative under the Medicaid program.
Other Legislation and Happenings Around the Nation
Ban on Russian Oil Imports
This week the House passed a bill barring U.S. imports of Russian crude, as members of both parties demanded stronger punishment of Russia for its invasion of that country. The 414-17 vote came after President Biden implemented a ban on U.S. imports of Russian crude oil and other fossil fuel products, a decision taken in part because of pressure from Congress. It is unclear, as of this writing, if the bill would be considered in the Senate.
Pfizer will begin Phase II/III testing of its Covid-19 antiviral pill in children. In December 2021, the FDA authorized Paxlovid, a combination of two antivirals, to treat Covid-19 in high-risk individuals age 12 and older weighing at least 88 pounds. The upcoming trials will test the drug at different doses for children as young as 6 years old who test positive for Covid-19 and are not hospitalized but are also at risk of developing severe disease.
Another Covid-19 booster shot may be needed this fall, but it might not be the same shot you got the last time. If Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna get their way, the next round of vaccines will contain a new formulation that targets the super contagious omicron variant, or perhaps two strains of the coronavirus, instead of just one.
Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo announced that the state will recommend that healthy children not be vaccinated against Covid-19, contradicting federal guidance over Covid-19 vaccination for kids. Ladapo’s decision is unlikely to interfere with the efforts of parents who want to have their children vaccinated, but it will likely dissuade some parents who have been on the fence. The CDC recommends Covid-19 vaccinations for all children over the age of 5. Uptake, however, has been modest; as of March 2, just over one-quarter of kids aged 5 to 11 have had two doses of vaccine. Experts said the Ladapo announcement will add to the confusion and the distrust and parents will wonder what to do.