Here's the scoop on what's happening this week in Congress
March 17, 2023
This Week in Congress
FY’24 Budget: On March 13, the supporting documents accompanying the President’s budget were released. The Department of Health and Human Services budget justifications for all of the agencies within the Department’s jurisdiction can be found here.
More details on the STD budget and related programs can be found here.
The chart below includes enacted funding from FY’21-FY’23, and the President’s budget requests for FY’24.
Final FY21 Funding
Final FY’22 Funding
Final FY’23 Funding
President’s FY’24 Budget Proposal
CDC – National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), and Tuberculosis Prevention
CDC – Division of STD Prevention (DSTDP)
CDC – Domestic HIV Prevention (DHP)
CDC – Division of Adolescent and School Health (DASH)
CDC – Division of Viral Hepatitis
CDC – Division of Tuberculosis Elimination
CDC – Infectious Diseases and Opioid Epidemic
CDC – Ending the HIV Epidemic
HRSA – Ryan White – Total
HRSA – Ryan White – Ending the HIV Epidemic
HRSA – Community Health Centers
HRSA – Community Health Centers – Ending the HIV Epidemic
HRSA – Title X Family Planning Program
HRSA – STI Clinical Services Demonstration Project
Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program (TPP)
ACF – “Sexual Risk Avoidance” – Abstinence-Only Program
Secretary’s Minority AIDS Initiative (MIA)
Housing for People Living with AIDS (HOPWA)
NIH – Office of AIDS Research
Strengthening Banking Rules
It does not appear that Congress is likely to respond to the President’s call to toughen rules on banks after the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank. Progressive Democrats were quick to follow Biden’s lead. But there doesn’t seem to be enough support from within the democratic party to gain traction, with some Democrats suggesting regulators were asleep at the wheel and that additional rules wouldn’t have prevented the collapse. Senators Warren and, Rep. Porter said that 16 Democratic senators and 31 Democratic House members supported their draft legislation that would repeal the 2018 law that eased regulations on some banks, including SVB. But of the 16 Senate and 33 House Democrats who voted for the 2018 law, none of those still in office signed on to Warren and Porter’s bill, including Senate Banking members Warner and Tester. House Republicans said adequate safeguards were in place to prevent the run on SVB. They blamed lax regulators and monetary policy for the problem. Senate Banking Chair Brown said he saw no chance of repealing the 2018 law in the current Congress.
Other Legislative Happenings from Around the Nation
New data from CDC shows a significant increase in deaths among pregnant women in 2021 places the United States as the most dangerous wealthy country in which to live when pregnant or giving birth (CDC.gov). Maternal mortality was particularly high among African Americans, pointing to longstanding inequities in medical treatment and access to care. The CDC report can be found here
The Biden Administration has created the “Hear Her” campaign to raise awareness of early warning signs that could indicate a problematic pregnancy. The article can be found here
In an update covering the past 2 weeks, the World Health Organization said that it has received reports of 323 new mpox cases and 11 more deaths. Cases are slowly declining in most regions but with no clear downward trend in Africa, where the virus spreads with a mixed pattern of both human-to-human and zoonotic spillovers. Outside of Africa, countries continue to report sporadic cases and small clusters.
CDC, FDA on Vaccine Safety
CDC director Rochelle Walensky and FDA Commissioner Robert Califf sent a letter last week to Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo, calling his claims that the Covid-19 vaccine presents a health risk “incorrect,” “misleading,” and potentially “harmful to the American public.” Ladapo sent a letter to the federal health agencies last month, stating that Florida had seen a steep rise in the number of adverse health events reported to the national Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System after the release of the Covid-19 vaccines. Walensky and Califf, along with other public health experts said Ladapo’s interpretation of the information in the system was flawed, noting that reported adverse events don’t necessarily mean the vaccine caused the event and the adverse event rates need to be compared to the background rates of the general population. “Focusing on adverse events in the absence of causal association and without the perspective of countervailing benefits is a great disservice to both individuals and public health,” they wrote. “Not only is there no evidence of increased risk of death following mRNA vaccines, but available data have shown quite the opposite: that being up to date on vaccinations saves lives compared to individuals who did not get vaccinated.” The letter can be found here.
Origin of the Virus
An International team of virus experts said this week that they had found genetic data from a market in Wuhan, China, linking the coronavirus with raccoon dogs for sale there, adding evidence to the case that the worst pandemic in a century could have been ignited by an infected animal that was being dealt through the illegal wildlife trade. The jumbling together of genetic material from the virus and the animal does not prove that a raccoon dog itself was infected. And even if a raccoon dog had been infected, it would not be clear that the animal had spread the virus to people. Another animal could have passed the virus to people, or someone infected with the virus could have spread the virus to a raccoon dog.
A federal advisory panel recommended FDA approval for Paxlovid, more than a year after the agency authorized the antiviral under emergency use. The Antimicrobial Drugs Advisory Committee said the drug’s benefits outweigh the risks when used to treat mild to moderate COVID-19 in adults who are at high risk for severe disease, hospitalization, or death.
Insulin Price Cap
Insulin manufacturer Sanofi S.A. announced this week that it would cap the cost of its most popular insulin product at $35 per month for those with private insurance. The announcement follows similar moves by insulin manufacturers Eli Lilly and Co. and Novo Nordisk.
Fourteen Democratic governors asked seven leading pharmacy retailers to clarify their plans for dispensing mifepristone, a pill used in medication abortions. The move comes shortly after Walgreens announced that it would not dispense mifepristone in some Republican-led states where abortion remains legal.
With the future of Mifepristone in question, a federal judge grilled government lawyers not about the legality of abortion, but instead about federal regulations and the process FDA used to approve the drug. In the four-hour hearing held in Amarillo, Texas yesterday, U.S. District Judge Kacsmaryk heard arguments in a lawsuit brought by the legal group Alliance Defending Freedom, which took issue with the FDA approving mifepristone under an accelerated pathway. The approval, issued in 2000, was the result of a four-year review. Lawyers for the FDA, the company that makes and distributes the drug, and leading health organizations strongly contest the lawsuit’s claims. Kacsmaryk said he would issue his ruling — which could carry implications for any approved drug — as soon as possible.
Abortion clinics will be banned in Utah starting next year after Gov. Spencer Cox signed a law that will impose other restrictions on abortion as the state’s trigger ban is held up in court. State Rep. Lisonbee’s, R-Clearfield, bill (HB467), was among the more controversial bills passed this legislative session. It passed out of both the Utah House and the Senate along party lines. Abortion is still legal in Utah, up to 18 weeks’ gestation.
Tennessee Republican lawmakers took another swing at adding a narrow exemption to one of the strictest abortion bans in the United States. Nearly a month ago, a Republican legislative panel defied political threats made by the state’s influential anti-abortion lobbying group and advanced legislation clarifying situations where abortion could be allowed in Tennessee.
The Ohio Supreme Court agreed Tuesday to review a county judge’s order that is blocking enforcement of the state’s near-ban on abortions, and to consider whether the clinics challenging the law have legal standing to do so. In its split decision, the court, however, denied Republican Attorney General Yost’s request to launch its own review of the right to an abortion under the Ohio Constitution, leaving those arguments to play out in lower court. This means abortions remain legal in the state for now, up to 20 weeks’ gestation.
North Dakota’s Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s decision to block a ban on abortions in the state and said the state Constitution protects abortion rights in some situations. The ruling means abortion in the state remains legal until nearly 22 weeks after a women’s last period, while the case proceeds in a lower court. Though the state Supreme Court’s decision is not the final word on the matter, it is notable for its analysis of the state Constitution. The court went beyond the narrow question it was asked: whether the lower court judge had overstepped his power in blocking the ban.
A proposal to ban abortions at six weeks in Florida received overwhelming approval from a state House committee this week with Democrats acknowledging there was nothing they could do to stop it from eventually becoming law. The proposal is moving along while a ban on abortions at 15 weeks, signed into law by Republican Governor DeSantis last year, is still facing a legal challenge. The new proposal would only take effect if the current law is upheld and would make it a crime to provide an abortion past six weeks’ gestational age.