Here's the scoop on what's happening this week in Congress
House Democrats are drafting updates to the 21st Century Cures Act legislation originally touted by Democratic leadership last Congressional Session as a significant bipartisan accomplishment. Reps. DeGette and Upton have indicated their intention to introduce the updated measure in June for passage by the end of this year. Lawmakers believe the Act to be a prime opportunity for the increasingly partisan bodies to finally move on patient-friendly legislation that will remove regulatory hurdles that currently stagnate development of new, cutting-edge medical treatments.
The Biden Administration announced on Wednesday that it will unveil its detailed budget proposal on May 28, one day later than originally planned. The blueprint will cover a fiscal year period beginning in October and will be the first public list detailing the administrations intent to cut or expand federal programs. The proposal will officially begin debates on the congressional appropriations and budget process and will initiate a constricted timeframe for lawmakers to reach a bipartisan agreement on infrastructure.
Presidential budget requests are typically released on the first Monday in February, but first-year administrations often delay release well into the spring.
This week, the Biden administration released $3 billion from the American Rescue Plan to be distributed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) for Community Mental Health Services and the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant programs – each providing $1.5 billion to states and territories. The funding is a response to the CDC’s preliminary data revealing 90,000 overdose deaths for 12 months ending last September – an increase of 20,000 deaths from the same period the year prior.
This follows last week’s announcement of a $7.4 billion investment to expand the American public health workforce to alleviate health department pressures and to improve the American public health infrastructure for future pandemic preparedness.
On Thursday, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky and Principal Deputy Director Ann Schuchat testified at a Senate Appropriations Labor-HHS Subcommittee hearing on the CDC’s FY’22 budget proposal. During the hearing, Walensky highlighted that the U.S. would have been in a better place to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic had it not underfunded its public health infrastructure for years. In their opening comments, both Chair Patty Murray (D-WA) and Ranking Member Roy Blunt (R-MO) expressed their approval and alignment with the administration’s $7 billion discretionary initiative to address the needs of the American public health infrastructure.
NIH officials will testify before the House and Senate LHHS Appropriations Committees on its FY’22 budget request next week. The hearings will be held on May 26th and May 25th, respectively.