Here's the scoop on what's happening this week in Congress
NCSD Policy Staff
May 6, 2022
House and Senate negotiators are considering changes to President Biden’s request for $33 billion in aid to Ukraine. The White House wants $16.4 billion for the Defense Department to help restock Kyiv’s weaponry and other military equipment. Defense Subcommittee Chair Jon Tester, D-Mont., said he doesn’t expect substantive changes to that part of the request. The State Department would receive $14.1 billion, including $4.5 billion in security assistance for Ukraine and other Eastern European allies. The remainder of the funds are for economic and humanitarian aid. Senate Minority Whip Thune, R-SD said there’s broad bipartisan support for “at least the basic outlines” of the White House’s request. But he cautioned against adding provisions extraneous to helping Ukraine, a reference to additional COVID-19 aid. The House and Senate leadership have not made a decision on combining the Ukraine supplemental with the additional $10 billion for COVID-19 relief.
Senate Democrats are gearing up for an abortion-rights vote next week in response to the leaked draft of the Supreme Court opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade. Majority Leader Schumer expects to vote on a bill that would ensure Federal protections for abortion access by codifying Roe v. Wade, but this is the same bill that did not garner enough votes to pass the Senate last February, and there is no indication that the vote would be any different this time.
The leaked draft of the Supreme Court opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade has legal experts wondering what other opinions might be overturned. The draft — which describes abortion rights as not “deeply rooted” in the nation’s history and not explicitly protected by the Constitution — goes beyond the reasoning the court needed to restrict abortion. Some legal experts state that it the ruling could open the door to overturning other cases such as gay marriage and LBGTQ rights.
The President Biden stated that if the leaked document becomes the decision of the court “it would mean that every other decision related to the notion of privacy is thrown into question.”
A lack of access to legal abortion services could lead to American deaths, CDC Director Walensky stated. “Women who are interested in accessing care, termination of their pregnancies, may not have resources to cross state lines, those who don’t may take matters in their own hands, and may not get exactly the care they need … I do think lives could be at stake in that situation.”
Other Legislation and Happenings Around the Nation
An article this week in the Washington Post reported that, for a decade, the number of babies born with syphilis in the US has surged, undeterred. Data from the CDC found that in 2012, 332 babies were born infected with the disease. In 2021, that number had climbed nearly sevenfold, to at least 2,268, with 166 infant deaths. Congenital syphilis rates reached near-historic modern lows from 2000 to 2012 amid ambitious prevention and education efforts. Even as caseloads increased, the CDC budget for sexually transmitted disease prevention has been largely stagnant for two decades, its purchasing power dragged even lower by inflation. State and local officials say an infusion of monies will make a difference. But when taking inflation into account, “it essentially brings STD prevention funding back to what it was in 2003,” said Stephanie Arnold Pang of the National Coalition of STD Directors. She further stated that “the American Rescue Plan money does not cover some aspects of STD prevention, including clinical services.” The coalition wants to revive dedicated STD clinics, where people can drop in for testing and treatment at little to no cost. Advocates say that would fill a void that has plagued treatment efforts since public clinics closed en masse in the wake of the 2008 recession.
New NIH Director Candidate
Dr. Mary Klotman, a Duke University scientist is in the running to become the next NIH Director. A physician known for her research into HIV, Klotman has served as dean of the Duke University School of Medicine since 2017.
According to WHO, 15 million people worldwide dies as a result of Covid-19 in the first two years of the pandemic. This week the US surpassed 1 million Covid-19 deaths, the highest death rates in the world. The number, equivalent to the population of San Jose, California, the 10th largest city in the U.S, was reached 27 months after the country confirmed its first case of the virus.
Cases on the Rise
COVID cases are rising in all but four states and Washington, D.C., as Omicron and new potentially more transmissible versions of the Omicron variant, sweep across the country. COVID rates in the Northeast are reaching some of their highest levels in three months. But the South may be in for a new wave come summer. A South African study found two of the new Omicron subvariants are able to evade antibodies from previous infections and vaccinations. Cases in California have also increased by 10 percent in the past week, prompting health officials to warn that the state is heading into the next wave of the pandemic.