Here's the scoop on what's happening this week in Congress
November 4, 2022
This Week in Congress
The House will return on November 13, 2022.
The Senate will be back in session on November 14, 2022.
With just four days until the elections, the latest polls indicate that Republicans are expected to gain control of the U.S. House of Representatives with 225 seats to Democrats 210. In the U.S. Senate, control is still a toss-up with very close races in Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, and Pennsylvania.
House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy has announced that he plans to hold Republican leadership elections on November 15. If the Republicans control the House after the November 8 elections, the party will nominate their choice for Speaker of the House, who would be formally elected in January in a floor vote by the entire House. For now, McCarthy is the only known GOP candidate running for speaker. If McCarthy is selected as speaker, it would clear the way for Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) to become majority leader. House Democrats will hold their leadership elections after the Thanksgiving holiday. No word on when the Senate will select its party leaders.
Other Legislation and Happenings Around the Nation
Group Fighting STDs Seeks Billions for Monkeypox:
The Partnership to End HIV, STDs, and Hepatitis, a collaborative of the nation’s leading organizations focused on ending the epidemics of sexually transmitted diseases and hepatitis, is pressing lawmakers to include $4.5 billion to combat monkeypox in the year-end spending bill. The coalition includes AIDS United, NASTAD, the National Coalition of STD Directors, NMAC, and The AIDS Institute. Monkeypox cases in the US have been trending downward since August—down to an average of 30 new weekly cases in the last week of October from a high of nearly 450 in August. “Although the first wave of the outbreak is subsiding, the U.S. is risking the opportunity to get ahead of the next wave,” the groups wrote in a statement. The press release can be found here.
WHO continues Public Health Emergency:
The WHO monkeypox emergency committee met to discuss the latest developments, concluding that the situation still warrants a public health emergency of international concern. In a statement on their deliberations, the group said progress has been made, such as behavioral interventions and increasing vaccine uptake. However, they raised concerns about ongoing transmission in some regions, health inequities in a number of countries, and impacts on vulnerable populations, especially in those with HIV and in countries with weak healthcare systems.
HHS Renews Public Health Emergency:
This week the Department of HHS renewed the national public health emergency for the monkeypox outbreak, with officials stating that the virus is still very present in the U.S. even as cases continue to drop. HHS Secretary Becerra cited the “continued consequences of an outbreak of monkeypox cases across multiple states” as well as a “consultation with public health officials” for his decision to renew the public health emergency.
Researchers have found the first evidence of “considerable” pre-symptomatic transmission of monkeypox — up to 53% of infections may take place during that window.
Congressional Committee Questions CDC Response:
This week the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee’s ranking member McMorris Rodgers and Reps. Guthrie and Morgan Griffith sent a letter to the CDC questioning the CDC’s response to the spread of monkeypox. The letter noted the “flawed CDC diagnostic testing procedures for monkeypox virus.” The letter can be found here.
CMS is returning to its pre-2018 payment for drugs in the 340B program in 2023 at the average sale price plus 6 percent. A cut to nondrug services of just over 3 percent will make the measure budget neutral as required by law. The new rule comes after the Supreme Court’s decision in American Hospital Association v. Becerra that found earlier payment cuts from 2018 unlawful.
The sudden surge in respiratory syncytial virus cases among children across the nation has drawn attention to a handful of drugmakers with vaccines and therapies in development. But it’s doubtful that RSV vaccines for children will be available in the near term. The first ones likely to become available will be for the elderly and pregnant people. Pfizer has said it plans to file an application to the FDA in the fall, and GSK expects to file for approvals by the end of the year.
Data released from Pfizer and BioNTech suggests their updated Covid-19 vaccine may be more protective against more recent Omicron subvariants than the original version of the vaccine. They report that neutralizing antibodies targeting the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants of the virus were four times higher in people aged 55 and older who received the bivalent booster than in similarly aged people who received a original booster.
The FDA said health providers prescribing abortion medication to people who aren’t pregnant are acting without its authorization and that the practice is potentially dangerous for patients. “The FDA is concerned about the advance prescribing of mifepristone for this use,” an FDA spokesperson said, “Mifepristone is not approved for advance provision of a medical abortion.”
A North Dakota judge ruled that he will keep the state’s ban on abortion from taking effect, saying there’s a “substantial probability” that a constitutional challenge to the law will succeed. The ruling means abortion is still legal in North Dakota, though the state’s only clinic shut down as it challenged the ban and has moved across the border to neighboring Minnesota.
A Missouri hospital that refused a woman a medical abortion because of the state’s ban on the procedure is under investigation by the state’s health agency to determine if federal law was broken. The Federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services authorized the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act investigation of the hospital. The Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, a 1986 federal law, prohibits hospitals with emergency departments from refusing to treat people with an emergency medical condition.