Here's the scoop on what's happening this week in Congress
September 23, 2022
This Week in Congress
House and Senate
Both chambers were in session this week.
This week Senate Majority Leader Schumer took the first step toward passing the CR and setting up a final vote for next week. The CR will continue funding at the FY’22 level until December 16. Congressional leaders and appropriators are expected to spend the weekend working out the details of the legislation. The package will likely include the energy infrastructure permitting legislation that Senator Manchin sponsored, but the provision would require 60 votes in the Senate, and with some Republicans opposition for adding the bill to the CR, the fate of the Manchin provision is unclear.
Senator Manchin’s Infrastructure Permitting System
The bill would set a two-year target for reviews of major projects and shorten the statute of limitations for legal challenges. The legislation is intended to streamline the permitting process outlined under the National Environmental Policy Act. Manchin said the changes are necessary to ensure that renewable infrastructure projects can be constructed on a reasonable timeline. The bill can be found here:
Additional Critical Funding
Still being discuss is the White House’s additional $47 billion emergency funding requests for Ukraine ($13.7 billion), Covid-19 preparedness ($22.4 billion), monkeypox ($4.5) and natural disasters ($6.5 billion).
FDA User Fees
A Senate deal for a five-year reauthorization on FDA user fees could also be included in the CR. The bill would ensure the agency can pay staff in charge of product reviews and approvals for prescription drugs, biologics and medical devices.
This week, by a vote of 229-203, the House passed legislation to raise the bar for objections to presidential election results, the first step to overhaul the 135-year-old Electoral Count Act of 1887. The legislation was sponsored by Reps. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.). A similar bill is working its way through the Senate, and final action to merge the two versions of the bill won’t take place until after the November midterm elections. One goal of the bill is to make clear that the vice president’s role at the electoral count is ministerial. The House legislation would raise the threshold needed for Congress to consider an objection to a state’s Electoral College votes from a single objector in each chamber to one-third of the House and Senate; the Senate’s version of the bill sets a one-fifth threshold. The bill can be found here
Other Legislation and Happenings Around the Nation
Congressional Briefing: Challenges on the Front Lines of Monkeypox
On September 20, 2022, the National Coalition of STD Directors, Infectious Diseases Society of America, and HIV Medicine Association – in cooperation with Senator Merkley, Representative Cicilline, and the Congressional LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus – presented a congressional briefing to hear from health departments and providers about the challenges they are facing on the front lines in their daily work to mitigate the monkeypox outbreak in the United States. The Speakers included:
Philip Chan, MD, MS – Associate Professor, Brown University; Chief Medical Officer, Open Door Health Sexual Health Clinic, Rhode Island
Katie Macomber, MPH – Director, Division of HIV/STD Programs for Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, Michigan
Lilian M. Abbo, MD, FIDSA – Professor, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine; IDSA Board Member, Florida
Monkeypox cases are declining in many areas of the country, but the Biden administration is warning that the virus still poses a danger and is pushing for lawmakers to approve its multibillion-dollar funding request to combat it. More than 23,000 infections have been confirmed in the U.S. during the outbreak, but the growth has slowed. Cases have dropped about 50 percent in the past month, according to the CDC, from an average of 440 cases a day on Aug. 16 to 170 cases a day on Sept. 14.
Can Monkeypox Be Eliminated in the US?
With monkeypox cases on the decline nationally, federal health officials expressed optimism this week that the virus could be eliminated in the US, though they cautioned that unless it was wiped out globally, Americans would remain at risk. “Our goal is to eradicate; that’s what we’re working toward,” Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, the deputy coordinator of the White House monkeypox response team, said during a visit to a monkeypox vaccination clinic in Washington. He added, “The prediction is, we’re going to get very close.”
Rates of common sexually transmitted infections sharply increased in the US last year, alarming some health officials and sexual health advocates who argue the country needs to do more to stop the spread of preventable diseases. New cases of syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia all increased in 2021, according to preliminary data from the CDC. The number of new syphilis infections surged 26% between 2020 and 2021. That’s compared to a 7% increase in new syphilis infections from 2019 to 2020. Rates of chlamydia and gonorrhea also increased from 2020 to 2021, with the number of these three common infections increasing 4.4% overall last year.
Dr. Leandro Mena of the CDC said “It is imperative that we … work to rebuild, innovate, and expand (STD) prevention in the U.S.”
NCSD Executive Director David Harvey, called the situation “out of control.”
The new bivalent (two-strain) Moderna COVID-19 vaccine booster triggered stronger neutralizing antibody responses against the highly transmissible Omicron variant at 28 days than the previously authorized booster, with no safety concerns, according to the interim results of a phase 2/3 open-label, nonrandomized study published late last week in the New England Journal of Medicine. “These findings indicate that bivalent vaccines may be a new tool in the response to emerging variants,” the researchers wrote. Clinical studies that evaluated the safety of the boosters made by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna found that each was associated with many of the same side effects as the original vaccines. They included pain, redness and swelling at the injection site; fatigue; headache; muscle pain; chills; joint pain; and fever.
Canada Drops Vaccine Mandate for Entry
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has signed off on Canada dropping the vaccine requirement for people entering the country, beginning September 30. The US still requires foreign nationals to be vaccinated when entering the country. No change in the US mandate is expected in the near future.
Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology
By a vote of 56-40, the Senate confirmed Arati Prabhakar to be the first women and person of color to lead the White House Office of Science and Technology, Prabhakar, is an engineer and former director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
Indiana: An Indiana judge blocked the state from enforcing its new law banning most abortions while Planned Parenthood and other healthcare providers challenge it in court. The judge ruled that Planned Parenthood and the other providers had shown a “reasonable likelihood” that the law’s “significant restriction of personal autonomy” violates the Indiana constitution.
Idaho: Attorneys for the State of Idaho asked the judge to reconsider his decision blocking the state from enforcing a strict abortion ban in medical emergencies, saying the judge misinterpreted both state and federal law and then issued the ruling.
Montana: A referendum on the Montana ballot in November raises the prospect of criminal charges for health care providers unless they take “all medically appropriate and reasonable actions to preserve the life” of an infant born alive, including after an attempted abortion.