Health Update (November 15)
Senate Approps Releases FY2021 Spending Bills
On Tuesday (Nov. 10), the Senate Appropriations Committee released all 12 appropriations bills for FY2021. The bills were released without having been put forward for full committee markups.
“By and large, these bills are the product of bipartisan cooperation among members of the committee. As negotiations with the House begin in earnest, I look forward to working with Chairwoman Lowey, Vice Chairman Leahy, and Ranking Member Granger to resolve our differences in a bipartisan manner,” Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) said in a statement.
To view the committee announcement, click here.
The FY2021 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor-H) bill includes a $1.9 billion increase in funding, amounting to a base of $96.3 billion in discretionary funding. Health initiatives that received increased funding include: mental health programs, the President’s HIV Initiative, opioid and substance abuse programs, early childhood programs, and public health preparedness initiatives.
Notably, the CDC would receive an additional $130 million to assist communities during the COVID-19 pandemic, FDA would receive an additional $40 million in discretionary funding, and NIH would receive an additional $2 billion. The proposal also includes $24 million for hospitals to improve disaster planning and $50 million to expand Project Bioshield.
To view the Labor-H bill text, click here.
To view the committee’s Labor-H explanatory statement, click here.
To view a summary of the Labor-H bill, click here.
Following the release of the bills, Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) expressed frustration over Shelby’s decision to cancel the markups and described the Labor-H bill as “woefully inadequate.” Leahy claimed the bill failed to make significant investment in public health infrastructure.
The House passed 10 of the 12 of its appropriations bills back in July. If approved by the Senate, the two chambers would need to reconcile their spending packages to avoid a government shutdown. However, lawmakers could turn to another continuing resolution (CR) to avoid a shutdown.
Current government funding will expire Dec. 11.
The current government funding battle is further complicated by talks surrounding an additional COVID-19 relief package before the end of the year. Party leaders on both sides have indicated intent to complete another package, however, no significant progress on resolving key issues has been made.
2020 Election Updatete
The Presidency: On Saturday (Nov. 7), all of the major networks, including the Associated Press, announced former Vice-President Joe Biden had defeated President Donald Trump to become the 46th President of the U.S.
The Trump campaign has filed various lawsuits in swing states challenging the results, and Judges in Georgia, Michigan, and Nevada have already rejected its cases. Experts appear skeptical that the ongoing litigation could change or have a significant impact on the presidential race.
Leaders from across the world have already started to congratulate Biden on his victory.
House of Representatives: Democrats retained the House majority with a 219-202 margin with 14 races left to be called. Republicans had a net gain of six House seats and are expected to expand that margin. NBC News projects Democrats will hold a 224-211 majority in the House. Prior to the election, Democrats held 232 seats. At this point, the party will likely lose various seats on crucial committees, including Ways and Means.
Senate: This week, Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Dan Sullivan (R-AK) won re-election. Both seats in Georgia will be officially determined in a runoff on January 5, 2021. Notably, on Monday (Nov. 9) Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) said that if there is a 50-50 split he would not vote to end the filibuster or “pack the courts.”
Biden-Harris Transition Plans
Following the announcement of their projected victory, President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris have begun work on their transition teams and planning.
Trump’s refusal to concede has limited the resources and information available to the Biden-Harris transition. However, at a Tuesday (Nov. 10) press conference, the President-elect noted this will not slow down the transition team’s work or prevent an effective transition in January.
Biden is expected to begin announcing his picks for key cabinet positions next month, and has indicated top health officials are a priority for his team.
On Tuesday (Nov. 10) the transition team announced the members of its agency review teams.
To view the announcement, click here.
Combatting COVID-19: Biden and Harris have made combatting COVID-19 one of their four transition priorities – the other three being economic recovery, racial equity, and climate change.
The Biden-Harris plan to beat COVID-19 includes:
- Ensuring all Americans have access to regular, reliable, and free testing;
- Fixing personal protective equipment (PPE) problems for good;
- Providing clear, consistent, evidence-based guidance for how communities should navigate the pandemic – and the resources for schools, small businesses, and families to make it through;
- Planning for the effective, equitable distribution of treatments and vaccines;
- Protecting older Americans and others at high risk;
- Rebuilding and expanding defenses to predict, prevent, and mitigate pandemic threats, including those coming from China;
- And, implementing mask mandates nationwide by working with governors and mayors.
For more in depth detail on these proposals, click here.
On Monday (Nov. 9), the Biden-Harris transition team announced a new COVID-19 advisory board. The 13 member committee consists of medical experts who will advise the President-elect on how to handle the surge in COVID-19 cases, distribute a potential vaccine, manage PPE, and ensure at-risk populations receive proper treatments.
The panel will be chaired by David A. Kessler, former FDA Commissioner, Vivek Murthy, former Vice-Admiral of the US Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, and Marcella Nunez-Smith, Associate Professor of Internal Medicine, Public Health, and Management at Yale University and the Associate Dean for Health Equity Research at the Yale School of Medicine.
Notably, former Director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) Dr. Rick Bright, who was fired earlier this year by the Trump administration, is a member of the advisory board. Bright has been a staunch critic of the administration’s COVID-19 response efforts.
To view the official announcement, click here.
In addition to the advisory board, Biden has formed a special transition team to coordinate a COVID-19 response across government agencies. The team consists of 52 transition officials and is mostly separate from the COVID-19 advisory board, however, it is expected the board and transition team will coordinate their efforts.
The group includes three specialties: domestic work, national security/foreign policy work, and tech strategy delivery. The “central team,” composed of transition officials, will coordinate plans with transition officials assigned to certain agencies, including HHS.
CDC Releases Summary of State Distribution Plans
The CDC released a summary of the state by state plans to develop, distribute, and administer a COVID-19 vaccine. The high level summaries provide an overview of each state’s COVID-19 vaccine capacity planning, and highlights the CDC’s and Operation Warp Speed (OWS) efforts to increase provider recruitment and enrollment. The CDC is also working with states to ensure they have proper technology to track COVID-19 vaccine data.
To view the summaries, click here.
HHS Expands COVID-19 Pharmacy Partnerships
On Thursday (Nov. 12), HHS announced additional partnerships with large chain pharmacies and networks that represent independent pharmacies and regional chains. These partnerships will help facilitate COVID-19 vaccine distribution and administration across 60 percent of U.S. states and territories.
To view the HHS announcement, click here.
Cancryn, Adam, “Biden forms special Covid transition team,” Politico Pro, 11 Nov. 2020. https://link.edgepilot.com/s/3a8a14ae/jraGO3MRf0CRrj9WN22cmA?u=https://www.politico.com/news/2020/11/11/biden-covid-transition-team-436089