Policy Update: Budget Agreement Act, Appropriations and the VACCINES Act.
Budget Agreement Act cleared by Congress; FY 2020 Appropriations process to resume in September
Congress is in recess until September 9. Prior to heading out of town for the August recess, Congress cleared the Bipartisan Budget Act (BBA) of 2019 and sent it to President Trump for signature. The BBA lifts the caps imposed by the Budget Control Act on discretionary spending for fiscal years (FY) 2020 and 2021, and raises the debt limit ceiling through July 2021.
All eyes will be on the Senate Appropriations Committee when Congress returns in September. After setting spending allocations, the Senate is expected to begin marking up appropriations bills on or around September 12.
ASM joins CDC's AMD Office for State Lab visit in Jefferson City, MO
Because Members of Congress and many of their staff are working in the district over the month of August, the recess presents an excellent opportunity to hold programs and facility tours "outside the Beltway" for congressional offices. ASM partnered with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)'s National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases (NCEZID) and the CDC Office of Advanced Molecular Detection (AMD) to host a site visit to the Missouri State Public Health Laboratory in Jefferson City on August 13. CDC NCEZID Deputy Director Chris Braden and CDC's Office of AMD Director Greg Armstrong, with MO public health laboratory staff, led a program that focused on the importance of AMD and included a laboratory tour for Missouri congressional delegation staff. The offices of Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), Rep. Billy Long (R-MO) and Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO) were represented.
The Missouri lab has transitioned this summer to whole genome sequencing from pulsed-field gel electrophoresis, and it is also strategically important for CDC leadership and for ASM given Sen. Blunt's influence on CDC's funding. The role that AMD played in addressing outbreaks like the Zika virus emergence in 2016 was highlighted, along with the importance of AMD to addressing antimicrobial resistance and its application to food safety measures—including the use of PulseNET for surveillance. The agriculture angle is particularly important to MO, since the state lab supports not only local health departments and newborn screening at hospitals, but also the department of agriculture and veterinary diagnostics.
Sponsors of the VACCINES Act seek support from ASM
Due to the recent measles outbreaks, Congress has been working in a bipartisan way to counter the anti-vaccination movement and ensure federal resources are targeted appropriately to prevent future outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases. Representatives Kim Schrier (D-WA), a freshman and pediatrician, and Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX), ranking member on the Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Health and an obstetrician, introduced the Vaccine Awareness Campaign to Champion Immunization Nationally and Enhance Safety (VACCINES) Act (H.R. 2862).The VACCINES Act gives CDC the resources to gather information on and track trends in anti-vaccination rates. This would allow the agency to work with state and local governments to better target science-based educational resources to combat misinformation and increase public information on the benefits of immunization and vaccination rates.
As you know, ASM has been vocal this year on the importance of vaccines, submitting statements for the record to both House and Senate Committees in response to hearings on the measles. ASM also has reached out to the sponsors of this bills and other key offices to provide a science-based perspective on vaccine research and development. As a result, the bill sponsors requested a letter of support from the Society for the VACCINES Act. Based on our discussions on the bill with Congressional offices and with CDC, we believe the legislation is a strong and logical step forward, and takes an evidence-based and targeted approach to addressing vaccine hesitancy and areas of the country where vaccination rates have dropped.