White House Requests Emergency Zika Funding

The Obama Administration has requested $1.8 billion in emergency funding from Congress to combat the Zika virus domestically and abroad. Officials have stressed the importance of fighting the virus before warmer months when mosquito bites become more common. Of the $1.8 billion request, $1.48 billion would go to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and largely directed to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The agency has said that it will work on better diagnostics for the virus and tracking of the people carrying it, with a focus on Puerto Rico and the southern continental United States – where people will be most exposed to the mosquito that carries that virus. Research and education efforts will be concentrated on women who are pregnant or may become pregnant. The CDC will also work to expand mosquito control in Zika-affected countries. $200 million in funding would be set aside for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for the development of a Zika vaccine, which administration officials say is possible as soon as late next year. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) would receive $250 million to treat pregnant women and children who are at risk for or have been diagnosed with Zika in Puerto Rico. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) would receive $335 million in funding, and the State Department would receive $41 million, for the purpose of contributing to the Zika-combating efforts. The CDC moved to Level 1 activation for Zika, its highest level for response, last week. Additionally, more than two dozen leading global health bodies, including government agencies, academic journals, non-governmental organizations, researchers, and institutes, pledged to share their data related to the Zika virus as soon as possible and free of charge.

McConnell: The Senate Should Not Replace Scalia Until After Election

Shortly following the announcement of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s death on Saturday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) signaled that the Senate will wait until after the November elections to confirm Scalia’s replacement. President Obama announced his plan to nominate a successor. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) immediately called for the Senate to begin the process of confirming a nominee to replace the Supreme Court Justice. Since McConnell sets the Senate’s schedule, his remarks indicate that Republicans intend to not confirm any nominee put forward before the November election. Presidential candidate Senator Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) is threatening to filibuster any Supreme Court nominee prior to the election stating, “This should be a decision for the people.”

HELP Releases Agenda for Second Innovations Markup

Following the unanimous approval of the first set of medical innovations legislation, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee released its agenda for its second innovations markup to be held on March 9. The Committee will consider the Advancing Hope Act of 2015 (S. 1878), from Sens. Casey (D-Pa.), Isakson (R-Ga.), Brown (D-Ohio), and Kirk (R-Ill.); the Medical Electronic Data Technology Enhancement for Consumer’s Health (MEDTECH) Act (S. 1101), from Sens. Bennet (D-Colo.) and Hatch (R-Utah); the Medical Countermeasures Innovation Act of 2015 (S. 2055), from Sens. Burr (R-N.C.), Casey (D-Pa.), Isakson (R-Ga.), Roberts (R-Kan.); the Combination Products Innovation Act of 2015 (S.1767), from Sens. Isakson (R-Ga.), Casey (D-Pa.), Donnelly (D-Ind.) and Roberts (R-Kan.); and the Advancing Breakthrough Medical Devices for Patients Act of 2015 (S.1077), from Sens. Burr (R-N.C.), Bennet (D-Colo.), Hatch (R-Utah), and Donnelly (D-Ind.). Additional bipartisan proposals may be added at a later date. To assist your review of the legislation to be considered, Hart Health Strategies Inc. compiled relevant information related to the bills which may be found as an appendix to this document.

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