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November 6, 2007

2007

November 6, 2007

Headline

Global TB Bill Passes House

In a victory for global TB control efforts, the global tuberculosis bill the Stop TB Now Act, H.R. 1567, passed the House of Representatives on November 5. The bill, sponsored by Reps. Engel (D-NY), Wilson (R-NM) and Smith (D-WA), passed the House with overwhelming bipartisan support on a voice vote.

The bill provides authority and resources for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to play a leading role in eradicating TB worldwide by expanding programs aimed at stopping the spread of TB in high burden countries. Specifically, the bill will:

  • Enhance US technical assistance in responding to the global drug resistant TB crisis.
  • Support global TB control activities, including expansion of directly observed treatment short-course (DOTS) coverage, strengthening of health systems, and promotion of the International Standards of TB Care.
  • Increase US funding for international TB control with up to $400 million in FY09 for USAID's TB programs & $70 million for CDC's global TB activities.

The Senate version of the Stop TB Now Act, S. 968, sponsored by Sens. Boxer (D-CA) and Smith (R-OR), is awaiting a Senate floor vote, expected within the next few weeks. ATS members are asked to contact their two Senators to request their cosponsorship of S. 968.

Tuberculosis

Senate Committee Hearing on Domestic TB

The U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee held a hearing this week that examined domestic tuberculosis (TB) control and research challenges, and legislation that would address these needs. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), sponsor of the Comprehensive TB Elimination Act, S. 1551, chaired the hearing, which featured testimony from Kenneth G. Castro, MD, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Division of TB Elimination, ATS member and Stop TB USA chair Randall Reves, MD, Thomas R. Frieden, MD, Commissioner, New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and Jerald Sadoff, MD, President of the AERAS Global TB Vaccine Foundation.

While Dr. Castro's testimony emphasized the threat that drug resistant TB poses to the U.S. and the extensive TB research TB that the agency administers, Dr. Reves used the story of a TB patient in Denver to illustrate the strengths and weaknesses of state public health systems and emphasized the need for new TB diagnostic and treatment tools. The panel's members questioned the witnesses about ongoing TB research and specific preparedness for combating drug resistant TB. Following the hearing, the next step for the Comprehensive TB Elimination Act, S. 1551, is a HELP committee vote scheduled for November 14.

All ATS members and friends are urged to contact their two Senators to request their cosponsorship of the bill, with a special focus on HELP Committee members.

Research

Annual Health Research and Services Spending Bill Heads for Final Votes

Members of a House and Senate conference committee this week finalized the Fiscal Year 2008 Labor-Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations (L-HHS) bill. This annual spending bill funds all health research and services.

The final L-HHS bill includes $30 billion for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a $100 million increase over the original Senate allocation of $29.9 billion and a 3.8% increase over the FY 2007 level for NIH. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also fares better under the final bill, with an additional $123 million allocated by the conferees over the higher Senate amount, putting the total for CDC in FY08 at $6.2 billion, a 4.5% increase over the FY07 level.

The final L-HHS bill is expected to go to a House floor vote on Wednesday (November 7), to be followed by a Senate vote within a few days. Congressional leaders have announced that they intend to combine the L-HHS bill with the Veterans Affairs and Defense Appropriations bills and send them to the President as a omnibus package. The President has indicated that he will veto the entire package.

ATS members are encouraged to contact Congress and express support for enactment of the L-HHS/VA funding bill. To send a message to your Congressional delegation, please visit the ATS website at:

http://www.thoracic.org/sections/about-ats/advocacy/contact-congress.html

Labor, Health and Human Services Bill Includes Open Access Provision

The final L-HHS bill moving through Congress this week includes a provision requiring all manuscripts from NIH funded grants to be deposited at NIH PubMedCentral for public access within 12 months of publication. Many with the non-profit scientific community, including the ATS, have expressed concern that mandated public access to could harm the academic journals. The ATS currently participates in a voluntary program with NIH where the ATS automatically deposits NIH-funded journal articles with PubMedCentral. The Bush administration, in outlining their concerns with the overall spending level of the L-HHS appropriations bill specifically took issue with the open access provision. In their Statement of Administrative Policy, the White House states, "The Administration notes that NIH's current policy requesting the voluntary submission of manuscripts has only been in effect for 2 years, and the Administration believes there is opportunity to work with Congress to study the current policy and consider ways to encourage better participation. The Administration believes that any policy should balance the benefit of public access to taxpayer supported research against the possible impact that grant conditions could have on scientific research publishing, scientific peer review and on the United States' longstanding leadership upholding strong standards of protection for intellectual property."

VA Research Receives $480 Million in Conference Agreement

The VA Research Program received $480 million in the House-Senate conference agreement on VA spending, an increase of $67 million over base line spending. While the increase is encouraging, it is $20 million less than the Senate provided for the VA research program.

The ATS will continue to urge Congress and the Administration to provide increased funding for the VA research program.

Clean Air

EPA Staff Recommends Stricter Lead Standard

Last week, the staff at EPA released a document reviewing research on the health effects of lead pollution as part of the process to review the EPA Clean Air Act standard for lead. In that document, EPA staff recommend that EPA is a more strict standard in the range of 0.2 micrograms per cubic meter (ug/m^3) to 0.05 ug/m^3. The current standard for air borne lead is 1.5 mg/m^3.

While the staff paper represents the professional judgment of EPA staff and does not obligate the EPA Administrator to adopt the recommendations, the staff recommendation does help set the agenda for discussion of the EPA standard for lead. In response to court action, the EPA is obligated to issue a proposed standard for lead by May 1, 2008 and a final rule by September 1, 2008.

The EPA staff paper is welcome news to air pollution control advocates and is a marked change from earlier policy options considered by EPA. EPA has recently floated the possibility of completely eliminating the lead standard.



Points of Contact

Gary Ewart Senior Director, Government Relations
Nuala Moore Senior Legislative Representative
Joe Kirby DC Office Administrator