114th Congress and Global Health: Senate HELP and Budget committees see changes in leadership and perspective on global health

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The November 2014 election saw Republicans gain the majority in the Senate, putting both houses of Congress under GOP control for the first time since 2006, and giving the party control over hearings and legislative action with leadership of all committees and subcommittees. As the new Senate majority and continuing House majority set the legislative agenda for the coming session, Science Speaks 114th Congress series this week will look at changes to committees pivotal to global health concerns, including new leaders, new faces, and new subcommittees, with newly defined jurisdictions. You can also check out the IDSA Center for Global Health Policy listing of relevant House and Senate committee and subcommittee membership at the link below.

Committees with jurisdiction that includes funding and oversight of AIDS and TB research and programming get leadership with stances and records on global health issues that include common ground with their votes to reauthorize PEPFAR in 2008

The Senate Budget committee gets new leadership with a Chairman who has voiced a longstanding commitment to global AIDS responses and a Ranking Member with an  approach to lowering the costs of HIV treatment.

220px-Mike_Enzi,_official_portrait,_111th_CongressSen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), the Budget Committee’s new Chairman, visited Africa in August 2003 to acquaint himself firsthand with the impact of HIV in Africa. “We would visit some countries where the disease had already essentially eliminated teenagers,” he wrote. “These are countries where there are also many cases of tuberculosis and malaria, but even then many who die from tuberculosis and malaria do so because their immune system has already been severely weakened by AIDS.” What he saw, he later wrote, led him to help draft the bill that led to the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, and to return to Africa at least seven times in the years that followed. His role in the global AIDS response, Secretary of State John Kerry said at a PEPFAR 10th anniversary commemoration, “would be difficult to overstate.” Sen. Enzi cites PEPFAR’s work among United States foreign relations accomplishments on his web site, and, also on his website, calls for targeted focus on biomedical research and development. He was one of 40 lawmakers to sign a bipartisan, bicameral letter to President Obama in 2013 urging the administration to support treatment for 12 million people by 2016.

Sanders-021507-18335- 0004Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) issued a statement upon his appointment as Budget Committee Ranking Member saying that he is looking forward “to working with Democrats and Republicans on the committee to craft a budget that is fair to all Americans, not just the powerful special interests.” He has  targeted pharmaceutical companies’  long term patents and high prices on drugs to treat HIV, with the introduction during the 112th Congress of S.1138, the Prize Fund for HIV/AIDS Act. The fund, he wrote, would reward medical innovation directly, rather than through lasting monopolies on the products of research, with  money from a $3 billion per year fund specifically for HIV medical innovation. The measure, he wrote, upon introducing the bill would eliminate barriers to generic competition, and spur the development of new drugs. “The cost of the prize fund,” he wrote, would be considerably less than the cost of buying drugs at monopoly prices.” Sanders also was one of the 40 signatories to the 2013 letter urging the Obama adminsitration to expand treatment goals.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension — HELP — Committee,  with oversight of National Institutes of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention programming, will be chaired by  a previous Ranking Member who has looked closely at PEPFAR, while its new Ranking Member is at home with global health research issues.

LAlexandeSen. Lamar Alexander (R- Tenn.) who served as Ranking Member of the committee during the 113th Congress, is the committee’s new Chairman. The senator was one of five (along with Senators Enzi, Richard Burr (R-NC), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) who requested a series of Government Accountability Office reports issued in 2013 on PEPFAR’s treatment costs, expansion, supply chains, and results. He was one of 40 lawmakers to sign the 2013 letter to President Obama  urging  support for 12 million people on HIV treatment by 2016.

murraySen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) now Ranking Member of this committee, Sen. Murray served as Chair of the Budget Committee during the 113th Congress, and also is now Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services and Education, and Related Agencies Subcommittee as noted here Tuesday.

See the IDSA Center for Global Health Policy Guide to the 114th Congress here.


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