A bill approved by the House subcommittee appropriating health and human services funding would create a $300 million Infectious Disease Rapid Response Reserve Fund at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and give the CDC Director immediate access to funds to respond to future infectious disease emergencies.
Saying he had discussed the establishment of such a fund with CDC Director Tom Frieden, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY) called it a “FEMA for diseases,” (referring the Federal Emergency Management Agency that responds to natural disasters).
Zika funding for the CDC also is include in the bill, but would not be available until October 1, with $390 million slated for vector control, Zika response efforts internationally and in the U.S. territories, and block grants for states and local communities at high risk for Zika transmission.
The bill would boost spending at the National Institutes of Health by $1.25 billion — $750 million less than the amount recommended by the Senate in its companion bill, with a significant portion of the new funding designated for specific research initiatives including research on Alzheimer’s disease and pediatric cancers.
“I view this level as a floor not a ceiling,” subcommittee chairman Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) said, “and hope we can do more as the measure moves forward.“
The bill would eliminate all funding for family planning, a provision House Appropriations Committee lead Democrat Rep. Nita Lowey of New York called “unacceptable.” The bill also would eliminate teen pregnancy prevention programs, and continue funding sexual abstinence programs that evidence has indicated are ineffective. Citing the continuing spread of Zika virus — which causes severe birth defects and can be sexually transmitted — as underscoring the urgent need for family planning services, Lowey, subcommittee ranking Democrat Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, and others offered amendments to restore funding for reproductive health and other programs. These amendments were rejected along party lines.
Next stop: The full House Appropriations Committee.