Back grey_arrow_rt.gif
Ryan White Act Passes House
  AIDS Programs, NIH Reorganization and Bioterrorism Bills Set to Become Law
By Alex Wayne, CQ Staff, 6:22am
Congress successfully untied a legislative knot Dec. 9 involving federal AIDS programs, the National Institutes of Health, children's health insurance and an anti-terrorism bill.
The tangle involved the priorities of several powerful lawmakers, including House Energy and Commerce Chairman Joe L. Barton, R-Texas; Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Chairman Michael B. Enzi, R-Wyo;, and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., who will take over as chairman of Enzi's panel in January.
Earlier in the week, the Senate amended and then passed a House bill (HR 6143) that would renew federal AIDS programs for low-income patients. Separately, the Senate also passed a bill (S 3678) by Sen. Richard M. Burr, R-N.C., that would renew a bioterrorism law enacted after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and create a new agency to coordinate the research and production of vaccines for potential plagues and biological weapons.
But both bills stalled in the House, as Barton sought to use them as leverage to pressure the Senate to act on one of his top priorities: a bill (HR 6164) to restructure the National Institutes of Health (NIH). That measure aims to limit the growth of the institutes' bureaucracy and finance new kinds of research.
Two days of negotiations across the Capitol ensued, and another issue emerged. Senate Democrats, worried about shortfalls that some states face in their Children's Health Insurance Programs (SCHIP) in fiscal 2007, insisted on legislation that would help states handle the problem.
By the morning of Dec. 8, Democrats described the situation as bleak. "It's basically stalemated," Kennedy said of Barton's NIH bill.
But by that evening, the lawmakers had worked out a solution.
First, the Senate passed Barton's NIH bill by voice vote, amending it to both increase authorized spending for the research agency and redistribute about $271 million within the State Children's Health Insurance Program to help states with their shortfalls, according to Senate Democratic aides. SCHIP is a joint state-federal program that insures low-income children whose families are not poor enough to qualify for Medicaid.
The amendment forced the bill to go back to the House, where it was cleared about an hour and a half later, on a voice vote.
Barton called the bill "a major, major accomplishment of this Congress."
Then the House held brief, late-night debates on the two Senate-passed bills: the three-year reauthorization of federal AIDS programs, called the "Ryan White CARE Act", and Burr's bioterrorism bill.
The Ryan White bill cleared by voice vote. The law governs about $2 billion a year for drugs and services for AIDS and HIV patients.
The bioterrorism bill also cleared by voice vote. It would create the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority to coordinate the research and development of new vaccines.
  icon paper stack View Older Articles   Back to Top