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The congressional response to the Ebola crisis, so far, has focused on hearings about the outbreak in West Africa and assembling initial funding for the U.S. international response effort. Congressional reaction has largely been supportive of U.S. response efforts. However, the first case of a patient diagnosed with Ebola in the United States opens up broader questions on domestic public health issues.
Last week, lawmakers began the partial transfer of Pentagon funding for military-led assistance in Africa. Last month, a stopgap spending bill added additional funds for HHS and CDC Ebola research and response activities. This week, the Texas Ebola case caused CDC and state health officials to scramble to examine 100 people who had contact with the diagnosed patient.
Also this week, Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz inquired about new FAA travel restrictions. Texas Republican Rep. Michael C. Burgess, who is also a physician, suggested an examination of the possibility of suspending travel from selected countries. CQ Roll Call’s David Harrison reported (subscription) on the current CDC position, which allows travel from Africa.
Additionally, isolating an Ebola patient poses expensive logistical concerns for health care providers. If additional domestic Ebola cases emerge, local officials are likely to seek additional federal financial assistance. Also, segregating Ebola patients opens up an examination of the existing authority of federal and state agencies to isolate and quarantine patients. Here is a 2007 (the most recent) Congressional Research Service primer on quarantine authority.
The venerable Congressional Research Service, which advises Congress on a wide-range of major policy issues, recently issued a report for lawmakers on last month’s Supreme Court ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, which struck down the health care overhaul law’s contraceptive services coverage requirements on “closely-held” companies.
Republicans are preparing to vote on a resolution that would pave the way for the House to sue President Barack Obama over his executive actions to delay parts of the Affordable Care Act.
Last week’s Senate vote on a measure intended to roll back the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision prompted new legislation seeking to secure access to contraceptive services from New Jersey Democratic Sen. Cory Booker, plus a bill offered by Illinois Democrat Richard J. Durbin that would confirm recently announced Obama administration guidance on employee notification of omitted contraception coverage.
The Senate this afternoon takes a high-profile procedural vote on a bill that would overturn the Supreme Court’s recent Hobby Lobby decision. Democrats are seeking to modify a religious non-discrimination law to eliminate the possibility of a “closely held” corporation denying contraceptive services coverage due to the religious beliefs of company owners. Republicans have readied an alternative measure that confirms employee access to contraceptives.
Legal experts are mulling the implications of the ongoing delay in the release of an appeals court panel decision on the next legal challenge to the health care overhaul law. Court watchers will be hitting the refresh key on the website for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit each morning this week, looking for a decision on Halbig v. Burwell.
The Supreme Court ended its current term on June 30 with a decision allowing a closely held for-profit company with strong religious beliefs to avoid the 2010 health care law’s contraceptive services coverage mandate. Controversy over the decision was riled by a separate injunction released by the court on July 3, which allows a Christian college in Illinois to also avoid the contraception mandate.