House Passes Bioterrorism Bill to Boost U.S. Response
The House yesterday voted 418-2 to approve a $2.7 billion bill (HR 3448) to improve U.S. preparedness in the event of a bioterrorist attack, the Wall Street Journal reports (Wall Street Journal, 12/13). The legislation, sponsored by Rep. W.J. "Billy" Tauzin (R-La.) and Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), would provide $1 billion to help state and local health agencies improve communications, upgrade laboratories and train employees to address bioterrorist attacks (Rovner, CongressDaily/AM, 12/13). The bill also would:
- Provide $450 million to upgrade CDC facilities and $1 billion to allow HHS to expand the national stockpile of antibiotics and vaccines.
- Require labs "possessing the 36 most deadly biological agents" to register in a national database (Carter, AP/Nando Times, 12/12).
- Allow state and local health agencies to stockpile potassium iodide, a drug used to treat the effects of radiation exposure, and distribute the drug to individuals who reside within 20 miles of a nuclear power facility in the event of a release of radiation.
- Expand Department of Energy research on systems to detect bioterrorism agents such as anthrax (Wall Street Journal, 12/13).
- Provide $100 million to develop emergency response plans to protect drinking water and $100 million to improve food safety (AP/Nando Times, 12/12).
- Stop imports of food shipments "suspected of being contaminated" and require food processors and distributors to maintain records "detailing the source and distribution of food" (Carroll, Wall Street Journal, 12/13).
- Establish a National Task Force on Children and Terrorism to train doctors and health care personnel on care for children affected by biological and chemical agents, research dosages of medicine and ensure that the federal government includes pediatric drugs in the national stockpile (Machacek, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, 12/13).
The Wall Street Journal reports that the House "rebuffed" for-profit hospitals that wanted the government to reimburse them for bioterrorist cleanup costs. Under current law, only not-for-profit facilities qualify for federal disaster assistance. A similar $3.2 billion bill (S 1715) sponsored by Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) has "stalled" in the Senate (Wall Street Journal, 12/13).
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