Sen. Cleland to Introduce Bill to Boost CDC Authority
Sen. Max Cleland (D-Ga.) said yesterday that he plans to introduce legislation that would name the CDC "primary responder" in bioterrorism cases and allow the agency to have "first access" to bioterrorism crime scenes to determine the "magnitude of any health risk," Cox News Service/Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. He said that under his plan, the FBI would have to "cede some authority" to CDC officials. "I'm pressing it forward," Cleland said yesterday after a Senate Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on bioterrorism. Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.), who chairs the committee, said that he may support the legislation (Eversley, Cox News Service/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 11/1). During the hearing, several health experts criticized the CDC's response to recent anthrax incidents and the agency's "often conflicting or erroneous statements." Tara O'Toole, director of the Johns Hopkins University Center for Civilian Biodefense Studies, said that the "government is doing a terrible job of communicating what is going on" (Mishra/Donnelly, Boston Globe, 11/1). Cleland, however, "strongly defended" the agency (Cox News Service/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 11/1). "The CDC is basically shut out. We've got a hodgepodge of executive orders and statutes with really no protocol on how to deal with a biological or chemical attack," he said (McMurray, AP/Nando Times, 10/31). Many health experts also have called criticism of the CDC "largely unfair." Katherine O'Brien, an infectious disease specialist at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, said, "We in the United States expect immediate gratification, immediate results, and expect anything to get solved immediately. But how can you be prepared for something you don't know how to be prepared for? In my view, there is no other organization in the world that would respond any better than the CDC" (Boston Globe, 11/1).
In the House, Reps. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) and Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) today plan to send a letter to House and Senate budget negotiators to ask for $250 million in additional funding in the FY 2002 Labor-HHS appropriations bill to improve CDC buildings and facilities. Rep. John Linder (R-Ga.) and Chambliss also plan to draft legislation, which they may introduce this week, to boost CDC funding (Eversley, Cox News Service/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 11/1). Meanwhile, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) said that he may call for congressional hearings to address the "lack of answers" that federal authorities have offered to "basic questions" about the investigation of recent anthrax incidents (Meyer/Lichtblau, Los Angeles Times, 11/1).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.