Wednesday, December 19, 2012

House Passes HR 6672 – Emergency Response

Today the House passed HR 6672, the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Reauthorization Act of 2012, by a bipartisan vote (383-16) that matched the bipartisan sponsorship of the bill. In fact, according to a press release from Rep. Rogers (R,MI) it was “developed after months of work and careful deliberation between leaders in the two chambers [House and Senate]”.

Chemical Facility Coverage

Most of the bill is outside of the coverage of this blog as it deals with public health matters. Updating and reauthorizing programs associated with the Public Health Service Act. It does, however, have specific applications to chemical security and safety programs in that it modifies that Act to expand pandemic response “to advance countermeasures to diagnose, mitigate, prevent, or treat harm from any biological agent or toxin, chemical, radiological, or nuclear agent or agents, whether naturally occurring, unintentional, or deliberate” {§101(a)(2) added (7)(A) to 42 USC 300hh-1}. This could be used to expand the medical response capability to large scale chemical accidents or terrorist attacks on chemical facilities.

Additionally the bill would help to “identify and prioritize near-, mid-, and long-term needs with respect to such countermeasures or products to address a chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear threat or threats” {§102(a) added (d)(2)(C) to 42 USC 300hh-10}.

While this bill may be of strategic assistance to emergency response planners it misses, as do all of these types of bills, the tactical connection that would allow the measures to become useful at the community level. As long as there is not a requirement for fixed facilities with large quantities of toxic inhalation chemicals or other chemicals with acute medical hazards to report those chemicals to local medical treatment facilities there will be not be prepared to treat large numbers of casualties from accidental or deliberate catastrophic releases.

Last Minute Politics

This bill was introduced on Monday by Rogers, et al, and was brought to the floor today under suspension of the rules before the GPO even had a copy of the bill printed (the link in the first paragraph goes to a Committee Print). It is extremely odd that this bill would take so long into the session to get to the House floor, especially with the backing it has received.

Given the fast action in the House, the bipartisan support, and the reported fact that House and Senate leaders worked together on putting this bill together, I expect that this bill will be considered in the Senate tomorrow and will pass under unanimous consent.

Possible Thorn in Passage

This is kind of a stretch, but for bills to pass by ‘unanimous consent’ they have to be relatively free of controversy. This bill seems like it fits the bill until one gets down to page 70 of the Committee print. There the bill (§304) is amending the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, 21 USC 360bbb-4, by adding paragraph (c) Final Guidance on Development of Animal Models.

If PETA or other animal rights or anti-vivisection people were to discover this provision, they might be able to raise enough controversy to stop the Senate from passing this bill this week or this year. Come to think of it, that may be why this is coming on so fast and furious when no one is watching the small things in Congress.

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