26: Congressional Priorities

Carolyn Mullen, ASTHO’s Senior Vice President of Government Affairs and Public Relations, outlines Congressional priorities as lawmakers return to Capitol Hill; Dr. Lisa Grohskopf, with the CDC’s Influenza Division, discusses the safety of flu...

Carolyn Mullen, ASTHO’s Senior Vice President of Government Affairs and Public Relations, outlines Congressional priorities as lawmakers return to Capitol Hill; Dr. Lisa Grohskopf, with the CDC’s Influenza Division, discusses the safety of flu vaccines; ASTHO details new career openings; and a microlearning helps ASTHO members navigate the Healthy People 2030 report.

CDC Webpage: Influenza vaccine recommendations

CDC Webpage: Flu information for health professionals

ASTHO: Job opportunities

ASTHO Learning: Preparing for Healthy People 2030

Report: Healthy People 2030


ASTHO logo



This is Public Health Review Morning Edition four Wednesday, September 15th, 2021. I'm Robert Johnson. Here's today's news from the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials. 

Fall is shaping up to be vaccine season. Joining COVID-19 first doses and boosters, the flu vaccine. Public health officials, hoping the flu virus won't catch people off guard. 
It's been 18 months since we last worried about Flu. It was nowhere to be found last year and the CDC is concerned that public immunity may be weakened as a result. 

Dr. Lisa Grohskopf, in the agency's Influenza division, wants people to know flu shots and COVID-19 vaccines are fine together. 


It's no longer necessary to wait 14 days between COVID-19 vaccines and other vaccines. 
There's limited data on getting COVID-19 vaccines with other vaccines, including flu vaccines, but experience with giving other vaccines together has 
shown us that the way our bodies develop an immune response after getting vaccinated and possible side effects are generally similar when vaccines 
are given alone or with other vaccines at the same time. Based on prior experience and our knowledge of immunology, 
we don't anticipate any unusual or unexpected safety problems with giving COVID 19 vaccines and flu vaccines at the same time.


Leaves on the trees around Capitol Hill are beginning to show signs of cooler weather. And that means it's time for Congress to get back to work. 
ASTHO government relations team has been tracking developments in House and Senate agendas. Carolyn Mullen is ASTHO'S Senior Vice President of Government Affairs and Public Relations. 

She talks about the upcoming Congressional agenda in today's morning conversation 

It's fall in the nation's capital. And that means Congress is back from August recess. Carolyn Mullen, what is on their to-do list?


They have a packed agenda this upcoming month. They have to deal with the debt ceiling. They have to fund the federal government. They have to extend Medicaid funding for the US territories. 

They're working on a reconciliation package. They're also working on a bipartisan infrastructure plan. So there's not a whole lot of time to accomplish all of these things and the clock is ticking. 

That's usually the case for Congress too much work to do not enough time to get it done. What about ASTHO's list of priorities? I heard Medicaid funding in there for the territories. So that's one, but what else is on the list? 


We are pushing Congress to provide public health infrastructure funding in both the annual appropriations bills and also the reconciliation package and public health infrastructure funding provides long-term sustainable, predictable, flexible funding for state, local, tribal, and territorial health departments so that when the COVID emergency supplemental funding expires states have certainty when they make hiring decisions today that there'll be able to retain staff and those core capabilities for the long haul. 

We're also watching whether there will be a government shutdown or not. Congress is working really hard to extend the annual appropriations bill prior to October 1, which is the deadline. 

And we're really watching that and concerned about what may happen in the next couple weeks.


Is that your best guess, another continuing resolution like we've seen happen so many times before this time of year?


Congress likes to punt a lot of major decisions, especially when there's so much to do on their docket. So most likely what they will do is approve a short-term continuing 
resolution through December. They most likely will attach the debt ceiling to that. So we don't default, which would have catastrophic consequences to our economic stability. 
So we're really hopeful that Congress will approve a short-term CR and avoid a government shutdown and economic calamity in the next couple of weeks.


Of course, ASTHO members are battling this Delta variant, it's getting worse. It doesn't seem to be letting up at all. How does this whole funding conversation in Washington affect 
the effort that's going on right now in every state and every territory? 

So when Congress punts on annual funding decisions, either on a weekly or monthly basis, and doesn't provide state and territorial health departments with certainty, it can delay decisions. 

It could result in more conservative projections because what states and territories really need is certainty so that they can hire so that they can expand programs. 
And this is just annual funding, unrelated to the pandemic. It's such things as substance abuse and misuse funding, chronic disease funding, funding for community health centers, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. 

So this annual spending package is critically important for the entire public health continuum from benchside to curbside to bedside and everyone's watching what Congress is going to do in the next couple of weeks. 


Public health professionals, thinking of turning over a new leaf should visit ASTHO's careers webpage applications are being accepted for several positions. 
The organization is looking for a senior analyst to work on preparedness and security projects an online community specialist, supporting ASTHO'S members, and a director of information technology. 

Find out more about these and other job opportunities using the link in the show notes. 

Finally, this morning, ASHTO wants to help you navigate the Healthy People 2030 report with a new micro-learning that's available now. 

It's a big report with 355 core objectives. If you'd like some help learning what's new and how to use it to benchmark your own progress at the state and territorial level, 
then this training is for you. Find the link for the micro-learning along with links to everything else we covered today, where we always put them in the show notes. 
Also, remember to follow us on Apple podcasts or Spotify, or listen on Alexa or Google Assistant. And if you have a minute, please take time to leave us a rating and a review. 

Join us tomorrow morning for more ASHTO news and information. 
I'm Robert Johnson. You're listening to Public Health Review Morning Edition. 

Lisa Grohskopf MD MPH

Team Lead, Vaccine Policy Unit, Influenza Division, CDC

Carolyn Mullen

Senior Vice President, Government Affairs & PR, ASTHO