March 13, 2023
D.C. News | Tea Leaves
  • Assistant White House press secretary Kevin Munoz, who worked on messaging on the coronavirus pandemic and other health policy issues, is set to leave his post later this month. In his role, he worked on COVID-19 issues, from vaccinations and boosters to mask mandates and congressional funding. He also worked on abortion issues in the wake of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, as well as messaging during the baby formula shortage and the mpox outbreak. Munoz’s departure comes amid a period of transition and staff turnover heading into the administration’s third year and a new phase of the pandemic. Details on his next steps were not immediately available, but the exit comes as President Joe Biden is expected to make a reelection announcement in the coming months. (Articles here and here)
  • The House cleared a bill on Friday requiring the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) to declassify information on COVID-19 origins. The bill unanimously passed the House with 419 votes in favor. President Biden hasn’t indicated he’ll veto the bill, so it’s expected to become law, and the DNI will have to declassify information on COVID-19 origins within 90 days and send an unclassified report to Congress. The bill asks officials to release details on coronavirus research performed at the Wuhan Institute of Virology before the outbreak, activities performed by the institute on behalf of the People’s Liberation Army, and researchers who fell ill in the fall of 2019. (Articles here and here)
  • The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) is taking more heat for its proposed drug price model, with more Republicans charging that the agency is undermining the Food and Drug Administration. A group of 18 Senate Republicans blasted CMMI in a letter last week over a proposed CMMI model they say cuts off benefits from the FDA’s accelerated approval pathway, which quickly clears groundbreaking treatments. The political opposition raises questions over the long-term viability of the model, especially if the federal government changes hands after the 2024 election. (Article here; Letter here)