House votes to reauthorize bio, chemical countermeasure programs

The bill is similar to one the House approved last year, but which the Senate never considered. The legislation reauthorizes several programs under the Public Health Service Act for five years, at 2012 funding levels.

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House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) said during today's brief debate that the reauthorization of these programs is critical to continuing the development of various vaccines and other countermeasures to possible terrorist attacks against the United States.

"The threat of bioterrorism remains a very real danger indeed to the American people," Rogers said. "[T]he work to protect Americans against bio-terrorism is not finished, and we must pass this bill or the future of America's public health preparedness infrastructure will be in jeopardy."

Rogers reiterated today that the bill was developed with the help of both parties, and from members of the House and Senate.

Similar legislation passed last year in a 383-16 vote, and Republicans called up the new bill under a suspension of the rules, a process it uses often for non-controversial bills. House passage sends the bill to the Senate.

Immediately after the vote, members voted 0-416 against adjourning. Members have held three of these votes to adjourn so far in the new Congress, and each one has failed — they appear to be token procedural votes meant to show that members want to stay and work, but each one has been held without any debate or explanation for why these votes are being requested.

But with no other work scheduled, members followed the vote against adjourning with a series of speeches.