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With short blood supplies, Red Cross partners with LGBTQ+ groups to research potential new sources

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WASHINGTON – America needs more blood.

Blood supplies, which typically run at about a five-day stock on hospital shelves, have been reduced to less than a one-day supply of certain blood types, according to Ashley Henyan, communications director for the American Red Cross. That is also the case in the national capital region.

Blood already has a limited 42-day shelf life, and blood platelets last only five days. Regular donors would have to roll up their sleeves once every 56 days to give the Red Cross the reserve it is more accustomed to.

The shortages come as the Red Cross, in a study funded by the Food and Drug Administration, examines the viability of changing existing donation rules to permit gay and bisexual men to donate blood without a long waiting period after their last sexual contact with other men.


The blood shortage and looming expiration dates of the blood available on the shelves also pose additional difficulties to a medical system already experiencing severe challenges during the COVID pandemic.

Blood donations usually see a decrease in the summer months, throughout the holiday season, and during the winter months. Outside of these time periods, donations typically increase.

“We’re just not seeing it bounce back,” Henyan told Capital News Service. “So because it stayed at this low point for so many months in a row now, that’s what’s making it a crisis.”

Henyan also pointed out that blood “cannot be manufactured, it cannot be produced, and it cannot be stockpiled,” factors that make a steady supply of donors absolutely critical to resolving the shortage. She also cited that there is currently “less than a one-day” supply for Maryland and the District of Columbia.

“It’s kind of leading to this perfect storm where we’re unable to collect as much, but you need more,” said Kate Fry, CEO of America’s Blood Centers, an organization that works alongside the Red Cross and helps distribute donated blood to regions where it needs to be.

Fry also works to counteract misinformation about blood donation during the pandemic. “If you’re vaccinated or unvaccinated, you can still donate blood,” she said.

Despite the blood shortages, the FDA still has policies in place barring men from donating blood until three months after their most recent sexual encounter with other men.

This three-month period replaced a 12-month period in the spring of 2020, an attempt by the FDA to allow more flexibility in blood donations during a shortage. However, the changed guidance isn’t sufficient to solve the shortage problem, or include sexually-active gay and bisexual men in more frequent blood donations, according to Henyan.

“I think it’s unfortunate how many gay and bisexual men feel excluded, not just are excluded, but actually feel excluded from donating blood,” said Christian Morris, a recruitment specialist with the Whitman-Walker Institute, a Washington-based LGBTQ research, policy, and advocacy organization founded in 1973 as an HIV clinic.

Morris has recruited almost 300 participants with the Whitman-Walker Institute for what is being called “the Assessing Donor Variability and New Concepts in Eligibility,” or ADVANCE, study.

The study “hopes to provide evidence to repeal the current policy that discriminates against the participation of gay and bisexual men in donating blood,” according to Morris. Instead, the donation policy could be changed to rely on a case-by-case risk assessment for each potential donor.

Josh Sorbe, a 24-year-old participant from Washington, found out about the ADVANCE study through Twitter and decided to donate blood at the Washington location because it was a way to give back during Pride Month in October.

Sorbe told CNS the whole process took three weeks and included a health history questionnaire and donating four vials of blood. He said he hopes that the study will modernize FDA guidance on donating blood.

“A lot of data is rooted potentially in homophobia from the 20th century and this groundbreaking study really allows us to bring the discussion about blood eligibility donation requirements into 2022,” Sorbe said.

While the ADVANCE study is still ongoing, Morris said he is “confident” that the FDA policy on gay and bisexual men donating blood will be updated within the next couple of years.

For Sorbe, updated guidance would be deeply satisfying.

“The queer community…is willing to step up when people need help, and the fact that some of the most likely givers are still ruled out from archaic eligibility requirements is absurd to me,” he said. “So, I’m really hoping this allows us to have the conversation (of) who can donate blood. It’s super easy, it’s not hard to do and it’s one of the best things you can do that can change someone’s life.”

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Cyclist groups seek to delay demolition of old Nice Bridge over Potomac

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An aerial view of the new Governor Harry W. Nice Memorial/Senator Thomas “Mac” Middleton Bridge over the Potomac River. (Courtesy of the Maryland Transportation Authority)

 

As Maryland prepares to demolish the historic Nice/Middleton Bridge that connects the southern part of the state with Virginia over the Potomac River, bicycle advocates are seeking to delay those plans until the completion of an impact study.

The bicycle advocacy groups, which include Potomac Heritage Trail Association, Dahlgren Railroad Heritage Association, and Oxon Hill Bicycle and Trail Club, allege in a complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, that state agencies, including the Maryland Transportation Authority, violated state and federal environmental review laws by changing the project from its original conception and failing to study the impact of demolishing the bridge. The groups asking for a temporary restraining order to halt the demolition also allege that the authority lacks the power to destroy the bridge under environmental laws.

“Using explosives to demolish parts of the Historic Nice Bridge or the rubble from the bridge to create a ‘reef’ has not been evaluated appropriately for the impact on the natural habitat and human environment, including the taking of endangered species or disruption of their habitats,” the complaint states.


The plaintiffs also allege that the defendants never considered the “cumulative effects” of the construction plan and the potential demolition of the old bridge on human, environmental and historic resources, as well as on publicly or privately owned landmark sites listed or eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places.

The old Governor Harry W. Nice Memorial/Senator Thomas “Mac” Middleton Bridge, which opened in December 1940, is adjacent to the new four-lane replacement bridge.

A view of the toll booth in front of the Harry W. Nice Memorial Bridge shortly after it was completed. (Courtesy of the Maryland Transportation Authority)

In November 2016, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan promised a pedestrian and bicycle lane would be built alongside the new bridge’s vehicle lanes amid community access concerns and to mitigate the impact of destroying the historic bridge.

However, in 2019, the Maryland Transportation Authority approved a bridge plan that excluded the project’s originally conceived $64 million, 10-foot two-way path.

Last July, U.S. lawmakers asked Maryland Department of Transportation Secretary James Ports. Jr. to delay destroying the historic bridge pending an evaluation.

Ports responded that the authority would proceed with its plan.

The bicycle advocacy groups included in their complaint the Maryland Department of Transportation and Maryland Transportation Authority, as well as the U.S. Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration for providing “permissions and funding necessary for the project without having undertaken or requiring appropriate consideration under NEPA and the other Environmental Review Laws.”

Bridge opening imminent as court sets hearing for a restraining order on Oct. 11

According to Michael MacWilliams, an attorney representing the Maryland defendants, plans for the removal of the historic bridge are moving quickly.

MacWilliams said in an email to the Mercury Thursday that “mechanical demolition efforts in connection with the old bridge are scheduled to commence in earnest on Oct. 13.”

The Mercury confirmed that Maryland plans to move traffic to the new bridge the same day.

On Tuesday, the court will hear arguments on the restraining order in the U.S. District Court Northern Division in Baltimore at 1 p.m.

According to the construction webpage, the bridge is expected to open early next year.

The $463 million bridge replacement project includes Virginia’s $13 million contribution.

The replacement bridge will include four 12-foot-wide lanes with 2-foot shoulders, a significant expansion compared to the historic bridge’s two lanes with no shoulders. The new bridge will have all-electronic cashless tolling, a barrier-separated median between west- and eastbound lanes, and 2-foot shoulders allowing for taller ships to pass beneath its 135-foot clearance.

Brickley asks Virginia to consider a partnership with Maryland

David Brickley, president of the Dahlgren Railroad Heritage Trail Association and a former Virginia delegate, said Virginia should consider partnering with Maryland to create what would be the most prominent bicycle and pedestrian crossing in the country, clocking in at 1.7 miles.

The former Virginia delegate recently wrote to Gov. Glenn Youngkin and members of his cabinet about considering a partnership but said he felt like “Cinderella rushing towards midnight and trying to save this bridge before it’s too late.”

According to Maryland Matters, Virginia and King George previously considered taking over the old bridge but never pursued it.

Marshall Herman, a spokeswoman with the Virginia Department of Transportation, said the agency did not conduct a study but did engage with King George County and bicycle and trail groups about their interest in retaining and repurposing the bridge.

The groups discussed the cost of regular inspection and maintenance, potential issues with marine navigation due to the alignment of the piers, and permit issues due to federal requirements within the National Environmental Policy Act.

A King George County Administration Office representative directed the Mercury to VDOT for questions.

However, despite the lack of interest in taking over the structure, Brickley said Virginia residents have a strong interest in the bridge’s future.

He pointed to the Woodrow Wilson Bridge as one of the best examples of a bridge with a separate lane for pedestrians and bicyclists. In 1995, Brickley sponsored legislation allowing Virginia to join a regional compact to purchase the bridge and replace it.

Brickley said arguments ensued over eliminating the Wilson bridge’s bicycle and pedestrian lane, much as they have for the new Nice/Middleton Bridge. However, the lane remained in the project.

“Now, if you go up to the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, it is a fantastic bridge for motorists and cyclists and hikers combined,” Brickley said. “It’s just what a bridge in the 21st century should be about.”

Maryland’s decision not to include such infrastructure in the new bridge is “unbelievably sad,” he said.

 

by Nathaniel Cline, Virginia Mercury


Virginia Mercury is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Virginia Mercury maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sarah Vogelsong for questions: info@virginiamercury.com. Follow Virginia Mercury on Facebook and Twitter.

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Biden to pardon all federal offenses for simple marijuana possession, review criminalization

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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Thursday announced executive actions that would pardon thousands of people with prior federal offenses of simple marijuana possession.

Biden then called on governors to follow suit with state offenses for simple marijuana possession, saying that “just as no one should be in a federal prison solely due to the possession of marijuana, no one should be in a local jail or state prison for that reason, either.”

The president also directed U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra and Attorney General Merrick Garland to review how marijuana is classified under federal law as a Schedule I drug, the Drug Enforcement Agency’s most dangerous classification, including substances like heroin and LSD.

Biden’s executive order to pardon simple possession includes the District of Columbia as well as people convicted in the federal court system.


“Sending people to prison for possessing marijuana has upended too many lives and incarcerated people for conduct that many states no longer prohibit,” Biden said in a statement.

‘Failed approach to marijuana’

The move is intended to address the country’s “failed approach to marijuana,” a senior administration official said Thursday afternoon, minutes before the announcement.

Recreational use of marijuana is legal in 19 states, including Virginia, but there is still a mix of laws related to the drug. In 38 states, marijuana is allowed for medical purposes. Several others consider marijuana illegal in all forms.

Civil rights organizations and researchers have shown that charges for marijuana possession disproportionately affect Black and brown communities. For example, the ACLU found that Black people were 3.7 times more likely to be charged with marijuana possession compared to white people.

Police made 663,000 arrests for marijuana-related offenses in 2018, according to FBI data, which amounted to 40% of all drug arrests for that year.

A senior administration official said Thursday, “while white, Black, and brown people use marijuana at similar rates, Black and brown people are disproportionately in jail for it.”

Senior administration officials said that even if a person has not been charged with or convicted of marijuana possession, as of Thursday’s date, “the pardon does cover that conduct.”

The Department of Justice will create an administrative process for those who are pardoned to obtain a certificate of their pardon “so that they will have documentation that they can show to law enforcement, employers, and others as needed,” a senior administration official said.

States moved first

States began decriminalizing or legalizing the recreational use of marijuana in 2012 when Colorado and Washington’s voters passed statewide ballot measures. Over the next decade, 17 more states followed suit. Those states have operated for years in conflict with federal laws that have kept the substance strictly illegal.

Virginia became the first state in the South to legalize marijuana in 2021, although state lawmakers have struggled to agree on the parameters of a retail market.

Marijuana will be legal in Virginia on July 1. Here’s what is and isn’t permitted under the new law.

The U.S. House passed legislation earlier this year to legalize marijuana nationally, but the bill failed to gain traction in the Senate.

The House voted 220-204 to approve the measure, which would fix the split between federal law and law in states where recreational marijuana is legal. Three Republicans joined all but two Democrats in approving the measure.

Democratic lawmakers reacted positively to Biden’s announcement, and several called for full legalization.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said federal drug policies relating to marijuana have harmed communities of color and torn families apart.

“These transformative actions are the latest manifestation of Democrats’ unyielding commitment to justice, especially for those unfairly harmed by cannabis criminalization,” she said in a statement.

“A great first step for equitable treatment under the law — but we can and we will do more when we (expand) our Democratic majorities in November,” Virginia’s Rep. Gerry Connolly said. Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine called the move “wise and compassionate.”

U.S. Sen Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, applauded the move in a statement and called for passage of a bill he sponsored, along with New Jersey Democrat Cory Booker and Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, that would remove the substance from the list of controlled substances and expunge the records of anyone convicted of a marijuana-related crime.

“Legal protections for victims of the War on Drugs should be codified in law, cannabis should be descheduled and a federal regulatory system should be put in place to protect public health and safety,” he said.

Schumer called the action “historic” and said he hoped it would catalyze further congressional action.

“For far too long, the federal prohibition on cannabis and the War on Drugs has been a war on people, and particularly people of color,” the New York Democrat said in a statement. “President Biden’s action to pardon people convicted of simple marijuana possession under federal law is a huge step forward to correct decades of over-criminalization.”

Chair of the House Education and Labor Committee Bobby Scott, a Virginia Democrat, said in a statement that incarcerating people for possession of marijuana does not keep communities safer and is a waste of federal resources.

“We should instead be using those funds on evidence-based prevention and early intervention initiatives that actually reduce crime and save money,” he said.

GOP ties pardons to crime

Many more Democrats than Republicans commented on the move, which is in line with most Americans’ views on marijuana. This month, a MorningConsult/Politico poll found that 60% of respondents favored legalization.

Republicans who did comment largely framed the initiative as soft on crime. Republicans are making rising crime rates a campaign issue in next month’s elections.

“In the midst of a crime wave and on the brink of a recession, Joe Biden is giving blanket pardons to drug offenders — many of whom pled down from more serious charges,” Sen. Tom Cotton, a Republican of Arkansas, said on Twitter. An earlier version of the tweet, which was deleted after nine minutes, complained of pardons to “potheads.”

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who is retiring this year, said in a statement that the Justice Department should not issue “blanket pardons” and each offender should be looked at individually. Hutchinson was the director of the Drug Enforcement Administration under President George W. Bush.

“As governor, I have issued hundreds of pardons to those who have been convicted of drug offenses,” he said. “But in this time of rising crime, there should be a clear record of law-abiding conduct before pardons are issued.”

Hutchinson is staunchly anti-legalization and has publicly opposed the proposed constitutional amendment on the Nov. 8 ballot that would create a legal marijuana regime in Arkansas.

Candidates campaigning for Congress quickly weighed in on the announcement as well, with Pennsylvania Democratic Senate candidate John Fetterman saying in a statement that it’s “a massive step towards justice.”

“Too many lives — and lives of Black and brown Americans in particular — have been derailed by this criminalization of this plant,” Fetterman said.

Ohio Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan, who is running for the open Senate seat, tweeted “legalize it” from his congressional Twitter account.

Schedule 1 drug

Unless Congress changes federal marijuana laws or the president takes further action, marijuana will likely stay classified as a Schedule 1 drug soon.

Senior administration officials said Thursday it will take a while for the HHS secretary and the attorney general to assess if marijuana should stay in the highest classification or drop to a lower category within the DEA’s system.

“The process will take some time because it must be based on a careful consideration of all of the available evidence, including scientific … and medical information that’s available,” the senior administration official said, adding that while Biden hasn’t set a timeline, he wants the review to be “expeditious.”

The DEA has five schedule classifications for legal and illegal drugs, with Schedule 1 including substances with a high potential for abuse and no medical use. Heroin, LSD and peyote are classified as Schedule 1 drugs along with marijuana.

The next category, Schedule 2, is supposed to host drugs with a high potential for abuse, which can lead to “severe psychological or physical dependence,” according to the DEA. Cocaine, fentanyl, methamphetamine, and oxycodone are all currently classified as Schedule 2.

Schedule 3 includes substances with a low to moderate likelihood of physical and psychological dependence, such as anabolic steroids and testosterone. According to the DEA, schedule 4 hosts drugs like Xanax, Valium, and Ambien that have a low potential for abuse. And Schedule 5 includes substances with a lower possibility of abuse than Schedule 4.

 

by Ariana Figueroa, Virginia Mercury


Virginia Mercury is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Virginia Mercury maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sarah Vogelsong for questions: info@virginiamercury.com. Follow Virginia Mercury on Facebook and Twitter.

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Supreme Court hears arguments over voting rights in Alabama case

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WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday, October 4, 2022, in a case over Alabama’s 2021 congressional redistricting plan. Although Black people make up 27% of Alabama’s population, the map includes just one majority-minority district, where Black voters constitute the majority.

Evan Milligan, executive director of the civic engagement group Alabama Forward, sued John Merrill, the Alabama Secretary of State, alongside other voting interest groups in three federal court cases.

Their argument hinges on Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which says that states must prevent racial minorities from having “less opportunity than other members of the electorate to participate in the political process and to elect representatives of their choice.” The plaintiffs presented 11 maps to prove that creating two majority-Black districts that complied with other traditional Alabama redistricting requirements was possible.

In January, a three-judge panel ruled that Alabama’s new congressional maps likely did violate the Voting Rights Act and gave the state two weeks to create a new one. Alabama made an emergency appeal to the Supreme Court to stay the ruling.


In a 5-4 decision, the court agreed to let Alabama keep its proposed map until the case could be argued before the court. The three liberal justices were joined by Chief Justice John Roberts in dissent, saying that there was already precedent in place from a 1986 Supreme Court ruling.

In Thornburg v. Gingles, the court found that the North Carolina legislature’s redistricting plan violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act by grouping Black voters in such a way that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to elect their preferred candidates. And, before the Court heard the case, Congress clarified Section 2 to mean that plaintiffs only had to prove discriminatory effect – not discriminatory intent – for the Voting Rights Act to be violated.

Alabama’s Solicitor General Edmund Lacour made a varied and complicated set of arguments before the justices Tuesday, arguing that the redistricting plan submitted by the plaintiffs did not meet the procedural standards set out by the 1986 ruling. He also contended that a map with more than one majority-minority district would be “racially gerrymandered,” allegedly violating the 14th Amendment.
Lacour seemed to suggest that such a map would disproportionately benefit Black people and harm white people.

“Single-member districting is uniquely zero-sum,” he said. “If you have a neutral plan and someone comes in and upsets it to racially gerrymander in favor of one racial group, necessarily you’re going to be harming some other group on account of race.”

The justices appeared skeptical of Alabama’s arguments, especially liberal Justices Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson.

Conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett also expressed confusion about Lacour’s arguments: “Mr. Lacour, I think I’m struggling in the same way that some others have about narrowing down exactly what your argument is. You know, I disagree with you and agree with Justice Kagan’s characterization of the intended point. Our precedent and the statute itself says that you don’t have to show discriminatory intent, so put that aside.”

Notably, Jackson argued that the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment was adopted in a “race-conscious way.”

“I don’t think we can assume that just because race is taken into account, that necessarily creates an Equal Protection problem,” Jackson said. “‘(The country’s Framers and Founders) were in fact trying to ensure that people who had been discriminated against, the freedmen during the Reconstruction period, were actually brought equal to everyone else in society… That’s not a race-neutral or race-blind idea in terms of the remedy, and even more than that, I don’t think that the historical record establishes that the Founders believed that race neutrality or race blindness was required.”

Kagan suggested that previous rulings should have resolved this dispute without it needing to be brought to the Supreme Court, saying, “What strikes me is that under our precedent, this should be a slam dunk.”

This is the third major challenge to the Voting Rights Act to be argued before the Supreme Court since 2013. The previous two, Shelby County v. Holder and Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee, both resulted in significant constraints on the Voting Rights Act.

Kagan said Tuesday that the Voting Rights Act has not fared well at the court in recent years: “And you’re asking us essentially to cut back substantially on our 40 years and to make this extremely difficult to prevail on too. So what’s left?”

By HUNTER SAVERY and KATE SELTZER
Capital News Service

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Maryland senators to Pentagon: address toxic chemicals on bases

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WASHINGTON – Maryland Sens. Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin, both Democrats, have joined a host of other lawmakers in an open letter to the Pentagon to increase resources for cleaning up toxic chemicals found on military bases.

At issue are what are known as PFAS, which stands for per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances, a group of “forever chemicals” that come from consumer and industrial goods and can cause various diseases in humans.

The letter, signed by over three dozen senators from both parties, said PFAS found in aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF), a fire suppressant used by the military, personal protective equipment used by firefighters, and other products, left those who served at military installations at a higher risk of health problems.

“Nearly 700 military installations nationwide have known or suspected PFAS contamination, exposing service members and their families and civilian communities near DoD installations to these toxic chemicals,” the senators wrote in a letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.


A recent report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine presented evidence that PFAS exposure was associated with lower antibody responses, elevated cholesterol, decreased infant and fetal growth, and increased risk of kidney cancer in adults.

According to the report, those who have worked or resided at places with identified PFAS contamination should have regular blood testing. The report specifically mentions military bases as locations where PFAS have been identified.

In 2022, Congress allocated $517 million for military PFAS-related testing, research, and cleanup. The senators said the Department of Defense has not done enough.

“It is our understanding that one of the major obstacles in the way of Congress putting more resources toward this problem is a lack of planning by the Department on how to execute a higher funding level,” the senators said. “Simply put, DoD is not sufficiently prioritizing PFAS testing, remediation, and disposal as part of its annual budget process, nor is the Department adequately developing the appropriate plans to utilize even higher funding levels as provided by Congress.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Defense declined a request for comment and said the Department will respond to Congress accordingly.

Jared Hayes, a PFAS-focused policy analyst with nonprofit activist organization Environmental Working Group, said there are almost 400 DoD bases with confirmed PFAS contamination in either drinking water and/or groundwater. At least 300 additional bases have suspected contamination.

According to Hayes, some of Maryland’s highest levels of PFAS contamination have been found at Naval Research Lab, Ft. Meade, and Webster Field Naval Annex. He said PFAS found at bases such as these contribute to local fish and shellfish contamination.

Hayes said, “while there may be bases around the U.S. with higher levels of contamination, the high levels of PFAS and the concentration of so many DOD bases along such an important waterway as the Chesapeake Bay makes Maryland bases stand out in the U.S.”

By EVE SAMPSON
Capital News Service

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Hours ahead of shutdown deadline, U.S. House sends Biden stopgap spending bill

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WASHINGTON — U.S. House members, mostly along party lines, cleared a Friday spending package that would bolster natural disaster response funding. With Hurricane Ian still battering the Southeast, lawmakers will likely need to approve another aid bill later this year.

The measure would provide $2.5 billion in assistance for the Hermit’s Peak/Calf Canyon Fire that destroyed parts of New Mexico this spring, $2 billion in Community Development Block Grant disaster relief funding for states affected by natural disasters during 2021 and 2022, and $1 billion for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. The measure also includes $12 billion to help Ukraine continue to defend itself following Russia’s invasion in February.

The package would keep the federal government up and running through Dec. 16, giving congressional leaders and the White House more time to work out how much to spend on discretionary programs and to draft bipartisan versions of the dozen annual government funding bills.

The billapproved 230-201, now heads to President Joe Biden for his signature. He needs to sign the measure before midnight, when the current government spending law expires ahead of the start of the new fiscal year on Oct. 1.

Front Royal Virginia

Virginia’s House delegation split on party lines on the measure, with all seven Democrats supporting it and all four Republicans voting no.

If the stopgap spending bill hadn’t cleared Congress, the federal government would have begun a partial government shutdown early Saturday.

The U.S. Senate approved the bill following a 72-25 vote Thursday, with all opposition coming from Republicans.

Republicans blast December deadline

GOP lawmakers in the U.S. House spoke out against the package Friday, arguing that setting up a government funding deadline during the lame-duck session following the midterm elections wasn’t the right decision.

“This legislation represents Congress at its worst,” said GOP Rep. Bob Good of Virginia.

The stopgap spending bill, Good said, shouldn’t expire until after the new Congress convenes in January, preventing the current Democratic-controlled House and Senate from passing any more spending bills.

Even if Republicans were to gain control of the U.S. House and Senate following November’s midterm elections, the spending bills would still need bipartisan support to clear the Senate’s 60-vote legislative filibuster and the backing of the Biden administration to avoid a veto.

House Appropriations ranking member Kay Granger, a Texas Republican, urged lawmakers to vote against the bill, saying it didn’t do enough to address border security, energy or inflation.

Granger also chastised Democrats for releasing the short-term bill Monday with just days to go before the end of the fiscal year.

“It’s unfortunate that this bill would be rushed through the House today with just hours to spare to avoid a government shutdown,” Granger said. “The American people continue to wonder why Congress can’t get its job done until the very last minute.”

Florida Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz called on House members to vote for the package, saying the disaster relief funding is crucial for states like hers.

“Look no further than Southwest Florida, in my home state, where Hurricane Ian inflicted tragic human loss and massive property damage,” she said.

“We cannot leave communities behind that are still picking up the pieces from disastrous floods, wildfires, and hurricanes, and even basic water system failures,” she added. “This federal funding bill comes to the rescue by helping to meet long-term housing, infrastructure, and recovery needs.”

Short-term bills

Congress hasn’t completed its appropriations process on time since 1996 and regularly starts off the new fiscal year under a stopgap spending bill that typically lasts through mid-December.

Republicans and Democrats have consistently leaned on short-term government funding bills, or continuing resolutions, to give themselves more time to negotiate the full-year spending bills.

Congress relied on a string of short-term bills to keep the government running for the full year in fiscal years 2007, 2011, and 2013, according to the Congressional Research Service.

The stopgap spending package approved Friday mostly continues current spending levels and policies from the omnibus spending package Congress approved with bipartisan majorities in March.

by Jennifer Shutt, Virginia Mercury


Virginia Mercury is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Virginia Mercury maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sarah Vogelsong for questions: info@virginiamercury.com. Follow Virginia Mercury on Facebook and Twitter.

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Former Valley Health CEO Mark Merrill honored with VHHA Distinguished Service Award

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Former Valley Health president and CEO Mark Merrill was honored September  22 with the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association’s Distinguished Service Award. The award is presented to a past or current chief executive officer with a “long record of performing outstanding, valuable, and unique services to the hospital and health system community.” Merrill retired in 2020 after a 35-year healthcare career, serving the last 11 years with Valley Health.

“Mark Merrill cares deeply about the health and well-being of Virginians in a way that extends well beyond his work as the past president and CEO of Valley Health System,” said VHHA President and CEO Sean T. Connaughton. “He and his wife, Teri, have planted deep roots in the Winchester community and have served the region by donating their personal time and resources to support young people who aspire to careers in health care. Mark was also essential during the multi-year campaign to help hundreds of thousands of low-income Virginians gain access to essential health care coverage through Medicaid expansion.”

During his 11 years at Valley Health, Merrill led the system to many significant achievements, including:

  • completing new facilities or substantial renovations at Valley Health’s six hospital campuses, and expanding ambulatory care sites in the rural region;
  • being named 2016 Large Business of the Year in the Greater Good Awards of the Top of Virginia Regional Chamber;
  • investing $300,000 in a 3-year health career partnership with 12 Virginia public schools and 4 hospital programs to build the workforce of the future and inspire youth to pursue health careers;
  • advocating for Medicaid expansion in Virginia as a VHHA Board member, then chairman when Medicaid expansion was approved by the Virginia General Assembly in 2018;
  • and partnering with providers under a variety of arrangements, engaging with legislators and business leaders to share insights from front-line health care, and advocating for VHHA and American Hospital Association policy positions to ensure access to care within Virginia.

Since his retirement, Merrill has continued to serve the commonwealth through his appointment to the Commonwealth Transportation Board, which oversees the roadway infrastructure of Virginia.


Harry Smith, Chairman of the Valley Health Board of Trustees, commented: “Mark is a passionate and dedicated servant leader, with a deep concern for the health and wellbeing of his community. This dedication shows in all he does.”

Merrill was one of two recipients of the Distinguished Service award. The other was James B. Cole, former president and CEO of the Virginia Hospital Center Health System. The award was presented at the VHHA Annual Meeting held last week in Williamsburg, VA.

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Ole Timers Antiques

Penny Lane Hair Co.

Philip Vaught Real Estate Management

Phoenix Project

Reaching Out Now

Rotary Club of Warren County

Royal Blends Nutrition

Royal Cinemas

Royal Examiner

Royal Family Bowling Center

Royal Oak Bookshop

Royal Oak Computers

Royal Oak Bookshop

Royal Spice

Ruby Yoga

Salvation Army

Samuels Public Library

SaVida Health

Skyline Insurance

St. Luke Community Clinic

Studio Verde

The Institute for Association & Nonprofit Research

The Studio-A Place for Learning

The Valley Today - The River 95.3

The Vine and Leaf

Valley Chorale

Vetbuilder.com

Warren Charge (Bennett's Chapel, Limeton, Asbury)

Warren Coalition

Warren County Democratic Committee

Warren County Department of Social Services

Warrior Psychotherapy Services, PLLC

WCPS Work-Based Learning

What Matters & Beth Medved Waller, Inc Real Estate

White Picket Fence

Woodward House on Manor Grade

King Cartoons

Front Royal
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Upcoming Events

Oct
8
Sat
8:00 am Car Wash Fundraiser – Breast Can... @ White Horse Auto Wash
Car Wash Fundraiser – Breast Can... @ White Horse Auto Wash
Oct 8 @ 8:00 am – 6:00 pm
Car Wash Fundraiser - Breast Cancer Awareness @ White Horse Auto Wash
The White Horse Auto Wash in Front Royal is holding an event this weekend in honor of survivor, Alexandra Alls Barton. The family has asked that all proceeds go to The Rapunzel Project, which makes[...]
11:00 am Fall Farm Days: Life on the Farm @ Sky Meadows State Park
Fall Farm Days: Life on the Farm @ Sky Meadows State Park
Oct 8 @ 11:00 am – 4:00 pm
Fall Farm Days: Life on the Farm @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area. Come back to the family farm at Sky Meadows. Explore the park’s sustainable farming practices, visit the barred plymouth rock hens, learn about our cattle operation in partnership with the Department of Corrections’[...]
11:00 am The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
Oct 8 @ 11:00 am – 4:00 pm
The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area. The forge is fired up and the blacksmiths are hard at work in the Historic Area. Members of the Blacksmith Guild of the Potomac have set up shop and are ready to show[...]
Oct
9
Sun
8:00 am Car Wash Fundraiser – Breast Can... @ White Horse Auto Wash
Car Wash Fundraiser – Breast Can... @ White Horse Auto Wash
Oct 9 @ 8:00 am – 6:00 pm
Car Wash Fundraiser - Breast Cancer Awareness @ White Horse Auto Wash
The White Horse Auto Wash in Front Royal is holding an event this weekend in honor of survivor, Alexandra Alls Barton. The family has asked that all proceeds go to The Rapunzel Project, which makes[...]
10:30 am Bethel Life Revival 2022 @ Bethel Assembly of God
Bethel Life Revival 2022 @ Bethel Assembly of God
Oct 9 @ 10:30 am – 12:00 pm
Bethel Life Revival 2022 @ Bethel Assembly of God
Please join us on October 9th at 10:30am and October 10th-12th at 6:30pm nightly for a special series of services with Johan Bruwer. Johan is from Bloemfontein, South Africa, and will deliver a very inspiring[...]
11:00 am Fall Farm Days: Life on the Farm @ Sky Meadows State Park
Fall Farm Days: Life on the Farm @ Sky Meadows State Park
Oct 9 @ 11:00 am – 4:00 pm
Fall Farm Days: Life on the Farm @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area. Come back to the family farm at Sky Meadows. Explore the park’s sustainable farming practices, visit the barred plymouth rock hens, learn about our cattle operation in partnership with the Department of Corrections’[...]
11:00 am The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
Oct 9 @ 11:00 am – 4:00 pm
The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area. The forge is fired up and the blacksmiths are hard at work in the Historic Area. Members of the Blacksmith Guild of the Potomac have set up shop and are ready to show[...]
Oct
10
Mon
11:00 am Fall Farm Days: Life on the Farm @ Sky Meadows State Park
Fall Farm Days: Life on the Farm @ Sky Meadows State Park
Oct 10 @ 11:00 am – 4:00 pm
Fall Farm Days: Life on the Farm @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area. Come back to the family farm at Sky Meadows. Explore the park’s sustainable farming practices, visit the barred plymouth rock hens, learn about our cattle operation in partnership with the Department of Corrections’[...]
6:30 pm Bethel Life Revival 2022 @ Bethel Assembly of God
Bethel Life Revival 2022 @ Bethel Assembly of God
Oct 10 @ 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm
Bethel Life Revival 2022 @ Bethel Assembly of God
Please join us on October 9th at 10:30am and October 10th-12th at 6:30pm nightly for a special series of services with Johan Bruwer. Johan is from Bloemfontein, South Africa, and will deliver a very inspiring[...]
Oct
11
Tue
6:30 pm Bethel Life Revival 2022 @ Bethel Assembly of God
Bethel Life Revival 2022 @ Bethel Assembly of God
Oct 11 @ 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm
Bethel Life Revival 2022 @ Bethel Assembly of God
Please join us on October 9th at 10:30am and October 10th-12th at 6:30pm nightly for a special series of services with Johan Bruwer. Johan is from Bloemfontein, South Africa, and will deliver a very inspiring[...]