House panel approves $32 billion for NIH in 2011

On July 15, the House Appropriations Subcommittee responsible for the National Institutes of Health budget approved a $32 billion budget for the agency as part of the subcommittee’s appropriations bill for 2011.  While subcommittee Democrats defeated amendments that would have reduced the overall funding levels contained in the bill, the subcommittee’s NIH budget falls well short of recommendations from the scientific community.

In his opening statement, Chairman David Obey, D-Wis., said that one of the themes of the bill was “continued support for biomedical research at the National Institutes of Health.”  The bill funds the NIH at 3.2 percent above the 2010 budget, the level requested in the president’s budget released in February.

But Obey’s remarks also reflected mounting pressure on Congress to demonstrate fiscal restraint.

“The resources available to this subcommittee are limited,” Obey said. “We can’t do everything that might be useful, or everything the President or members of this subcommittee propose,” he said.

The subcommittee’s NIH budget for 2011 “puts the emphasis on translating basic research results into practical and available cures and treatments,” Obey said.  The bill would allow the NIH to use $50 million to launch the Cures Acceleration Network, a new translational research initiative created under the healthcare reform bill passed in March.

While the subcommittee’s bill contains $1.5 billion less in total appropriations than for 2010, U.S. Reps. Jerry Lewis, R-Calif., Dennis Rehberg, D-Mont., and Rodney Alexander, R-La., were unsuccessful in adding amendments to further reduce the funding levels for all agencies and programs in the bill.  The amendments failed after party-line votes.

If enacted, the subcommittee’s NIH budget would represent one of the largest increases since 2003.  But with NIH stimulus funding set to expire at the end of 2010, ASBMB and the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology recommended that the NIH receive $37 billion in 2011 to maintain the research capacity built under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Read more about ASBMB and FASEB’s recommendations for the 2011 NIH budget in FASEB’s Annual Federal Funding report.  More information about the subcommittee hearing can be found on the House Appropriations Committee website.  Jennifer Zeitzer, FASEB director of legislative relations, reacts to the subcommittee’s bill in an interview with Science Insider.

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