Earlier this week, the U.S. House Appropriations subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies released a draft fiscal 2016 Labor, Health and Human Services bill. It was the first time since 2012 that an LHHS appropriations bill had been introduced. The $153 billion bill came in $3.7 billion below the FY15 appropriation of $149.3 billion and $14.6 billion below that outlined in President Obama’s budget request of $138.4 billion.
With this bill, appropriators delivered a strong message about their spending priorities, and the National Institute of Health was high among them. The subcommittee proposed a $1.1 billion increase over FY15 levels to $31.2 billion and $100 million above the president’s FY16 request. This bill would increase the National Cancer Institute budget by $150 million, the National Heart, Lung, Blood Institute budget by $47 million and the National Institute of General Medical Science budget by $70 million. In contrast, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases see a $122 million reduction in their budget. The bill also would fund several targeted research initiatives, including those for Alzheimer’s research and the BRAIN Initiative.
To compensate for the increase to the NIH, the bill eliminates the entire Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. AHRQ is a division under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services whose mission is to improve health care quality, make health care safer and increase accessibility of care to patients. While ASBMB members are not typically funded by AHRQ, the society opposes any attempt to fund one form of science at the expense of another.
U.S. Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla, chairman of the LHHS subcommittee, certainly views the NIH and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention funding as points of consensus among lawmakers. Cole was quoted in Politico as saying the bill is “a good starting point.” He added: “I always see an initial bill as the opening round of a negotiation. We’re just trying to show: Here are areas where we can agree. Let’s put some resources there.” He also told The Hill NIH and CDC “need to be as robustly funded in terms of what they think is necessary as you’d fund the American military.”
Yesterday, LHHS subcommittee reviewed the bill and introduced amendments. The ranking member of the LHHS subcommittee, U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn, introduced a series of amendments that would increase funding of the overall bill by $11.7 billion to match the president’s budget request and provide a $3 billion increase to the NIH. These were voted down along party lines.
The ASBMB is still analyzing the bill, and will be following movement in the Senate LHHS subcommittee. For more science policy news, follow the ASBMB Policy Blotter.