Senate funding bill: NIH prioritized ?>

Senate funding bill: NIH prioritized

Yesterday, the U.S. Senate Appropriations subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies released a summary statement of the details of their fiscal 2016 bill. The draft bill proposes spending $153.2 billion in discretionary funds, which is $3.6 billion below the FY15 level and $14.5 billion below President Obama’s budget request. This bill would fund the National Institute of Health at $32 billion representing an increase of $2 billion above current funding. The Senate LHHS bill would provide increases in funding to every NIH institute and center, the BRAIN Initiative and Institutional Development Awards as well as funding for the Precision Medicine Initiative. Meanwhile, the bill decreases funding to the Department of Education by $1.7 billion and cuts funding to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services by $1.15 billion. The latter would inhibit implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

Chairman of the Labor-HHS subcommittee, Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Missouri, said “between 1998 and 2003, NIH research funding doubled, but over the past decade, NIH has lost 22 percent of its purchasing power for research.” Sen. Blunt said “funding decisions represent more than just a dollar figure. They reflect our nation’s priorities. As Congress faces unprecedented challenges to reduce government spending, this is the time to reevaluate our federal funding decisions and priorities.”

The Senate LHHS bill goes further to increase funding for the NIH than the House LHHS bill, but seems to follow the same prioritization rationale. The overall LHHS bill still comes in $3.6 billion below the level enacted in FY15 due, in part, to political wrangling over budget caps and sequestration. In a letter to the Chairman of the U.S. House Appropriations committee, Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Kentucky, the Obama administration outlined “a number of serious concerns about this legislation, which would underfund these important investments and includes highly problematic ideologically-motivated provisions.” The White House went so far as to release how the House LHHS bill would affect Americans on a state-by-state basis.

Yesterday, ASBMB Public Affairs Director Ben Corb said, “because of the unnecessary austere spending levels put in place by the Budget Control Act. Lawmakers are forced to cut programs that are vital to the quality of life and wellbeing of Americans. Budgetary policy need not be viewed as a zero-sum game.”

The FY16 Senate LHHS bill will be reviewed by the full Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday, but Senate Democrats intend to block all appropriations bills in an attempt to force negotiations that will end domestic spending caps under the Budget Control Act.

Tomorrow, check back with the Policy Blotter as we highlight the House Appropriations Committee markup of their LHHS funding bill.

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