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Congress Passes Continuing Resolution to Fund Government as Senate Plans Floor Debate on the FY2008 LHHS Appropriations Bill

Legislative Update
October 1, 2007

As no Fiscal Year 2008 appropriations bills had been finalized by Congress as the beginning of that fiscal year loomed, Congress passed, and the President has signed, a Continuing Resolution (House Joint Resolution 52) to fund the government through November 16, the target date for recess. On September 26, the House approved the bill by a 404-16 vote, and on September 27, the Senate approved it by a vote of 94-1.

Although the House passed all twelve appropriations bills prior to the August recess, the Senate has acted on just a few. The Senate intends to complete half its bills before the Columbus Day recess (with Senate floor action on Defense Appropriations and Commerce/Justice/Science this week). The week of October 15, the Senate plans to take floor action on the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS) funding bill, S. 1710. Total funding in the Senate bill is $152 billion, which is about $2 billion below the total in the House LHHS bill (H.R. 3042) passed on July 19 and $9 billion above the Presidentís FY2008 budget request.

For NIH, the Senate bill would provide $29.9 billion, which is about $250 million above the House-approved level and $1.2 billion more than the Presidentís FY2008 budget request. The Senate bill includes a $14.8 million increase for NEI over FY2007 as compared to the House billís $9.9 million increase.

NAEVR will coordinate a Contact Congress email campaign to fully support passage of the Senate bill. This support is important not only because of the higher funding levels for NIH/NEI, but the bill may face opposition due to a stem cell provision that moves the date for embryonic stem cell lines eligible for federally funded research dollars to those that existed as of June 15, 2007, versus August 9, 2001. The LHHS bill, as well as several other key FY2008 appropriations bills, may also face a Presidential veto due to funding levels in excess of the Presidentís budget proposal.

Last Tuesday, NAEVR held a Capitol Hill Briefing to release the Silver Book: Vision Loss, a compendium of the latest data on the incidence and economic burden of aging eye disease developed in conjunction with the Alliance for Aging Research. The event, as well as Congressional office visits conducted by briefing speaker Dr. Michael Gorin (Jules Stein Eye Institute/UCLA), enabled NAEVR to reiterate the value message of NEI funding Ė as well as the importance of timely appropriations to avoid the need for bridge funding Ė with key Congressional offices.

NAEVR Board President Dr Stephen Ryan will also make Congressional visits on October 10 to ensure support for adequate FY2008 NIH/NEI funding, using the just-released Silver Book as evidence of the economic burden of aging eye disease and its implications for the productivity, independence, and quality of life of seniors.