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Senate Passes FY2008 LHHS Appropriations Bill; Advocacy Community Urges Congress to Support Conference Bill Due to Presidential Veto Threat

Legislative Update
October 26, 2007

On October 23, the Senate passed its Fiscal Year (FY) 2008 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS) appropriations bill (S. 1710/H.R. 3043) by a veto-proof margin of 75-19, with five Democrats not present to vote and 29 Republicans voting for the bill.

The Senate bill includes $29.9 billion for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), an increase of $1 billion, or 3.5 percent over the FY2007 level and $250 million over the House bill. The Senate bill also funds the National Eye Institute (NEI) at a higher level than that in the House bill—$681.9 million, or a $14.8 million 2.2 percent increase over FY2007 compared to the House increase of $9.9 million or 1.5 percent.

Prior to passage, the Senate stripped a provision from the bill that would have expanded federal funding for human embryonic stem cell research. Under the Administrationís current policy, federal funding is limited to stem cell lines created before August 9, 2001, The deleted provision would have permitted funding for cell lines created before June 15, 2007.

NAEVR and its networks issued thousands of letters to the Senate in support of the LHHS appropriations bill, and NAEVR hosted a Contact Congress booth at the American Academy of Optometry meeting in Tampa, Florida. As this began on October 24 after the Senate vote, AAOptom members urged their Senators and House Member to support the anticipated conference LHHS bill when it comes before both chambers. At this time, a formal conference is tentatively set for November 1, with the conference report scheduled to go to House and Senate floors the week of November 5. Since the President has indicated that he would veto appropriations bills that exceed his FY2008 budget proposal, the Democratic leadership has yet to finalize its plans as to whether the LHHS bill will be the first FY2008 spending bill sent to the President—individually, or as part of a larger spending package.

Childrenís vision researcher Dr. James Hoekel (Washington University in St. Louis) contacted his Missouri Senators. The office of freshman Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) responded immediately, noting that the Senator was a signatory on a recent letter urging the maximum possible increase in FY08 NIH funding.
Childrenís vision researcher Dr. James Hoekel (Washington University in St. Louis) contacted his Missouri Senators. The office of freshman Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) responded immediately, noting that the Senator was a signatory on a recent letter urging the maximum possible increase in FY08 NIH funding.