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Senate Passes Two-Year Budget Bill

Legislative Update
October 30, 2015

Update:

Early Friday morning, the Senate passed the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 by a vote of 64-35. President Obama has said he will sign the bill as soon as it reaches his desk. The Senate action follows the House, which passed the legislation on Wednesday.

House Passes Two-Year Budget Deal, Senate To Take Action

Legislative Update
October 29 2015

On October 28, the U.S. House of Representatives passed by a vote of 266-167 the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 which raises the debt limit through March 2017 and provides sequester relief equally to both nondefense discretionary (NDD) and defense funding in Fiscal Years (FY) 2016 and 2017. The bill has been sent to the Senate, where action is expected within the next few days since the government will be in default without an increase in the debt limit by November 3.

This budget deal, which provides upwards of $80 billion in sequester relief to both NDD and defense spending, paves the way for the appropriations leaders to set new 302(b) allocations, or spending limits, for each of the twelve FY2016 appropriations bills, which will be combined into one omnibus bill that is conferenced between the House and Senate. That bill must be passed by December 11, which is the expiration date of the current Continuing Resolution (CR) that funds the government at the FY2015 level minus 0.21 percent, to avoid a shutdown or another CR.

The deal, which was released earlier this week, was developed between bipartisan leaders in the House and Senate and ¬the White House. Although strongly supported by the House Democrats, 187 voted for it, many Republicans remained opposed to the deal, and only 79 voted for it. In the House floor debate, House Appropriations Committee Chair Hal Rogers (R-KY) emphasized his support, as the bill takes the appropriations process one step closer to the traditional “regular order” process. Democrats spoke about the importance of this bipartisan legislation in avoiding default and in providing a budget framework for the next two years that includes significant sequester relief. Nearly every Democrat who spoke on the House floor emphasized that the sequester relief provides an opportunity to increase funding for important government programs, specifically mentioning the National Institutes of Health (NIH), with House Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS) Appropriator Chaka Fattah (D-PA) speaking about the importance of the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative in mapping brain function to help fight and prevent disease.

In a phone call with members of the NDD United Coalition, in which NAEVR participated, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) noted that the $33 billion in FY2016 NDD sequester relief is not a lot of money, especially in relation to the numerous important programs funded through the LHHS bill. But he did note strong bipartisan support for an NIH increase, with the LHHS Appropriations Subcommittees of the House and Senate proposing $1 billion and $2 billion increases, respectively, for the NIH in their proposed bills.

NAEVR joined with its advocacy colleagues in supporting the bill, issuing a statement of support that it distributed to Congressional leaders and the White House which read, in part, that “passage enables Congress to finalize FY2016 appropriations bills that invest in America’s future, including its citizens’ overall health and vision health, through funding for the NIH and its National Eye Institute.” As recently as October 7, NAEVR had 21 Emerging Vision Scientists (EVS) attend a “Raise the Caps” Rally, held on the Capitol grounds and hosted by NDD United, prior to them displaying their research posters at an AEVR-sponsored EVS Congressional Reception.