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FY2006 LHHS Appropriations Conference Bill Sent Back to Conferees by Senate after Stunning House Defeat; Action Expected in December

Legislative Update
November 18, 2005

Today, prior to adjourning for the Thanksgiving recess, the Senate took action to restore up to $2 billion to the Fiscal Year (FY) 2006 Labor, Health and Human Services and Education (LHHS) Appropriations conference bill (HR 3010). This amount would be used to restore $1 billion to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding (bringing it back up to the $29.4 billion level as recommended in the Senate-passed bill) and $1 billion in earmarks that were stripped from the bill during conference. The Senate action came after the previous day's stunning 224-209 defeat of HR 3010 in the House, which resulted from dissatisfaction by moderate Republicans and Democrats in the funding levels for important health and education programs.

The Senate action means that House and Senate conferees (the LHHS Appropriations Subcommittees from both chambers) will have another opportunity in December to develop a revised conference bill. The Senate took two actions to enable greater funding in the bill: voting 66-28 to classify $2 billion in the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program as emergency funds (carving it out of the bill) and voting 58-36 for a motion to instruct the conferees to preserve the higher Senate funding level for the NIH.

As background, on October 27, the Senate passed its FY2006 LHHS Appropriations bill with $29.4 billion for the NIH and $694 million for the National Eye Institute (NEI), which is $1 billion more for the NIH and $20 million more for the NEI than in the House version of the bill, passed in June. The Senate bill represents a 3.7 percent increase over FY2005, while the House bill represents a 0.5% increase over FY2005. On November 14, the House and Senate conferees met and developed a conference bill that funded the NIH at the lower House-recommended level, despite extensive advocacy by the medical research community, including the NAEVR networks, about the importance of funding the NIH at the higher Senate-recommended level. In hand-delivered letters to conferees, in thousands of email letters sent form its Web site and in Capitol Hill visits, NAEVR urged the highest possible amount for NIH funding to offset what could be a potential across-the-board cut to FY2006 spending, as well as the biomedical inflation rate. NAEVR also joined its medical research advocacy colleagues as a signatory in letters to Congress from both the ad hoc Medical Research Funding Group and Research!America.

In a November 18 letter to Congress, the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) noted that the House's rejection of the conference bill was a "second chance to get the country back on track in pursuing life saving treatments and cures."