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House Passes FY2013 Funding Bill: NIH/NEI Hit by Sequester, Vision Trauma Research Program Funding Increased to $10 M But Also Subject to Sequester

Legislative Update
March 7, 2013

On March 6 and by a vote of 267-151, the House of Representatives passed legislation (H. R. 933) that would finalize Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 appropriations, resolving a standoff over the 12 appropriations bills which normally should have all been passed by the start of the fiscal year on October 1, 2012.

Because the government is currently operating under a six-month Continuing Resolution (CR) that expires March 27, Congress is under pressure to pass a spending bill or face a shutdown. Attention now turns to the Senate, which must act on its own bill so there is enough time for a conference between the two chambers to pass a final version which can then go to the White House for signature before the March 27 deadline.

The bill combines two of the FY2013 appropriations bills which the House had already finalized, the Defense and MilCon-VA bills, along with a CR that extends funding for other government agencies at the FY2012 level. However, the funding within the bill is subject to sequestration cuts, which means that the funding rate within the legislation is approximately $984 billion, the level required by the Presidentís sequestration order and $59 billion less than the FY2012 spending cap of $1.043 trillion mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011. The cut translates to a 5.1 percent cut to the FY2012 funding levels.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Eye Institute (NEI) would be subject to the 5.1 percent sequester cut on their FY2012 funding levels, resulting in an NIH cut of $1.6 billion on its funding level of $30.7 billion netting $29 billion, and an NEI cut of $36 million on its funding level of $703 million netting $667 million. For NEI, this could potentially result in about 90 new grants not getting funded, any one of which could hold the promise for saving or restoring vision. [The NIH issued initial sequester guidance on February 21, followed by additional guidance on March 4.]

For the Department of Defenseís (DOD) Vision Trauma Research Program (VTRP), the news is better. Since H.R. 933 contains the FY2013 Defense bill language passed in July 2012 that increased VTRP funding from $5 million to $10 million, the program would receive that amount, minus the 8% sequestration cut to defense programs, netting $9.2 million.