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Researchers Urge NIH/NEI Funding Increases as House and Senate Mark Up FY2016 NIH Funding Bills

Legislative Update
June 18, 2015

Prior to the June 17 markup of a Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS) appropriations bill by the House LHHS Appropriations Subcommittee and a similar markup by the companion Senate Subcommittee on June 23, the vision community urged Congress to fund the National Institutes of Health (NIH) at a level of at least $32 billion and the National Eye Institute (NEI) at $730 million as followed:

The House Subcommittee’s markup reflects the first time in three years that it has proceeded to that action, as in previous years the political climate prevented it from holding a formal markup of original legislation. The draft legislation funds the NIH at $31.2 billion, an increase of $1.1 billion, or 3.6 percent, over FY 2015 and $100 million over the President’s budget request. The NEI would be funded at a level of $698.1 million, an increase of $13.9 million, or 2 percent, over its FY2015 appropriated level of $684.2 million and $21.3 M, or 3.1 percent, over its FY2015 operating net.

The draft bill has provisions that address a number of specific diseases and initiatives, including:

  • $866 million (a $300 million increase) for an Alzheimers research initiative
  • $461 million (a $100 million increase) for the antibiotic resistance initiative
  • $150 million (a $95 million increase) for the for the Brain Research through Application of Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) initiative; and
  • the full $200 million requested by the administration for the Precision Medicine Initiative (PMI)
Also of concern to the research community, the bill reduces the extramural salary limit to Executive Level III ($168,700 in 2015). This represents a decrease of $14,600 (8 percent).

Numerous amendments to the Chairman’s Mark were offered at the session—all by Subcommittee Democrats—and all were defeated by a show of hands along party lines. Each of the amendments would have increased spending on a particular section of the bill. Subcommittee Chairman Tom Cole (R-OK) noted that, because none had an offset reducing spending by a corresponding amount and therefore would put the bill over the Subcommittee’s allocation, he voted with his Republican colleagues against them all, even those he stated that he thought had merit.

Subcommittee Ranking Member Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) offered an amendment that would have increased funding for the NIH by $3 billion, to $34.2 billion, adjusting the Budget Control Act cap to allow for the additional spending, but the amendment was rejected. Earlier, she had offered an amendment raising all spending levels in the bill to the amounts in President Obama’s proposed budget, which was also rejected.

Another amendment, offered by Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), would have restored funding to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), which had all of its funding eliminated in the draft legislation. AHRQ conducts analyses on the efficacy of different treatments for diseases, but Republicans believe that it leads to government selection of ‘winners and losers’ in the healthcare delivery system and have sought to eliminate it for a number of years.

Other amendments that were offered, and rejected, addressed funding levels for early childhood programs, family planning, school funding, and job training.

At the end of the markup, Rep. DeLauro offered three amendments ‘en bloc’, due to time constraints. One of the amendments would have restored funding for the Affordable Care Act (ACA). As with all other amendments, it was rejected by a show of hands.

After all amendments were considered, the bill was approved, also by a show of hands.

The full House Appropriations Committee is expected to take up the bill the week of June 22, and Members of both parties have indicated that the fight over the spending levels in the legislation will likely be addressed at the session. On the other side of Capitol Hill, the companion Senate LHHS Appropriations Subcommittee is also expected to mark up its bill on June 23, with full Senate Appropriations Committee action on June 25.