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Senate Appropriations Committee Approves FY2008 LHHS Appropriations Bill to Increase NIH Funding by $1 Billion, NEI by $14.8 Million

Legislative Update
June 22, 2007

LHHS Subcommittee Chair Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA)
LHHS Subcommittee Chair Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA)
On June 19, the Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS) Subcommittee marked up the Fiscal Year (FY) 2008 LHHS appropriations bill, which was approved on June 21 by the full Senate Appropriations Committee. Although the Senate bill increases National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding by $1 billion to $29.9 billion, or 3.4 percent over FY2007, it takes the same approach as the House bill in increasing the amount of the transfer to the Global HIV/AIDS fund—from $99 million in FY2007 to $300 million for FY2008. As a result, the increase over FY2007 in the NIH program level in the Senate bill is $799 million, or 2.8 percent, compared to an increase of $549 million, or 1.9 percent, in the House bill.

The Senate bill would increase National Eye Institute (NEI) funding by $14.8 million over FY2007 to a level of $682 million, or a 2.2 percent increase, a rate by which most NIH Institute/Center budgets are increased. In the House bill, NEI funding is increased by $9.9 million over FY2007 to a level of $677 million, or a 1.5 percent increase, a rate by which most NIH Institute/Center budgets are increased. The Presidentís FY2008 budget proposed to increase NEI funding by $.7 million.

In the midst of markups, ARVO Trustee Dr. David Hunter (Harvard University/Children's Hospital) made Congressional visits, including one with John Phillips in the office of Sen. John Kerry (D-MA).
In the midst of markups, ARVO Trustee Dr. David Hunter (Harvard University/Children's Hospital) made Congressional visits, including one with John Phillips in the office of Sen. John Kerry (D-MA).
The Senate bill would increase the common fund for trans-Institute research, established through the NIH Reform Act of 2006, by ten percent over FY2007 to a level of $531 million, as compared to the House funding level of $495 million. The result of both the House and Senate bills directly appropriating the common fund is that the NEI will not have to make an $8.8 million contribution to the common fund, meaning that those dollars can also be used for NEI programmatic purposes.

The Senate bill does contain a provision relating to embryonic stem cell research, specifically revising the date by which stem cell lines in existence are available for federal research funding from August 9, 2001, (the date of President Bushís Executive Order establishing the Administrationís embryonic stem cell policy) to June 15, 2007. The Committeeís action follows the June 20 veto by President Bush of S. 5, the bill passed in both the Senate and House to expand the policy. The bill would also increase funds available for embryo adoption.

In describing the bill, Senate LHHS Appropriations Subcommittee chair Tom Harkin (D-IA) praised Ranking Member Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) for working with him to develop a strong bipartisan bill that significantly improves upon the Presidentís FY2008 budget request by increasing NIH funding by $1 billion while staying within the 302(b) allocations set for the LHHS bill. "The LHHS bill defines the country," said Sen. Harkin, describing its funding for wide-ranging health, education, and social programs. Sen. Specter, while praising his Democratic counterparts, noted that the Subcommittee did the best it could, despite the fact that the $1 billion NIH increase barely keeps up with the biomedical inflation rate of 3.7 percent. In full Committee, Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) described the bill as a "benchmark piece of legislation" that represents the publicís desire for a change in leadership, referring to the Presidentís past four years of flat-to-negative funding budgets for the NIH.

At this time, the Senate has not scheduled a date for floor consideration of the bill. The House Appropriations Committee is currently scheduled to consider the FY2008 LHHS bill, marked up on June 7 by the Subcommittee, during the week of July 9, upon Congressí return from its July 4 recess.

In a press statement, NAEVR praised the Senate leadership for improving upon the Presidentís proposed budget.