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Legislative Update
June 30, 2008

Prior to July 4th Recess:

  • Senate Appropriations Committee Approves FY2009 LHHS Spending Bill With Increases for NIH/NEI
  • House Appropriations Committee Recesses Without Approving LHHS Subcommittee’s Proposed NIH/NEI Increases
  • Congress Approves by Veto-Proof Majority Additional Funding in Supplemental Appropriations for 246 More Research Grants in FY2008
  • Click here to see funding chart.

    On June 26, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved its Fiscal Year (FY) 2009 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS) appropriation. The bill provides $30.255 billion for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), an increase of $1.025 billion or 3.5 percent over the FY2008 funding level and the President's FY2009 budget request. The bill would fund the National Eye Institute (NEI) at $687.3 million, an increase of $20.2 million or 3 percent over the FY2008 funding level and $19.5 million over the President’s FY2009 budget request.

    The Senate LHHS Subcommittee, on a bipartisan basis under the leadership of Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Ranking Member Arlen Specter (R-PA), emphasized its desire to have the FY2009 increase for the NIH match the biomedical inflation rate of 3.5 percent, at the very least. Concurrent with the Subcommittee’s June 24 markup, the Alliance for Eye and Vision Research (AEVR) held a Congressional briefing with the Foundation Fighting Blindness (FFB) entitled Human Gene Therapy for Treating Blinding Eye Diseases: Off and Running, which reported on the initial promising results of human gene therapy safety trials to treat Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA), a debilitating form of childhood blindness.

    Also on June 26, the House Appropriations Committee began consideration of an FY2009 LHHS spending bill. This markup was abruptly adjourned over partisan disputes regarding the Interior Appropriations bill, and the LHHS bill was not approved. The version of the bill being considered by the House Appropriations Committee, which was approved by the LHHS Appropriations Subcommittee on June 19, includes $30.380 billion for NIH, an increase of $1.150 billion or 3.9% percent over FY2008 and the FY2009 President's budget request, and $125 million more than the Senate bill. The bill’s draft Report Language includes NEI funding at $690.7 million, an increase of $23.6 million or 3.5 percent over the FY2008 funding level and $22.9 million over the President’s FY2009 budget request.

    Finally, on June 26, the Senate approved by a vote of 92-6 its support for science in the amended version of the Supplemental Appropriations bill-a vehicle primarily to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan-that includes $150 million for the NIH, $62.5 million for the National Science Foundation (NSF), and $150 million for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The House had approved the bill on June 19 by a vote of 416-12. The bill has been sent to the President, and the Administration has signaled its intent to sign the bill, which was passed in both chambers by a veto-proof majority. The bill’s Report Language regarding the NIH funding indicates that it will be provided to the Office of the Director for prorating to the Institutes and Centers. Senate leaders, including Senator Harkin, had indicated their desire that these additional resources be available to fund about 246 additional research grants in FY2008.