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NAEVR Participates in Meeting with House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Joe Barton, Who Announces NIH Reauthorization Plans

Legislative Update
June 5, 2006

At a June 2 meeting attended by NAEVR, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Joe Barton (R-TX) announced that he intends to issue an NIH reauthorization legislative draft by late June 2006 that would significantly revise drafts previously issued in the July-August 2005 timeframe. The legislation would:

  • Create a "common fund" into which each Institute would contribute (likely minimum of 5 percent of an Institute’s budget)
  • Create a “transformational fund” for emerging research
  • Ensure a base level of funding for each Institute within the three-year reauthorization cycle, with additional resources available through participation in the "common fund" projects
  • Increase NIH Director discretion to determine necessary organizational changes

Chairman Barton acknowledged that the previous drafts’ proposed budget clusters - creating three budget line items for NIH, including that for the Office of the Director, "mission specific" Institutes (such as the NEI) and "science enabling" Institutes/Centers - has been a controversial issue and is one that Committee staff is still addressing.

Chairman Barton has indicated that he is currently holding discussions with his House Appropriations colleagues and Senate counterparts, specifically Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY), chair of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, which has NIH reauthorization jurisdiction in the Senate.

In 2006, NAEVR has focused on education of Capitol Hill staff about the vision community’s support for and opposition to various aspects of the drafts issued in 2005. As noted in NAEVR’s NIH Reauthorization Talking Points, the vision community supports many of the recommendations for NIH reform that were made in the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) Report, issued in 2003 and entitled Enhancing the Vitality of the National Institutes of Health. NAEVR has opposed the budget cluster concept, since the NEI Director must retain the authority and accompanying dedicated budget to lead the nation’s vision research commitment. NAEVR also maintains concern about percent Institute contribution to/ability to direct research within the “common fund”; the composition of the Director’s Advisory Council overseeing trans-Institute research; and any potential increase in the Director’s transfer authority, currently set at 1 percent of an Institute’s budget.

NAEVR Executive Director Jim Jorkasky with Rep. Joe Barton
NAEVR Executive Director Jim Jorkasky with Rep. Joe Barton