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NAEVR Meets with Key Leaders on NIH/NEI Funding on Eve of House Appropriations Committee Markup of FY2008 LHHS Appropriations Bill

Legislative Update
July 11, 2007

Dr. Ryan and Sen. Harkin
Dr. Ryan and Sen. Harkin
On July 11, the House Appropriations Committee approved the Fiscal Year (FY) 2008 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS) appropriations bill, which would increase funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) by 2.6 percent to $29.6 billion and the National Eye Institute (NEI) by 1.5 percent to $677 million—a $9.9 million increase over FY2007. House floor action is expected on July 18. The President has promised to veto any spending bill that exceeds his budget proposal, and the House bill exceeds it by $12 billion. Although the Senate bill was reported out of Committee on June 21, it has not yet seen floor action. This bill increases NEI funding by $14.8 million over FY2007.

At the markup, Committee Chairman Cong. David Obey (D-WI), who also serves as the LHHS Subcommittee chair, noted that $7 billion of difference between the House bill and the Presidentís budget was to make up for the latterís cuts to key programs. He also emphasized that "every member of the Subcommittee approached this bill on a bipartisan basis," which was confirmed in supporting comments from Committee Ranking Member Cong. Jerry Lewis (R-CA), Subcommittee Ranking Member Cong. James Walsh (R-NY), and former Subcommittee chair Cong. Ralph Regula (R-OH). Walsh stated that, "I would not have written this bill any differently had I had this allocation," specifically referring to increases for health and education programs.

On July 10, NAEVR President Dr. Stephen Ryan (Doheny Eye Institute/University of Southern California) made Capitol Hill visits in support of the FY2008 House and Senate LHHS funding bills. Meeting with Senate LHHS Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), Ryan delivered a copy of letters sent to all Senate Appropriations Committee members thanking them for their approval of the FY2008 Senate LHHS bill. Meeting with the offices of House Speaker Cong. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Cong. Walsh, Ryan delivered a copy of letters sent to all House Appropriations Committee members urging them to approve the bill during the July 11 markup.

NAEVRís visits were not confined to NIH/NEI appropriations, as it advocated for the continued eligibility of eye and vision research in the Department of Defenseís (DOD) Peer-Reviewed Medical Research Program (PRMRP) in the FY2008 Defense Appropriations bill in the offices of Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA). The final numbers are in for FY2006—the first year of vision researchís eligibility for this new source of funding—and defense-related vision researchers received $4.8 million in awards, or 10 percent of the $50 million pool of funds.

NAEVR also met with the Senate Special Committee on Aging, specifically new Staff Director Dr. Debra Whitman, to share a copy of the June 22 testimony by NEI Director Dr. Paul Sieving on NEI-funded research into aging eye disease, which he presented at a hearing of the Senate LHHS Appropriations Subcommittee.

Andrea Uckele, office of Cong. James Walsh, and Dr. Ryan
Andrea Uckele, office of Cong. James Walsh, and Dr. Ryan
Dr. Ryan and Hanna Doerr, office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi
Dr. Ryan and Hanna Doerr, office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi
Dr. Ryan (left) and NAEVR Executive Director James Jorkasky (right) with Kevin Kane, office of Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison
Dr. Ryan (left) and NAEVR Executive Director James Jorkasky (right) with Kevin Kane, office of Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison
Dr. Ryan and Dr. Debra Whitman
Dr. Ryan and Dr. Debra Whitman, Senate Special Committee on Aging