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House Passes FY2008 LHHS Appropriations Bill; Report Language Commends NEI Leadership

Legislative Update
July 20, 2007

On July 19, the House passed H.R. 3043, the Fiscal Year (FY) 2008 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS) funding bill that includes a $750 million and $9.9 million increase, respectively, for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Eye Institute (NEI) over FY2007. Since the bill also directly appropriates to the NIH common fund—established late last year with the NIH Reform Act of 2006—it obviates NEIís $8.8 million contribution, meaning that those funds are available for NEI programs in addition to its direct line item.

Although the Senate Appropriations Committee has reported out S. 1710, the Senateís FY2008 LHHS funding bill that increases NIH and NEI funding by $1 billion and $14.8 million, respectively, it has yet to be considered on the Senate floor—and will likely not be until after the August recess. Both bills were developed with strong bipartisan support.

Although the vision research community is advocating for the higher NEI funding level in the Senate bill, it has supported both bills, even if the House billís NEI funding level is used as a "floor" in conference with the Senate. This is because the President has threatened to veto these bills since they exceed his FY2008 budget proposal, and having these bills passed/conferenced may preclude a series of short- or long-term Continuing Resolutions or an omnibus bill that could not guarantee funding increases. In its advocacy, NAEVR has stated the need for both increased and timely NEI appropriations, such that researchers do not have to rely on bridge funding in advance of grant awards.

NAEVR is pleased that its suggested Report Language has been adopted in the House and Senate bills. The House bill commends NEIís leadership regarding trans-Institute research into the cause, prevention, and treatment of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), as well as its collaborative efforts in the Diabetic Retinopathy Clinical Research (DRCR) Network. The Committee also congratulates NEI on its progress in identifying genes involved in some of the most devastating eye diseases, including AMD, retinitis pigmentosa, and glaucoma, and specifically cites NEIís new National Ophthalmic Disease Genotyping Network (eyeGene) as a means to apply these new approaches to medicine.

The Senate bill Report Language also commends NEIís efforts regarding AMD and Diabetic Retinopathy. In a section entitled "Diabetes Management Devices" the Committee urges NEI to work with the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to address the technology needs of Americans with low vision or blindness with respect to state-of-the-art glucose monitoring or insulin delivery services.