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Senate Harkin Introduces Bill to Increase NIH Funding

Legislative Update
July 24, 2014

On July 24, Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS) Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Tom Harkin (D-IA) introduced the Accelerating Biomedical Research Act (S. 2658). The legislation gives the Appropriations Committee the authority to increase funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as long as appropriators provide $29.9 billion for NIH each Fiscal Year (FY). In total, appropriations may provide up to $46.2 billion at the end of the seven year period from FY2015-2021. The additional funding allows an initial increase of 10 percent in each of the first two years, followed by 5 percent increases each year thereafter.

Senator Harkin, who is retiring at the end of his term, has been a longstanding champion for medical research. In his floor statement he said, “It is time for us on a bipartisan basis to reverse this erosion of support for biomedical research to ensure America’s standing as a world leader in this field.” Prior, at the April 2 hearing of the Senate LHHS Appropriations Subcommittee with NIH Director Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D., the Senator said the following in his opening statement:

“Since 1989, I have either served as Chair or Ranking Member of this Subcommittee, trading the gavel with the late Senator Arlen Spector for most of those years, and I have seen a transformation of the NIH campus—as well as the transformation of science and the opportunities it holds for the future. Congress is being penny-wise and pound-foolish for not adequately funding NIH, as its future is in doubt.”
NAEVR has endorsed the bill, as have many other coalition partners within the medical research advocacy community.

On June 10, the Senate LHHS Appropriations Subcommittee marked up an FY 2015 spending bill that increases the NIH budget to $30.5 billion, a $606 million or 2 percent increase over the FY2014 funding level, which essentially restores the NIH budget to the pre-sequester FY2012 level. The bill would increase the National Eye Institute (NEI)’s budget to $683.3 million, a $10 million or 1.5 percent increase over its FY2014 operation budget of $673.3 million (the President’s budget only proposed a $2 million or 0.15% NEI increase). The Senate’s funding level would still be $19 million below that of FY2012, so the NEI’s budget would still not be restored to the pre-sequester level—which NAEVR has acknowledged in a statement on the bill.