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Medical Research Community Sorting Out the Implications of
The Budget Control Act of 2011

Legislative Update
August 5, 2011

The Budget Control Act of 2011, passed by Congress on August 2, raises the debt ceiling and imposes spending controls and cuts. Since the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is a significant expenditure within the discretionary funding component of the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS) funding bill, the medical research community is especially concerned about this category. The Act cuts overall discretionary spending in Fiscal Year (FY) 2012 by about 0.5% (to $1.043 trillion) and enacts stringent spending caps through FY2021 that limit discretionary spending from growing.

The establishments of a “super” committee tasked with finding additional savings of approximately $1.5 trillion over the next ten years also places the NIH at risk, as extreme cuts in discretionary funding will automatically be triggered if this group cannot arrive at a savings package. As a result, the medical research community will continue to urge legislators to make NIH funding a priority, especially by maximizing funding within the allocation made for the LHHS bill.

The House has yet to begin markup of an LHHS bill (six spending bills have already been finalized, the Senate has passed none), but is expected to do so when Congress returns in September. Although the FY2012 discretionary spending ceiling in the Budget Control Act is $24 billion higher than what the House previously enacted in its Budget Resolution, there is no guarantee that the House will revise its allocations upwards. Advocates are urging the House not to cut NIH funding, since the House’s initial LHHS allocation is $18 billion below that of FY2011.

Since the Budget Control Act also serves as a “super” 2012 budget resolution, it may enable Congress to move more quickly in finalizing all FY2012 appropriations, although a Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the government may be necessary when FY2012 begins on October 1, 2011. In the FY2011 appropriations cycle, funding was not finalized until the eighth and final CR was passed on April 14, 2011-seven months into the fiscal year.

The vision community is hosting a series of Congressional Briefings in the September/October timeframe to educate Congress about the importance of vision research, including:

  • September 13 Diabetic Retinopathy and Low Vision
  • September 21 Lifestyle and Age-Related Macular Degeneration
  • October 13 Cost-Effectiveness of Blindness Prevention