American Society of Hematology

Senate Committee Approves NIH Spending Bill, House Action Uncertain

Published on: July 18, 2013

On July 11, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee approved, along a 16-14 party line vote, its draft fiscal year (FY) 2014 Labor, Health and Human Services and Education (Labor-HHS) spending bill that funds most federal health programs, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The draft bill approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee provides $30.955 billion for NIH, an increase of $1.80 billion (6.18 percent) above the FY 2013 funding level under the agency’s sequestration operating plan. That level replaces the funding lost due to sequestration and also includes a small increase over the FY 2012 NIH budget.

In his opening statement, Senate Labor-HHS Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) noted, “this bill includes priorities from both sides of the aisle, on topics ranging from Alzheimer’s disease research and public health to science and math education and teacher quality.” Senate Labor-HHS Appropriations Subcommittee Ranking Member Jerry Moran (R-KS) used his opening statement to express pleasure that biomedical research was one area of the bill that received bipartisan support, noting that funding for research is a necessary and worthy investment. Several members of the Labor-HHS Appropriations Subcommittee, including Senators Moran and Jon Tester (D-MT), mentioned the devastating impact of sequestration cuts on programs funded in the bill and urged their colleagues to continue efforts to agree on an alternative deficit reduction plan.

Chairman Harkin and Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) have expressed a desire to have the bill considered by the full Senate later this month, though Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) has vowed to block floor action because the overall funding totals for the Labor-HHS and other Senate-drafted appropriations bills exceed the spending caps established as a result of last year’s Budget Control Act.

The House, meanwhile, has not yet scheduled any action on the FY 2014 Labor-HHS spending bill. However, House leaders established a spending blueprint earlier this spring that provides $121.8 billion for the FY 2014 Labor-HHS spending bill. This represents an 18.6 percent cut below the FY2013 post-sequestration level. Although individual program levels will not be determined until later, an 18.6 percent across-the-board reduction to all of the programs funded by this bill would equal a loss of $5.4 billion for NIH in FY2014. While Democrats have characterized the allocations as “devastating,” House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers (R-KY) has repeatedly said the panel’s hands were tied by the sequester.  Although it is unlikely that NIH would see a proposed cut of that magnitude, given the allocation established for the Labor-HHS bill, the House is almost is certain to propose a cut to the agency. 

Given the wide gap in spending levels, how the House and the Senate ultimately compromise on their respective proposals remains an uncertainty, making increasingly unlikely that the House and Senate will agree on regular FY 2014 spending bills for most federal agencies before the new fiscal year begins on October 1.

Take Action: Lawmakers need to understand that this is not the time to defund science; this is the time to invest in medical research. But, they will only respond if they hear it from their constituents. All ASH members are encouraged to visit the on-line ASH Advocacy Center today to send a message to your elected representatives about the impact that funding cuts will have on your research and the patients you treat.

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