News From The Hill: February 2, 2018
Reports from Capitol Hill indicate that lawmakers (on a bipartisan and bicameral basis) continue to inch towards an overarching deal on budget caps. The absence of such an agreement has thus far prevented enactment of the annual appropriations bills for Fiscal Year (FY) 2018. Initially, conservatives were pushing for enhanced military spending paid for through deep cuts to non-defense discretionary programs while moderates were seeking to increase spending caps for both defense and non-defense programs. Consistent with previous budget and appropriations cycles, legislators appear to be moving towards an agreement that would boost both defense and non-defense spending.
The ongoing lack of consensus on spending caps and funding priorities partially contributed to the mid-January government shutdown as lawmakers were unable to muster support for an extension of the short-term level-funding mechanism known as continuing resolution (CR) that was being used to keep government programs operating at their FY 2017 levels. The government re-opened when lawmakers passed another short-term CR that will expire on February 8th. While Congress is unlikely to have a budget deal by then and the appropriations bills will remain outstanding, it is unlikely that another shutdown will occur and very likely that lawmakers will pass yet another CR that will last into March.
Optimism is building on Capitol Hill and there is an expectation that the additional time provided by the mid-March CR will facilitate a budget agreement, positive funding adjustments to certain programs, and subsequent enactment of FY 2018 appropriations. For FY 2018, NIH currently has a $2 billion funding increase pending and individual programs like CTSAs and IDeA are primed for meaningful increases as well. While there is still some uncertainty and a great deal of procedural ground for legislators to cover, it appears that FY 2018 funding will be appropriated in the spring, and that completion of the annual process will result in significant funding increases for federal medical research programs and enhanced support for the full spectrum of medical research.