News From the Hill: May 18, 2018
The House Appropriations Committee has continued to systematically advance the Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 appropriations bills. After unanimously reporting the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs (MilCon-VA) appropriations bill out of Committee, House appropriators moved on to more contentious spending measures. More recently, the committee approved the FY 2019 Agriculture-Food and Drug Administration (Ag-FDA) in a party-line vote. The annual Labor-Health and Human Services-Education (L-HHS) appropriations bill that funds the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other research and public health programs is traditionally one of the last bills to receive consideration due to partisan disagreements over healthcare delivery, abortion, and other divisive issues. One sign of encouragement at this point in the process though is that both the FY 2019 MilCon-VA and Ag-FDA bills continue to provide modest investment in medical research and public health programs. The MilCon-VA measure increases funding for the VA research program by $10 million and the Ag-FDA bill provides an additional $300 million in discretionary funding for FDA. Community advocates remain hopeful that ongoing support will translate to at least another $2 billion increase for NIH in FY 2019.
The Senate Appropriations Committee is also working to advance the chamber’s FY 2019 spending bills. Recently, the new Committee Chairman, Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) announced a tentative and ambitious plan to have all spending bills marked up and reported out of committee by the July 4th recess. The last bills scheduled to receive consideration at this time are the Senate’s FY 2019 L-HHS bill and the Department of Defense bill (which would be reviewed during the last week of June).
Consistent with the annual process of crafting the spending bills, NIH Director Francis Collins and various NIH Institute Directors traveled to Capitol Hill to discuss the annual budget request with the Senate’s L-HHS Appropriations Subcommittee (they have previously appeared before appropriators in the House). Through his testimony, Dr. Collins thanked Congress for providing robust investment in NIH during the FY 2018 cycle and highlighted flagship initiatives. Through his opening remarks, the Subcommittee Chairman, Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO), expressed his ongoing support for NIH and his appreciation that Congress had restored a pattern of growth and regular funding increases to better support medial research.