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Congress Passes FY2005 Spending Bill; Includes Increase for Medical Research Funding

Legislative Update
November 22, 2004

On Saturday, November 20, both the House (in a vote of 344 Yeas to 51 Nays) and the Senate (in a vote of 65 Yeas to 30 Nays) passed the Omnibus spending bill, which was a series of nine appropriations bills consolidated under HR4818, the Foreign Operations appropriations bill. The final spending package totals $821.9 billion, reflecting a freeze or zero percent growth in non-defense discretionary spending and meeting the spending targets agreed to by Congress and the Administration. Total discretionary spending in the bill is $388.4 billion; any additional spending is paid for by an across-the-board .83% cut in all non-defense, non-homeland security spending and recisions of other funds. Below appears a brief summary about medical research funding at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), generally, and eye and vision research funding at the National Eye Institute (NEI), specifically.

NIH
The appropriated amount for the NIH (prior to the .83% cut) is $28.6 billion, which is $800 million more than in FY04. This reflects a 2.8% increase over FY04 (as compared to the Administration/House bill's 2.6% increase and the Senate bill's 4% increase). Applying the .83% cut to the NIH appropriated amount, the FY05 NIH increase nets to about $560 million or an FY05 funding level of $28.4 billion, reflecting a net 2% increase over FY04.

NEI
The appropriated amount for the NEI (prior to the .83% cut) is $674.6 million, which is $21.5 million more than the final NEI programmatic amount of $653 million in FY2004 and reflects a 3.3% increase over FY04 (as compared to the Administration/House bill's 2.9% increase and the Senate bill's 4.4% increase). Applying the .83% cut to the NEI appropriated amount, the FY05 programmatic level is reduced to $669.5 million, reflecting a net 2.5% increase over FY04, prior to other program transfers (the Conference report states that the NIH Director may direct up to 1% of appropriations to activities the Director may designate). NAEVR is analyzing the numbers to more fully characterize the FY05 programmatic net and compare the appropriated increase of the NEI to other Institutes.

NAEVR Actions Moving Forward

NAEVR has commended the Appropriations leadership in both houses of Congress and both sides of the aisle for increases in medical research/eye and vision research funding. NAEVR has noted that, in a very tight spending bill that implemented cuts in several programs, the NIH overall, and the NEI specifically, received appropriated funding increases for FY2005. However, the NEI's programmatic net will be only 94% of its budget-doubling goal of $711 million, for which NAEVR has been advocating. Since the economic and societal costs of eye disease and vision impairment are $68 billion annually (and growing), and the FY2005 NEI programmatic budget of about $669 million is less than 1 percent of that cost, NAEVR will continue to advocate for completion of the NEI budget-doubling to $711 million to ensure adequate research resources to deal with the major public health problem of eye disease and vision impairment.